Local defense attorney Rick Robinson said that in his 22 years as a lawyer, he's used the "selective prosecution" defense only once.

From a legal standpoint, it's a sound principle drawing on the Constitutional requirement of equal treatment under the law. But from a practical standpoint, it's kind of like that kid in grade school trying to get out of trouble by telling the teacher that everybody else is doing it too.

And that appears to be the tactic taken by the lawyers of former state Rep. Mike Veon in the state Democratic House's Bonusgate scandal. His lawyers have filed documents alleging that York resident Steve Stetler, former state representative and current state secretary of revenue, did the same thing Veon is accused of -- running campaign operations at taxpayer expense.

In an apparent attempt to show he is the subject of selective prosecution in the state Democratic House's Bonusgate scandal, Veon filed almost 600 pages of pretrial exhibits in his criminal conflict of interest case to support his claim that working on election campaigns on government time has been a standard practice.

The pretrial motion does not allege any legal wrongdoing by Stetler but does imply his alleged use of government staffers for campaign work was commonplace and no different from the allegations against Veon.


The selective prosecution defense is "very rarely utilized," said Robinson, who is not connected to the Veon case.

The problem with it, he said, is that the defendant doesn't claim to be innocent. Robinson said he used it successfully on a much smaller scale, in a case involving a York city ordinance.

He speculated that Veon's attorneys might be trying to get some leverage for any subsequent settlement of the case.

Stetler, a Democrat, represented York in the state House for 16 years. He resigned from office in 2006 and was confirmed as Gov. Rendell's revenue secretary in March.

Earlier this month, as part of the larger pretrial defense motion, Veon's attorneys filed a 76-page exhibit, comprised largely of e-mails, pertaining to Stetler's role as operations chairman for the House Democratic Campaign Committee between 2003 and 2006.

Veon's filing also claims that state Attorney General Tom Corbett subpoenaed Stetler to appear before an investigative grand jury in July 2008.

Veon's attorneys could not be reached for comment Friday. Stetler did not personally respond to a request for an interview Friday.

Department of Revenue press secretary Stephanie Weyant, in a response to Veon's filing on Stetler's behalf, e-mailed the Daily Record/Sunday News the statement, "It distresses me that selective, confidential information from the ongoing grand jury investigation is being leaked from anonymous sources. I have confidence that the legal process will eventually reveal the facts."

The statement was the same one Stetler's office released earlier this month to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which published a story quoting grand jury testimony in the Bonusgate case. The Post-Gazette story said it had obtained a partial transcript and quoted former Stetler aide Dan Wiedemer saying that Stetler turned down a plan to have private firms, instead of state employees, do opposition candidate research.

Among the allegations Veon levels against the former York representative are that Stetler:

--- was active in developing House Democratic Campaign Committee strategy;

--- was active in assigning and supervising House caucus staff to work on incumbent Democratic members' political campaigns;

--- supervised political fundraising conducted by his House caucus staff using caucus resources;

--- used employee time to work on his personal political campaigns;

--- supervised and directed the opposition research operation conducted by House Democratic caucus and the HDCC;

--- and personally disseminated to Democratic candidates opposition research conducted by House caucus staff.

Veon's "Stetler" exhibit also noted "in spite of having the above investigative material, Attorney General Tom Corbett did not follow through on his subpoena of Stetler."

Kevin Harley, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said he could not comment on Veon's allegations against Stetler "because there is an ongoing grand jury investigation."

Specifically, Harley would not address why Stetler was subpoenaed; why Stetler was not required to testify before the grand jury; if the subpoena was still active; or if the attorney general's office is investigating Stetler.

Harley said that the attorney general's office generally prosecutes cases of campaigning on the taxpayer dime as theft of services, because offenders are basically using someone else's money.

If the expended taxpayer money -- including man hours -- exceeds $2,000, it constitutes a third-degree felony and is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine, Harley said.

Barry Kauffman, executive director of nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause of Pennsylvania, said his organization actually supports the use of public funds for political campaigns. That would limit the opportunities for moneyed interests to buy political influence, he said.

The difference is that all candidates would have access to those funds, incumbent or not.

"Unless resources are equally available to all candidates, it's not right," Kauffman said.

Daily Record/Sunday News staff writers Rick Lee and Jeff Frantz contributed to this report.


Former state Rep. Mike Veon and 11 others associated with the House Democratic caucus were charged last summer with theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy in what prosecutors say was a scheme to divert public resources and state employees for campaigning or other improper purposes.

At least four defendants want the judge to order their cases to be tried separately. Other new motions ask the court to compel the release of evidence and disclosure of witness statements.

Former Rep. Sean Ramaley, D-Beaver County, wants a judge to dismiss a conflict-of-interest charge against him, arguing that there is no evidence that his behavior matches the language of the criminal statute.

He also wants to move his proceedings to Beaver County, claiming extensive news coverage of the case in the Harrisburg area will prevent him from getting a fair trial.

Mike Manzo, Jeff Foreman and Patrick J. Lavelle Jr. have reached plea deals with the attorney general's office, according to their statements or those of their lawyers. Lawyers for two others, Scott and Jennifer Brubaker, said this week they hope to complete deals soon.

Attorney General Tom Corbett's response to the latest motions is due in early July, and a hearing is scheduled for July 7 and 8. Trial is expected to begin Sept. 21, although Veon has said he needs time to prepare and is seeking a delay.

--The Associated Press