Testimony is to begin today in the legislative corruption trial of former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon and three staffers.The opposing lawyers outlined two different schemes during lengthy opening statements Monday.
Prosecutors say Veon and his three co-defendants got legislative staffers to work on campaigns by offering more than 1.4 million dollars in tax-funded bonuses between 2004 and 2007.
Deputy Attorney General Pat Blessington told jurors Veon also ordered state staffers to raise money and conduct campaign work while on the clock at the Capitol.
Veon’s lawyer, Dan Raynak, says campaigning probably did happen during business hours but that Veon and his staffers worked around the clock, and put in more than eight hours for the commonwealth every day.
Raynak played offense, saying investigators bullied witnesses into giving the answers they wanted, ignored leads they didn’t like, and cut immunity and plea bargain deals with people who broke the law in order to build their case against Veon. Raynak also argued former Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, and not Veon, orchestrated the bonus scheme, pointing to grand jury testimony indicating the Greene County Democrat and Mike Manzo, his chief of staff, oversaw the bonuses-for-campaigning system. Manzo is cooperating with the prosecution.
DeWeese has been accused of misusing tax dollars, but was not charged in relation to the bonus scheme.
The trial is expected to stretch for several weeks.