From the State House to Big House: Bipartisan Cellmates

By Meghan Kiesel

Jun 5, 2012 4:10pm
ap perzel deweese kb 120605 wblog From the State House to Big House: Bipartisan Cellmates

In this file photo, House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese, left, and outgoing House Speaker John Perzel confer on the House floor in Harrisburg, Pa., Jan. 2, 2007. Image credit: Bradley C. Bower/AP Photo

They used to share a gavel. Now, apparently, they’re sharing a jail cell.

John Perzel, a Republican from Philadelphia and Bill Deweese, a Democrat from Greene, share the distinction of both having served as Speaker of the Pennsylvania State House.

They also became convicted felons within a month of each other after separate convictions on corruption charges. Now they’re both at Camp Hill state prison, and according to the website PoliticsPA, they’re sharing the same cell.

A spokesman at the prison confirmed to ABC News that Perzel and Deweese are both at the prison and on the same cellblock, but said the Department of Corrections does not release information about which particular cells inmate inhabits.

Democratic Rep. Ronald Waters, who serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and worked with both Perzel and Deweese prior to their convictions, commented that “to the best of our knowledge, it seems to be true.”

Waters said he first learned of the situation via a conversation with Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, who tentatively confirmed the rumors. “It’s truly a coincidence,” Waters said.  ”They’ll probably have some time to spend there together, and who knows where they’re going to go after they leave there.”

Perzel pled guilty last August to eight criminal counts, including theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest, after heading a scheme to use taxpayer-paid computer programs to win political campaigns, according to the Associated Press. Deweese was convicted of five counts in his own corruption case in February, including conflict of interest and conspiracy as well as three counts of theft stemming from charges that his state-paid staff performed campaign work, a scandal the Pennsylvania press dubbed “Bonusgate.”

PoliticsPA reported that Deweese was uncomfortable bunking with his original cellmate, his own former chief of staff Mike Manzo. And why not? Manzo had testified against Deweese.

That’s when Perzel, who is serving two-and-a-half to five years, offered to move in, according to the website. Deweese was initially skeptical of his former political rival’s sway and is quoted as saying, “John, I don’t think we pick who we room with here.”

But Perzel was able to finagle the switch, and the former political rivals are now cellmates and even pals, it would seem. The two have reportedly been to be joking around regarding who is more aptly nicknamed “Sticky Fingers.”

“It’s sad and it’s kind of humorous at the same time,” Waters said. “It’s sad because two of your colleagues have gotten themselves into trouble and two of them are incarcerated at the state correctional facilities. Of course it’s always sad when people who held high positions as they were — both in the assembly, and both former leaders and speakers of the House — that’s also sad.

“They were usually on the opposite sides of the issues, in most cases … and now to be in a cell together, most people thought — maybe they laughed at it. It has to be some kind of a joke, it can’t be true. But it is true. At least to the best of our knowledge, it is true.”

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