Friday, July 29, 2011
HIDING THE EVIDENCE
“I do not think it’s an accident those notes were destroyed,” Fetterhoff said. (Patriot News, 7/27/11)
Neither do we, Bill. Neither do we.
Courts have consistently and unequivocally ruled that defendants are entitled to notes from interviews, or proffer statements, conducted during a criminal investigation.
In fact, such a ruling was part of the criminal trial of former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon.
Judge Richard Lewis, who just today rejected a motion to dismiss the charges against former Rep. John Perzel and seven staffers, did not make that ruling in the Veon case. He deferred that decision to Judge Barry Fuedale, who supervised the grand jury that indicted Veon.
Fuedale ordered prosecutors to turn over proffer notes to Veon's lawyers. The very same prosecutors who then destroyed notes from 94 interviews in the Perzel case.
Prosecutors apparently are now lying that the notes were turned over to Veon "by mistake." It was no mistake; they were ordered to turn them over.
There is, quite simply, no way that prosecutors didn't know that the defendants were entitled to those notes. And they destroyed them anyway. In the immortal words of Vice President Joe Biden, this is a big f-ing deal.
It will be years before an appeals court has an opportunity to review Lewis' decision, given that the Perzel trial is expected to take at least six months and it's unlikely it even will begin until 2012. Governor Tom Corbett, who as Attorney General supervised the investigation and cruised into office on the publicity, will be safely past his reelection campaign by then.
And while we agree with Fetterhoff that the notes were deliberately destroyed, we don't think it's because they exonerate the defendants. But rather, because they might reveal the embarrassingly selective nature of the prosecutors' investigation - just as the evidence turned over to the Veon defense revealed.
Is there any doubt that prosecutors would have destroyed, had they known the embarrassment it would cause, the "U R welcome" email written by then-House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese, never indicted in connection with bonuses for campaigning, in response to a staffer thanking him for the "bonus for campaigning?"
Or the emails showing that DeWeese and his top aides, who were not indicted for working on campaign issues with a state-paid contractor, in fact worked on campaign issues with a state-paid contractor?
Or that he based state hiring decisions on campaign work?
Or evidence that the unindicted then-Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Todd Eachus directed staff to produce political research and perform political work, acquiesced to paying bonuses for campaign work, and coordinated "official" appearances by Cabinet secretaries in the districts of vulnerable incumbents?
Or documents and emails showing that unindicted Rep. Keith McCall, later Speaker of the House, used state staff and resources for campaign work?
Is there any doubt that, if they had it to do over again, prosecutors would have destroyed, rather than highlighted in black(!) documents that showed how DeWeese staffers, never indicted on charges of destroying evidence, scrambled to destroy evidence in 2007?
And how much did prosecutors wish they had destroyed the evidence that showed the very man who decided for them what evidence would be used to prosecute the original 12 "Bonusgate" defendants is, essentially, a megalomaniacal nutjob?
It's dangerous to let defendants have access to too much evidence. Better to get rid of it.