The charges mirror similar accusations in the early 1980s, when Wecht was charged with using county employees for his private practice. He was removed from his position although he later settled the case for $200,000 and returned to the same job in 1996.
This time around, Wecht has assembled a dream team of lawyers and supporters, including Richard Thornburgh, a former U.S attorney general and Pennsylvania governor, who sat with Wecht's wife during opening arguments.
Thornburgh has reached out to the highest levels of the Justice Department to help his friend, calling Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty in January 2006 to request that he intervene to get U.S. Attorney Beth Buchanan to delay any indictment and to back off arresting the pathologist. Those details were included in an affidavit in the case submitted by Thornburgh.
Thornburgh also believes that the prosecution of Wecht might be politically motivated, telling a House Judiciary Subcommittee in October that he thinks Buchanan targeted Wecht because he's a Democrat who once ran for the Senate.
Buchanan's office declined to comment. Last October, they issued a statement rejecting Thornburgh's allegation.
"It has been and remains the practice of the department to investigate and prosecute individuals who violate federal law without regard to their political affiliation."
In court, Wecht's lawyer Jerry McDevitt argued that the pathologist's use of his office for his private business was "nothing more than routine billing errors," saying that Wecht is charged with sending $3.60 in faxes to private clients from the coroner's office.
McDevitt also said that Wecht never traded cadavers for laboratory space but performed autopsies there through an education program at the school.
The school issued a statement denying the federal charge: "At no time did Carlow trade laboratory space for cadavers."
McDevitt said that he planned to call the school's former president, Sister Grace Ann Geibel, as a witness to explain the school's relationship with Wecht.
In a brief conversation, Geibel told ABCNEWS.com that she invited Wecht to establish an autopsy program at the college but that arrangement did not involve any trading of cadavers. She declined to speak further, referring questions to her attorney. Her attorney, Charles Gibbons, has not returned calls.
The pathologist, who is a prominent figure in the Pittsburgh community, has a strong support group, including Charles E. Evans, the former president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.
Evans, who has known Wecht for more than 35 years, says that he is an outstanding character who ran "one of the best medical examiners offices in the country and is very dedicated to public service."
He would not comment on specific details of the indictment but Evans said that he was surprised charges had been brought in the first place. "It didn't sound like federal business and I found it very odd that charges were brought. The allegations seem to be far off what I expect Dr. Wecht to do."
Wecht's wife, Sigrid, would only say that her husband is confident that the charges will be dismissed. "He's doing OK."