After more than a week of testimony, three dozen character witnesses and lengthy closing arguments, jurors are expected to begin deliberating on Tuesday morning the fate of former state Rep. Steve Stetler.
Stetler is accused of misusing taxpayer funds and state-paid employees to do political campaign work.
Defense attorney Joshua Lock, in his 102-minute closing on Monday, told Dauphin County jurors that the state attorney general's office used "this broad-brush approach" to insinuate that Stetler is guilty merely because others are.
"None of us were there when this went on," Lock said.
He reminded jurors that several of Stetler's former aides testified he made it clear to them their legislative work was separate from political volunteer work.
And why, Lock wondered, would Stetler conspire to defraud the taxpayers after so many years of not even taking the perks he was entitled to? Simply because, as policy chair, he got a nicer office, a pay raise and more staff?
"Is that really what anybody thinks this case is about?" Lock asked. "He really sold his soul to get a large office ... and more money?"
Lock instead blamed the "machine" created by former Democratic leaders Mike Veon and Bill DeWeese. He urged jurors to weigh the credibility of the witnesses who testified against Stetler, and what motives they might have for doing so. Those include avoiding prosecution themselves.
'Distractions': But senior deputy attorney general Michael Sprow advised jurors not to let their minds be clouded by "the distractions created by the defense."
In his 67-minute closing, Sprow acknowledged DeWeese and Veon broke the law.
"Does that mean nobody else in the caucus was misusing public resources?" he asked.
Sprow argued the defense focused on blaming DeWeese and Veon to take attention away from Stetler's own actions.
Because staff members of the caucus did campaign work while they were supposed to be on the job doing legislative duties, the law was broken, according to Sprow. The law also was broken when some of those staffers used a subscription-only database to gather opposition research on political opponents, he said.
"Because the defendant had a role in making that happen, he's guilty," Sprow said.
As far as Stetler's numerous character witnesses, Sprow questioned how much they knew about Stetler's work hours.
"They have no idea what the defendant did inside the capitol when these crimes were committed," he said.
'Public face': Sprow told jurors Stetler "put on a great public face." He also said there have been other examples of criminal cases in which defendants were public figures with great reputations "until they get caught. That's this defendant. That's this case."
Stetler and other Democratic House Caucus leaders "used as many public resources as possible" because they were free, according to Sprow, including former Stetler policy-committee staffer Erin Madison Grace, who did fundraising for both the House Democratic Campaign Committee and for Stetler's own campaign.
Sprow said that also includes having some staffers do opposition research on work time and allowing other staffers to misrepresent the amount of comp time they'd earned so they could "volunteer" on political campaigns. Those who volunteered on campaigns were later given generous bonuses, testimony revealed.
"They couldn't (afford to) do it without the caucus staff, and they knew it," Sprow said of fundraising and campaign work. "Just because they couldn't afford to pay ... doesn't make it OK."
Rendell testifies: Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was one of about three dozen character witnesses to testify for Stetler on Monday morning.
In Pennsylvania, character witness testimony is limited to the defendant's reputation in his own community as being an honest, law-abiding citizen.
When asked by Lock about Stetler's reputation, Rendell said, "It's as good as anyone could hope to have."
Outside the courtroom, Rendell said he took an early-morning train from Philadelphia to testify.
"There are very few people I'd take a 6:25 train for," he said.
The former governor said people in all walks of life like and respect Stetler, and that he has a great reputation.
"I've never found a person who has a bad thing to say about him," Rendell said. "I think this prosecution was a mistake."
The former governor said he recently ran into Stetler's daughter, Catherine Stetler, while doing a book-signing in Central Pennsylvania, and she asked him if he'd consider being a character witness for her father.
Stetler's side of the courtroom, filled with family and friends last week, was packed Monday morning, primarily with his character witnesses.
Supporters: They included York City Mayor Kim Bracey, York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister, York-area businessman and philanthropist Louis Appell Jr., William S. Shipley III, president and CEO of The Shipley Group, Spring Garden Township Police Chief George Swartz, Eric Menzer, president of the York Revolution, Tom Wolf, CEO of The Wolf Organization, York City solicitor Don Hoyt, and former York City treasurer Don Murphy.
On the stand, Bracey described Stetler as "an honest, law-abiding gentleman of our community."
Bracey said she met Stetler about 15 years ago when she was executive director of the South George Street Community Partnership.
And it wasn't just Democratic leaders vouching for Stetler's character.
Chronister, a Republican, testified he has known Stetler for nearly 30 years and called him a "very well-respected member of the community."
Also testifying for Stetler were state Reps. Phyllis Mundy of Luzerne County and Robert Freeman of Northampton County.
Texter takes stand: Lock also called former York City Councilman Cameron Texter to the stand. Although subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution, Texter wasn't called by the state attorney general's office.
Texter said he's been employed by the House Democratic Caucus since 1990, and has worked in the Office of Member Services for years.
According to Texter, he began doing political opposition research about 80 percent of his worktime, at the direction of Eric Webb, who was named head of the Office of Member Services in January 2005.
He testified he knew that a few select members of the caucus were using the LexisNexis database -- paid for by the caucus -- to conduct opposition research as far back as 2004.
Texter said he expressed concern that it wasn't legal to be doing political work on legislative time, but was brushed off.
But Webb and Veon instructed him to do as he was told, or find another job. Texter said he agreed, but warned them he'd be saving copies of everything, in case the state attorney general's office started investigating.
After leaving the courtroom, Texter and his attorney repeatedly declined to answer whether Texter was testifying under a grant of immunity.
The background: Stetler, 62, of York City, is accused of having state-paid employees "volunteer" on political campaigns, and also allowing those employees to use state-paid resources -- such as the subscriber-only LexisNexis database -- to do that campaign work.
Stetler, who testified on his own behalf last week, has denied the allegations, including those made against him by former members of his legislative staff.
Other former aides have told jurors Stetler made it very clear to them that campaign work couldn't be done on legislative time.
Revenue secretary: Rendell appointed Stetler to head the state Department of Revenue in November 2008. Stetler resigned from that post in December 2009, just hours before criminal charges against him were announced.
He represented York City and its surrounding area from 1991 to 2006 before stepping down to head the Pennsylvania Economy League. He served at the league until being chosen by Rendell to run the Revenue Department.
In 2002, Stetler became chairman of the House Democratic Caucus' policy committee. The same year, he also became operational chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which is a privately funded organization.
Stetler is charged with four counts of theft and one count each of criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest.
Former staffers last week testified Stetler knew they were doing campaign work while at their taxpayer-paid legislative jobs.
Jurors were dismissed Monday about 4:15 p.m. and told to return at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
-- Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at 505-5429.