Jury to Get Case Against Pa. Pathologist

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jurors were set to begin deliberating whether celebrity pathologist Cyril Wecht should be convicted of using public employees, resources and equipment to benefit his multimillion-dollar private practice.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Wilson told the jurors Monday that Allegheny County voters and taxpayers were entitled to Wecht's honest service when he served as coroner from 1996 until he resigned after being indicted in January 2006.

"The public relies on officials of the government to act for the public interest, not their own enrichment," Wilson said in his closing argument.

The jury was to begin deliberating Tuesday, the day after 3 1/2 hours of closing arguments and an hour of legal instructions.

Wecht's attorney, Jerry McDevitt, argued in his closing that prosecutors were making a case out of little more than "legal buckshot" and "hoping that one pellet will kill the bird."

Wecht, 76, has made millions for his private investigations into deaths, including celebrated cases such as JonBenet Ramsey and Anna Nicole Smith's son, Daniel.

He faces 41 counts, mostly mail and wire fraud, alleging that he had his county employees send correspondence relating to his private practice from the coroner's office on county time.

McDevitt accused prosecutors of trying to bulldoze the jury into convicting Wecht with an avalanche of documents. He noted that 24 of the 41 counts involve faxes that cost the county a total of $3.96.

"A mountain of documents is often used to hide a molehill of a case," McDevitt said in his closing argument.

The prosecutor said Wecht enjoyed large profit margins in his private practice because much of his private work was done by government employees.

Wilson noted the work of Eileen Young, who was Wecht's top administrative aide in the coroner's office. Despite being paid a county salary, Wilson said Young spent the bulk of her time in the county office as "office manager" for Wecht's private practice.

Wilson said the evidence showed that, for 2004 alone, the correspondence Young mailed or faxed brought $790,000 in revenues to Wecht's private practice.

Young spent about a week on the stand, testifying under a grant of immunity.

"It is her conduct in running the defendant's private business, on county time, while being paid a county salary, that constitutes the foundation of all 41 counts of the indictment," Wilson said.

(This version CORRECTS that jurors have not yet begun deliberating.)

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