By Rob McKenzie
It is my contention that the jury failed in their verdict against Brett Feese. What makes this an issue for me goes beyond the fact that Brett is a friend of mine. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best that "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
If I believe that Brett Feese is innocent, how can I remain silent after he has been declared guilty on all 40 charges? If it is an injustice when the guilty escape accountability, it is a greater injustice when the innocent are falsely accused and condemned as guilty.
Brett and his assistant Jill Seaman were brought to trial bythe Attorney General's office this past September. Their 40 charges fell into three categories: theft (because taxpayer money was used to finance private campaigns), conspiracy (because the Attorney General alleged that Brett and Jill were involved with the theft), and obstruction of justice(because the attorney general could not find any evidence supporting his claims against Brett and Jill).
From my observation and from what was reported in this paper, the Attorney General presented evidence to make the following arguments.
A) House Speaker John Perzell hatched a plan that used taxpayer money to fund campaigns for Republican House races.
This was against the law and Perzell has admitted his guilt. B) Brett Feese was in a House Republican leadership position and as HRCC chairman helped run campaigns. C) Brett had to know of the illegal scheme touse taxpayer money, and therefore was complicit with the crimes.
According to the attorney general, if A is true and B is true, then C is also true. But this argument does not rule out the alternative that C) Brett did not know of this illicit scheme, and therefore is innocent.
It is easy to lump all politicians together and say they Arella corrupt, but that is not true. Certainly not all members of the Republican leadership were aware of and complicit in the criminal behavior or else the attorney general would have indicted them all.
The jury's decision to find Brett and Jill guilty on all counts is suspect in my mind because it creates questions that do not square with their finding.
If Brett and Jill were guilty, why did Jill not accept the attorney general's offer to testify against Brett and save herself attorney fees and even get immunity, as other guilty witnesses did?
If Brett and Jill were guilty, why couldn't the attorney general show one email, or one memo, or one meeting that would have linked them to any of the crimes that Perzell committed?
If Brett and Jill were guilty, why did even Perzell's chief of staff refuse to testify against Brett and Jill, when it would have also led to a reduced sentence?
But instead of considering these points, the jury listened to men and women who were guilty of criminal behavior, who were given immunity or reduced sentences simply to say that Brett "had to know" what was going on.
If ever there was cause to have reasonable doubt in deciding the fate of a person's life based on circumstantial evidence, in my opinion this is it.
It seems that the jury "sent a message" to Harrisburg. And they have sent an innocent man and an innocent woman to jail.
And the attorney general's office has used its unlimited resources (supplied by taxpayer money) to bolster its power and arrogance.
Robert McKenzie is pastor of Bible Baptist Church of Huntersville, which former state Rep. Brett Feese attended. He was present for some of the recent Feese trial in Harrisburg.
NEXT SUNDAY: Part II: Did the jury blunder in the Feese case?