Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wecht Off Hook

Federal fraud charges against former Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht have been dropped. U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan asked a judge to dismiss the remaining 14 charges against Wecht saying she no longer felt she had enough evidence to get a conviction. Last year a federal jury was declared to be hung on more than 80 counts. Last month a judge ruled that key evidence was gathered under a search warrant that was too broad and could not be used in court. Buchanan says without that evidence it would be very hard to prosecute but she says her mind has not changed on the validity of the case. Buchanan says, “If I could have a do-over, I'd still bring the case. This was a use of county resources. A use of our taxpayer dollars for private gain. That’s fraud. That’s a crime.” The prosecution had alleged that Wecht used county employees and assets to further his private pathology business. Buchanan says the judges evidentiary ruling will be used as a teaching tool for new prosecutors entering the office. She says, "This is something I doubt will ever happen again in the Western District of Pennsylvania."

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