A federal judge is barring Doctor Cyril Wecht's defense team from trying to claim during his trial that his prosecution by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan is politically motivated.
The order by Judge Arthur Schwab sets the stage for Wecht's federal trial in January on charges he used his public office for private gain while he was Allegheny County Coroner. It came as part of a ruling denying a pre-trial hearing on the defense claim there is a political motive behind the prosecution. The 84 count indictment of Wecht includes charges of mail fraud wire fraud, and theft of services.
In a separate court order, Judge Schwab ruled that there is no evidence that FBI Special Agent Brad Orsini falisified any evidence in the Wecht case. The judge refused to suppress evidence against Wecht in 29 boxes seized with a search warrant obtained by Agent Orsini.
Wecht's attorneys declined comment on the rulings.
Judge Schwab also issued an order for a jury pool of 400 potential jurors for Wecht's trial. They'll be summoned in groups of sixty to fill out jury questionnaires, on various dates leading up to the start of Wecht's trial on January 28th.
Here are some quotes from Judge Schwab's court orders:
• "Defendant is precluded from referencing or attempting to interject at trial matters relating to his accusations that this prosecution is motivated by politics."
• "There is no evidence on the record that Special Agent Orsini falsified any...FBI form in the case."
• "This court does not make personnel decisions for the FBI, and does not sit in judgement of its disciplinary proceedings or the punishments it metes out to errant agents."
• "Defendant would, in effect, have this Court find that the discipline imposed by the FBI and OPR was inadequate, and impose an additional sanction of prohibiting Special Agent Orsini from testifying in a court of law and disqualifying him from ever swearing an affidavit. In the absence of legal authority or factual basis, this Court cannot impose such an extraordinary, additional sanction for Special Agent Orsini's past transgressions".