No jail for three former Perzel aides

Posted: March 20, 2012

HARRISBURG - Three former aides to onetime Republican powerhouse John M. Perzel will not be going to prison for their involvement in the political corruption case known as Computergate.

Paul Towhey, Samuel "Buzz" Stokes, and Don McClintock were sentenced Tuesday to 30 to 60 months' probation, with fines of $2,500 to $5,000, for their roles in a conspiracy to use expensive, taxpayer-funded computer programs and equipment for political campaigns.

The three defendants pleaded guilty in the case last year with four other defendants, including Perzel, once the top Republican in the House, and Perzel's former chief of staff, Brian Preski.

Perzel, Preski, and two others are to be sentenced Wednesday morning in Dauphin County Court. Prosecutors from the state Attorney General's Office would not say what, if any, sentence they would recommend for the once-powerful legislator from Northeast Philadelphia.

Towhey, of Blue Bell, also was a former chief of staff to Perzel. He had pleaded guilty to conflict of interest and conspiracy and was sentenced Tuesday by Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis to 60 months' probation and a $5,000 fine. He was ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution.

Stokes, Perzel's brother-in-law, who also worked as a legislative aide, pleaded guilty to the same crimes as Towhey and received the same punishment.

"I would like to apologize to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania for my involvement in the crimes," Stokes told Lewis, later apologizing to his family and to the court for "the time being wasted" on him.

McClintock, of Voorhees, was a former Perzel campaign aide. He received 30 months probation and a $2,500 fine. He was not ordered to pay restitution because he was not a state employee.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina said that all three men were minor players, but that their cooperation had gone a long way toward helping prosecutors make the case. Two people ended up going to trial, including former Republican state Rep. Brett Feese, who was sentenced last month to 4 to 12 years in state prison.

"These were low-level participants," Fina said, "and they cooperated in very dramatic and significant ways."

Asked what punishment he believes Perzel should receive, Fina would not comment, saying only that Wednesday's sentencing would be "different."

When charged in the Computergate case, Perzel was described as the mastermind behind the scheme to use taxpayer dollars for sophisticated computer programs that he then used to get himself, and others he supported, elected.

He pleaded guilty in August to eight of 82 counts of conspiracy, theft, and conflict of interest. He faces 18 months to 24 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine.

Preski, 46, interrupted the Computergate trial last fall to plead guilty to 10 of the 54 counts of theft, conspiracy, and conflict of interest that he was facing. His attorney at the time said the plea did not include cooperation with investigators.


Contact Angela Couloumbis

at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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