On KQV News Radio 1410 the other day, Wecht alleged:
"Steve Zappala said to a state legislator back in 2005 that 'Anybody that screws with me or my family is going to be indicted.' That's a direct quote. A direct quote. And I want him to stand in front of the cameras and respond to you and say that he never made that statement."
"Another statement he sent to me in 2005, through an attorney ... was that if I was willing not to become the chief medical examiner of Allegheny County then quote, 'All of this will go away', talking about the entire investigation that he had initiated and instigated..."
Those are ABOMINABLE, MONSTROUS accusations. That is all they are -- accusations -- but they need to be denied.
Wecht did himself no favors by allowing a foul ethnic slur to escape his lips just a tiny bit later, in reference to somebody who works in Mr. Zappala's office. Zappala in response rightfully deplored that portion and made reference to the fact that Wecht "does not like him" -- but he did not touch upon the substance of Wecht's allegations.
He cannot play "I won't dignify that with a response" with this. It's just too serious. He's the only district attorney we have and we must be assured he's not using his office as a club to advance the business interests or political aspirations of himself or his family.
Now, I disagree with Wecht that what Orie has just been accused of is obviously insignificant. And during Wecht's first trial, I disagreed with him that what he himself stood accused of at that time was "nickel and dime stuff" and also insignificant. I am a hawk when it comes to the people's resources being utilized for personal gain, and believe that if "everybody does" that type of thing then everybody should go to jail, so that everybody who replaces them can learn a valuable lesson.
Then again, I acknowledge that is all easy for me to say from my vantage point. Reasonable people can disagree in regards to the relative seriousness of using government equipment, government time and government personnel to make political phone calls and write political letters. I don't think I've ever held a job where I did not send an e-mail or make a few calls for extracurricular purposes. Furthermore I don't think I've ever met a political staffer who would not take a bullet for his or her boss without even being asked. I still think it's clearly wrong and am confident the law agrees with me -- but in other atmospheres I can understand someone holding a different opinion.
But there's wrong and then there's absolutely heinous.
To threaten people with criminal prosecution as political leverage -- no, not political, but personal, entrepreneurial leverage -- and to dangle the possibility of eluding prosecution if others do as one demands is several orders of magnitude worse than anything of which Wecht, Orie, DeWeese or Perzel has ever been accused. It's in a league of its own. And although superficially similar to what Attorney General Tom Corbett's detractors have suggested about him, it is far more specific and serious in terms of the quid-pro-quo arrangements allegedly sought after -- and has been met with far greater silence.
So did our District Attorney make those statements or statements like it? Well? Allegheny County deserves a real answer, not mere counter-accusations. This isn't a wrestling feud or a soap opera -- the integrity of our criminal justice apparatus has just been gruesomely maligned, and we can all see that. It needs to be denied with specificity.