To be honest, I don't either.
For although he did cooperate with prosecutors, he was for years one of the most powerful political forces in the state and far from a sympathetic figure.
His power gone, he now loses freedom and an $85,653-a-year pension, and faces fines and restitution.
(He took a lump-sum pension payment of $203,936 last summer before pleading, part of his entitled amount after 32 years in office. He gets to keep it, though it could end up going to fines and restitution.)
Jail time is up to Common Pleas Judge Richard Lewis, and state sentencing guidelines allow latitude. Could be several months. Could be several years.
Whatever it is, it's a cap to quite a story, a rise and fall that spans decades.
Perzel started as a waiter at the old Pavio's restaurant in Northeast Philly. He was elected to the House in 1978 and climbed from back-bench minority member to majority leader and speaker.
He was instrumental in major legislation from legalizing gambling to the legislative pay raise and the state takeover of Philly schools, the Parking Authority and the Convention Center.
He built a reputation as a bully, a brawler, a ferocious fundraiser ($17 million in seven years), a take-no-prisoners partisan and someone who got things done.
There were times he was mentioned as a mayoral candidate. There was talk of him running for governor.
But he had a knack for finding trouble, of fumbling over his words. He was an early version of Rick Santorum, a contemporary version of Newt Gingrich. He managed, in other words, to offend; he couldn't help himself.
He once claimed it's a "badge of honor" for young male Hispanics to get their girls pregnant.
He wanted an African-American history course out of city schools, saying, "Most of these kids will never go to Africa."
While running House campaigns in the '90s, he was blamed for a brochure used against Montco Democrat Larry Curry. It featured a white child and a school bus in a distressed urban area and said Curry supported "busing our kids to Philadelphia." Perzel said that if a GOP candidate felt that running against the city led to victory, "I'm not going to tell them not to."
Curry is still in the Legislature.
As majority leader, Perzel got the House to pass a measure closing a storefront office in his district that cashed welfare checks and issued food stamps.
The office had been there 10 years. Perzel had been majority leader five months.
He was indicted in 2009 and lost his re-election bid in 2010.
In October he testified against former Rep. Brett Feese, a Lycoming County Republican, who just drew four to 12 years in prison, a $25,000 fine and $1 million in restitution for his role in the computer scheme.
Perzel said Feese, a GOP campaign chairman, "would have to have known" about illegal tax-dollar expenditures. Perzel also said, "We all crossed the line."
Because of that crossing, Perzel today faces joining a flock of not-so-rare birds - Pennsylvania pols put into cages.
For recent columns, go to
philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at www.philly.com/BaerGrowls.