John M. Perzel, the former Pennsylvania House speaker who state prosecutors say orchestrated a corrupt scheme to use taxpayer-financed technology to gain the advantage in political campaigns, plans to plead guilty, according to a court order issued Tuesday.
Perzel is scheduled to change his pleas from innocent to guilty at a hearing in Harrisburg on Wednesday, according to the order signed by Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis. The order does not state which charges the former Philadelphia lawmaker will plead guilty to. His lawyer, Brian McMonagle, did not return a message left Tuesday.
Eric Ruth, a former House GOP technology employee, also is scheduled to plead guilty at the hearing. Ruth plans to plead guilty to one felony count each of conspiracy and conflict of interest, his lawyer, Evan Kelly of West Chester, said Tuesday.
The state attorney general's office has placed Perzel at the center of a variety of allegedly illegal activities in the House Republican caucus that led to the arrests of 10 present and former legislators and aides in November 2009.
Perzel, 61, faces 82 counts _ more than any other GOP defendant, of charges that include theft, conspiracy, conflict of interest, hindering apprehension and obstruction.
Perzel, who was ousted from the Legislature in last year's election, and Ruth were among six GOP defendants who were scheduled to go on trial next month. Lewis issued a separate order Tuesday pushing back the opening of the trial by two weeks to Sept. 26. The start of jury selection also was pushed back to Sept. 19.
Defendants still scheduled for trial include former Rep. Brett Feese of Lycoming, a one-time House GOP whip and former chief counsel for the House Republican caucus; Brian Preski, Perzel's former longtime chief of staff; and Jill Seaman, a former Feese
The sixth defendant, former Perzel aide John Zimmerman, is being prosecuted separately for hindering apprehension, obstruction and conspiracy
Attorneys for Feese and Seaman said Tuesday they intend to stand trial regardless of Perzel's pleas. Preski's lawyer declined to discuss his status with a reporter last week and did not return a call Tuesday.
Perzel “was speaker of the House. Jill Seaman was a secretary,” said Harrisburg lawyer Bill Fetterhoff, who represents Seaman. “I wish (Perzel) good luck.”
Three other Republican defendants pleaded guilty to reduced charges earlier this month in exchange for promises to cooperate with prosecutors.