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20100205 Inky Manzo Says He Cannot Recall Timing of Bonusgate Conversations

20100205 Inky Manzo Says He Cannot Recall Timing of Bonusgate Conversations

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Published by: Rock Quarry on Dec 12, 2011
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Manzo says he cannot recall timing of Bonusgate conversations

By Mario F. Cattabiani Inquirer Staff Writer

HARRISBURG - The prosecution's star witness in the Bonusgate corruption trial acknowledged yesterday that he had never seen an e-mail directly implicating former State Rep. Mike Veon in the scandal. Mike Manzo also testified that he could not recall exactly when conversations he said he'd had with Veon (D., Beaver) about the cash-for-campaigning scheme had occurred - not even down to the season. For Manzo, the former chief of staff to House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese, it was a third day on the stand. But unlike on the other two, Manzo, who was charged with Veon in 2008, got very pointed questions as a defense lawyer spent the day attacking his credibility. Once considered among the brightest minds in the Capitol, Manzo, 40, acknowledged that if convicted on all 42 counts against him, he could have faced more than 300 years in prison. Now, after pleading guilty to 10 counts, he might avoid jail time. "To help yourself, you will testify about anything, won't you?" said Dan Raynak, one of Veon's lawyers. "That's not true," responded Manzo, who moments earlier said he had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors because "I wanted to stop having this engulf my entire life." As Manzo testified yesterday in the Dauphin County Courthouse, his former boss, DeWeese (D., Greene), was across the state announcing his intentions to seek reelection despite facing criminal charges of his own. Prosecutors allege that Veon, a former Democratic whip, was the mastermind of a scheme to pay $1.4 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses to legislative aides as rewards for working on political campaigns on state time. His codefendants - former top aides Brett Cott, Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, and Steve Keefer - are accused of helping Veon carry out the scheme. The fourth day of the trial got off to a heated start as charges and countercharges flew. The dispute centered on a memo that prosecutors sent defense attorneys on Jan. 8, saying that in the process of final trial preparations in the last few months they had reinterviewed Manzo, their leadoff witness. In that session, the memo said, Manzo told of several conversations with Veon (D., Beaver) during past years in which, he said, the two men talked specifically about the cash-for-campaigning scheme. However, Manzo, who had testified before the grand jury four times and met with agents of the state Attorney General's Office at least three times, said yesterday that he had told prosecutors that information much earlier. As soon as the words left Manzo's lips, Raynak shouted. "Your honor, we have a problem." Joel Sansone, another Veon attorney, unsuccessfully pushed Judge Richard A. Lewis to declare a mistrial. Either Manzo was lying, the defense lawyers argued, or prosecutors improperly withheld the information until just before the trial. Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Blessington called the entire matter "cheap theatrics" and "a carnival sideshow" and argued that, if anything, Manzo had misspoken. "Maybe he was confused," Blessington said. Later, Manzo testified that he believed he had told prosecutors of his earlier discussion with Veon but only in general terms.

At one point, objections from the prosecution and bickering among lawyers were coming so frequently that Lewis demanded that everyone slow it down to "55 miles per hour." "That's the new speed limit in the courtroom," he said. Manzo is expected back on the stand this morning. DeWeese's criminal lawyer, William Costopoulos of Harrisburg, spent much of yesterday in the courtroom observing Manzo's testimony. Manzo will also testify against DeWeese if his case makes it to court. DeWeese, who served a term as House speaker in the early 1990s, said in an interview yesterday that he expected to be vindicated.

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