John Perzel flips, to plead guilty in $10M fraud

Former state House speaker John Perzel is expected to plead guilty today in a sweeping corruption probe into the misuse of resources by state lawmakers.

Perzel, a once-powerful GOP lawmaker, was charged along with former Republican state Rep. Brett Feese and eight former Perzel and Feese aides in November 2009. Perzel was accused of organizing a scheme that used more than $10 million of taxpayers’ money for computer software and programs to assist GOP campaigns, including his own.

Perzel’s attorney, Fortunato Perri, confirmed that his client would plead guilty, but he declined to elaborate on the decision. Perzel had previously denied any wrongdoing and maintained his innocence.

“I have faithfully served the people of my district, my city and my state for more than 30 years — and I have never used public funds for my personal or political gain,” Perzel said in a statement after the charges were announced.

When asked which charges his client would accept responsibility for, Perri said, “We’re still in those discussions.”

Perzel’s former chief of staff, Paul Towhey; his brother-in-law and former House employee, Samuel “Buzz” Stokes; and his former campaign aide, Don McClintock, all pleaded guilty earlier this month.

Lost seat already

Known as a fierce legislator, Perzel had a stranglehold on the 172nd District for 32 years before losing re-election in 2010 to Democrat Kevin Boyle while under indictment. He served as House Majority Leader from 1993 to 2003 when he was elected House Speaker, a position he held until Democrats regained control of the House in 2006.

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