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Wecht trial ends


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Feds plan to drop 27 charges against Wecht for retrialFriday, November 07, 2008By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThe federal government announced today its intentions to drop 27 of the remaining 41 counts against former Allegheny County coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht.

In addition, prosecutors said that they are planning to file a motion for a change of venue to have the retrial of Dr. Wecht heard in Erie because it would be impossible to find "an unpolluted jury" in the Pittsburgh area because of "extraordinary" media coverage.

At a status conference this afternoon before newly assigned U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Dillon said the government plans to file an amended indictment by next week.

That means that the case against Dr. Wecht, who is accused of using county resources for his private business, went from 84 counts when the original indictment was handed up in January 2006 to just 14.

"I don't know why they don't just drop the whole thing," said defense attorney Jerry McDevitt.

Dr. Wecht went on trial before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab in January. The case ended with a hung jury in April. The government immediately said it would retry the renowned coroner, but the defense filed an appeal with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though the appeals court denied the motion to dismiss the case based on double jeopardy, the three-judge panel did decide to remove Judge Schwab from the case, saying everyone would benefit from having less hostility in the courtroom.

In an uneventful hearing before Judge McLaughlin, who came from Erie, both sides agreed to a briefing schedule.

The judge chose not to set a date for the retrial.

"I just don't think it makes good sense right now to throw a dart out there to try to hit a date that likely won't stick," he said.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Edited by William Kelly
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http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_...EMPLATE=DEFAULT

Evidence against celeb pathologist Wecht dismissed

By DAN NEPHIN

Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A federal judge on Thursday dismissed evidence gained from search warrants prosecutors used to build their fraud and theft case against celebrity pathologist Cyril Wecht, who has investigated the deaths of Elvis Presley and JonBenet Ramsey.

The ruling should effectively end the prosecution's effort to retry Wecht, whose previous trial ended in a hung jury, one of Wecht's attorneys said after the ruling was issued.

"They used all this evidence in the first trial against Dr. Wecht ... and they couldn't get a conviction with it," attorney Jerry McDevitt said at a news conference. "Without this evidence, they don't even a have a case, in my opinion."

Wecht, of Pittsburgh, is accused of using his former Allegheny County Coroner's Office staff and resources to benefit his lucrative private practice, which also probed the suicide of Vince Foster, the deputy White House counsel under former President Bill Clinton and a longtime law firm partner of Hillary Clinton, among other cases.

Wecht, 78, also is accused of overbilling private clients for limousines and air fare and of ripping off prosecutors in surrounding counties for mileage fees when he appeared as an expert witness.

Acknowledging that the judge did not outright dismiss the case, Wecht said he had a "sense of temporary or partial relief."

Wecht's attorneys have maintained that the allegations are, at best, minor abuses, not federal crimes.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said in a statement that the office would review the opinion and decide what to do.

McDevitt said he didn't think prosecutors had much of a chance of getting the ruling overturned on appeal.

"Now is the time to end this thing and let this man get on with his life," he said.

During a March video conference with U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin, McDevitt argued that warrants for Wecht's private office and a county employee's laptop weren't specific about what authorities were seeking and, therefore, should be declared invalid.

The prosecution acknowledged the office warrant might have been overly broad but said officers who conducted the search acted in good faith so the evidence should stand. The prosecution maintained the computer warrant was specific.

In his 55-page ruling, the judge agreed with Wecht's attorneys.

"... the result reached here today is not based on what amounts to constitutional hair-splitting or what is sometimes referred to in common parlance as a mere 'legal technicality,'" the judge said. "Rather, these rulings are grounded in well-established Fourth Amendment principles which serve as a bulwark against unwarranted governmental intrusion into the private affairs of every citizen, not just this defendant."

However, the judge refused to dismiss the case, which Wecht's attorneys also wanted.

Wecht resigned his government office when he was indicted in January 2006 on 84 counts of mail and wire fraud and theft charges. The government whittled that down to 41 counts for his first trial, and now just 14 counts remain.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

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http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_...EMPLATE=DEFAULT

Evidence against celeb pathologist Wecht dismissed

By DAN NEPHIN

Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A federal judge on Thursday dismissed evidence gained from search warrants prosecutors used to build their fraud and theft case against celebrity pathologist Cyril Wecht, who has investigated the deaths of Elvis Presley and JonBenet Ramsey.

The ruling should effectively end the prosecution's effort to retry Wecht, whose previous trial ended in a hung jury, one of Wecht's attorneys said after the ruling was issued.

"They used all this evidence in the first trial against Dr. Wecht ... and they couldn't get a conviction with it," attorney Jerry McDevitt said at a news conference. "Without this evidence, they don't even a have a case, in my opinion."

Wecht, of Pittsburgh, is accused of using his former Allegheny County Coroner's Office staff and resources to benefit his lucrative private practice, which also probed the suicide of Vince Foster, the deputy White House counsel under former President Bill Clinton and a longtime law firm partner of Hillary Clinton, among other cases.

Wecht, 78, also is accused of overbilling private clients for limousines and air fare and of ripping off prosecutors in surrounding counties for mileage fees when he appeared as an expert witness.

Acknowledging that the judge did not outright dismiss the case, Wecht said he had a "sense of temporary or partial relief."

Wecht's attorneys have maintained that the allegations are, at best, minor abuses, not federal crimes.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said in a statement that the office would review the opinion and decide what to do.

McDevitt said he didn't think prosecutors had much of a chance of getting the ruling overturned on appeal.

"Now is the time to end this thing and let this man get on with his life," he said.

During a March video conference with U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin, McDevitt argued that warrants for Wecht's private office and a county employee's laptop weren't specific about what authorities were seeking and, therefore, should be declared invalid.

The prosecution acknowledged the office warrant might have been overly broad but said officers who conducted the search acted in good faith so the evidence should stand. The prosecution maintained the computer warrant was specific.

In his 55-page ruling, the judge agreed with Wecht's attorneys.

"... the result reached here today is not based on what amounts to constitutional hair-splitting or what is sometimes referred to in common parlance as a mere 'legal technicality,'" the judge said. "Rather, these rulings are grounded in well-established Fourth Amendment principles which serve as a bulwark against unwarranted governmental intrusion into the private affairs of every citizen, not just this defendant."

However, the judge refused to dismiss the case, which Wecht's attorneys also wanted.

Wecht resigned his government office when he was indicted in January 2006 on 84 counts of mail and wire fraud and theft charges. The government whittled that down to 41 counts for his first trial, and now just 14 counts remain.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

This is outstanding news.

It is a victory for Dr. Wecht and for the 4th Amendment.

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