Foreman tells AP: Veon Jury Debated To Last Minute

Reported by the Associated Press

HARRISBURG – The foreman of the jury that convicted former state Rep. Mike Veon of 14 counts said Tuesday that he viewed Veon as an accomplice more than the driving force but that “the buck has to stop somewhere.”

“Somebody has to take responsibility for the people underneath, their actions,” Gene Shutt told The Associated Press in his first interview since the verdict was announced late Monday.

“I didn’t feel Mr. Veon was the creator of this conspiracy,” Shutt said. “We saw him as an accomplice – I did, I saw him as an accomplice. I didn’t see him as the mastermind.”

He said that jurors realized early on that it was far from a run-of-the-mill criminal case.

“We really took it to heart,” he said. “We knew from the very beginning the ramifications of the whole trial, so we wanted to make sure we got everything correct.”

Jurors quickly concluded there had not been enough evidence to convict Steve Keefer, formerly Veon’s campaign treasurer and director of the House Democrats’ information technology office. Keefer was the only defendant to be acquitted of all charges.

“We looked at the evidence … and it wasn’t close for us,” Shutt said.

He said jurors also decided it was unfair to hold Veon, Brett Cott and Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink criminally liable for successful petition challenges against presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2004 and U.S. Senate candidate Carl Romanelli in 2006.

“Every Democrat across the state was doing this,” Shutt said. “They wanted to single out just Mr. Veon and his office and make it seem like they were running the whole thing. We knew better.”

Shutt said the attorney general’s office overcharged the defendants, who together faced 139 counts.

“We all understood that the AG’s point was to throw mud at the wall and see what stuck,” he said.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor, said after the verdict that he stood by the charges that had been filed. He noted, for example, that state law allowed for multiple theft charges.

Inside the deliberations room, Shutt said jurors struggled to understand the precise meaning of the language in the crimes code and to piece together e-mails and other evidence in large boxes of material generated by the six-week trial.

“When we would discuss a certain issue, we actually had to go find and root through and find a piece of information here, a piece of information there,” he said. “It was a task.”

March 23rd, 2010 | Posted in Front Page Stories | No Comments

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