August 31, 2011
Former House Speaker John M. Perzel was trapped. Moments before, he had pleaded guilty to eight felonies, and now he was being pursued by a dozen reporters and several TV cameramen down a dingy hallway in the Dauphin County Courthouse. Microphones were thrust forward like weapons. Reporters continued to pepper him with questions. TV reporters in particular seemed to have a stock set of questions: “Are you sorry? What do you say to the taxpayers? How do you feel?” Perzel and his two attorneys, Brian McMonagle and Fortunato Perri, stood with their backs to the media, waiting for an elevator. When they shifted left, the pack shifted left. They were surrounded, and they were saying nothing. Finally, an elevator door opened across the hallway. The speaker and his lawyers made a dash for it. With the door still open, I locked eyes with Perzel for the first time. He looked like a wounded animal. His head was cocked slightly to the right. What I saw in his eyes was pain, an intense pain about his life’s turn.
Sure, I thought he should go to prison. But no human being should have to hurt like this. It was almost as if his entire life, all he had been, all he could have been, was lost in the moment.
–by Brad Bumsted