Pa. Sen. LeAnna Washington gives up seat, avoids jail in plea

Listen

Pennsylvania state Sen. LeAnna Washington will resign her seat Friday as part of a plea bargain and serve three months under house arrest.

Washington, who represented parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, was facing charges of theft of service and conflict of interest for having her employees organize an annual fundraiser on state time. Washington pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Court to conflict of interest, but the charge of theft of service was dropped as part of the deal.

She will serve five years probation in addition to the house arrest and keep her state pension.  She also has agreed to pay $200,000 in restitution to the Pennsylvania Senate.

“Her admission of guilt is also an admission that she broke the trust of the people who elected her into office and today’s actions should serve as notice that people of Pennsylvania will not tolerate this kind of blatant abuse of tax-payer resources,” said Carolyn Myers, spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office.

Washington, who served 20 years in the state legislature, was emotional while reading a prepared statement following her brief hearing in Norristown.

“I recognize the use of Senate resources in connection with the preparation of the birthday party was a violation of state law and I accept full responsibility. I apologize to those who have been negatively impacted or affected,” she said

Washington was already slated to lose the Senate seat in January. After her arrest on the charges, she lost the May Democratic primary.

State Sen. Jay Costa, the Democratic leader, will oversee the operations of Washington’s legislative office until Dec. 1 when the winner of Tuesday’s general election can start working for constituents.

In court, Judge Steven O’Neil said he hoped Washington’s conviction would serve as a warning to other lawmakers tempted to break the law.

“Sadly, history doesn’t remember [good deeds]. It remembers how you left office under this cloud,” said O’Neil.

 

 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.