Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wecht Case -- A Major Ruling

Here are the notes for my 6 p.m. live report on WTAE Channel 4 Action News concerning the Wecht case ruling:

This can be a major blow to the government's case against former coroner Doctor Cyril Wecht.

It tosses out evidence gathered from two key search warrants in the government's case that Wecht used his public office for private gain.

Those searches -- of Wecht's private business offices on Penn Avenue and of an employee's laptop computer -- produced important evidence for the government's first trial. The jury in that trial could not reach a verdict after long deliberations.

Wecht was accused of having used the employees and resources of the coroner's office for the profit of his private consulting business. He was charged with mail and wire fraud in alleged false billing of private clients.

First reaction from U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan? She says:

"Our office will review the court's opinion and will determine the appropriate course of action."

No word on whether that could mean an appeal to a higher court.

In his decision, Judge Sean McLaughlin says:

"My ruling...suppressing a substantial portion of the government's evidence, is not undertaken lightly."

"(it's)...not based on...constitutional hair-splitting or a mere legal technicality ".

"These rulings are grounded in well-established 4th amendment principles... which serve as a bulwark against unwarranted government intrusion into the private affairs of every citizen, not just this defendant ".

[I'm hoping to offer a more detailed post on The judge's ruling tomorrow.]

Sent from my mobile device


Bram Reichbaum said...


[clap! clap! clapclapclap!]


[clap! clap! clapclapclap!]

Anonymous said...


Weren't you the individual who posted a few posts glorifying Buchanan and attacking Wecht. So glad that the district wastes millions of in capital and manpower to go after someone for a few faxes. In the end, the case is tossed out for...wait..wait...

Sloppy legal work and investigative work on the part of Buchanan's office.

Way to go Mary Beth. Please someone shoe this legal neophyte, Buchanan, the door.

Anonymous said...

I await the pending lawsuit by Wecht against the U.S. Attorney's Office. The man lost millions and the government came up with nothing. There is going to be some serious blowback and fallout over this one.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Anon 8:46 - The Wecht trial didn't figure in to my "glorification" of MBB (I won't contest that characterization for now). Much of the rest of her record did.

You are correct however that her prosecution of Wecht never perturbed me, either. It looks like he may get off because of problems with the warrant and search, not because he oughtn't have been prosecuted, which was Buchanan's original "crime" to some.

My understanding is that the FBI fouled up the evidence-gathering, not the US Attorney's office, if indeed this ruling stands.

My glee evinced in the comment above doesn't have to do with Wecht's victory or Buchanan's setback. It has to do with the fact that our US Attorney may now find herself with time to pursue bigger fish. I always endeavor to look at the bright side of things.