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Co-conspirator in Dwyer Bribery Case Sentenced to Prison

January 28, 1987 GMT

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) _ The former state Republican Party chairman on Tuesday received one year and a day in prison for his role in a bribery-conspiracy scandal with Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, who committed suicide in public on the eve of his sentencing.

Robert Asher also was fined $205,000 by Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Muir.

Asher, 49, had faced up to 55 years in jail for his conviction on five counts of mail fraud, four counts of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering, one count of perjury and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Muir sentenced Asher to a year and a day on each count, but ordered that it be served concurrently, meaning the total jail term is one year and one day.

Muir told Asher he reduced the amount of prison time he originally considered giving him because of 134 letters on Asher’s behalf sent by ministers, lawyers and other members of the community who outlined his contributions to the public good.

The judge added, however, that incarceration and substantial fines were necessary to deter other public officials from breaking the law.

At his final news conference, Dwyer had criticized Muir as a judge who imposed ″Medievel sentences.″

Dwyer’s lawyer, Paul Killion, filed a motion Tuesday asking that the guilty verdict against his client be vacated. Muir took the motion under advisement.

Joanne Dwyer said after the sentencing that she could not say whether her husband would have changed his mind about committing suicide had he known Asher would receive such a light sentence.

″They were both in my mind very innocent men who were betrayed by the system they worked for,″ Mrs. Dwyer said.

Acting U.S. Attorney James West said he does not think Dwyer’s suicide had any impact on the length of Asher’s sentence.

″We all labored very hard to make sure that incident didn’t interfere with Mr. Asher’s sentence, and I don’t think it did.″

Asher told reporters after the court session that he still believed he did nothing improper but added that he accepted the sentence. He will remain free until a Feb. 2 bail hearing, at which time Muir will determine whether he can remain free pending an appeal.

Dwyer, 47, was to be sentenced Jan. 23. At a news conference in his office the day before, he pulled a handgun, put it in his mouth and killed himself.

Meanwhile, the state House adopted a resolution Tuesday expressing sadness over Dwyer’s death and offering condolences to his family.

In recent interviews, Asher said he was shocked and saddened by Dwyer’s suicide, but said he was prepared to go ahead with his sentencing.

The charges against Asher and Dwyer stemmed from the awarding of a $4.6 million, no-bid contract to Computer Technology Associates, a California-based data processing company. An indictment returned in May alleged Dwyer awarded the contract in return for a promised $300,000 payoff.

It further alleged that when Asher found out about the money, he directed that it go the the Republican State Committee rather than Dwyer.

Both men maintained they were innocent. Dwyer, at his final news conference, said he was railroaded by a federal prosecutor who was a ″lackey″ for Gov. Dick Thornburgh, one of Dwyer’s political enemies.

Five other people either pleaded guilty or were convicted on related charges and have been sentenced to prison terms.