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Dwyer's co-defendant gets 1 year in bribery scandal

By THOM COLE

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The convicted co-defendant of state Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, who committed public suicide rather than go to prison for bribery, was sentenced to a one-year term Tuesday and declared, 'Life is definitely worth living.'

Like Dwyer, Robert Asher, the former state Republican committee chairman, faced a maximum sentence of 55 years in prison.

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Asher, who also was fined $205,050, also said after the sentencing that he was 'upbeat. In my heart ... I don't think I did anything improper.'

Dwyer, 47, shot and killed himself during a news conference in his Harrisburg office last Thursday, one day before he was scheduled to be sentenced for his role in the bribery scandal.

U.S District Judge Malcom Muir sentenced Asher and said the term was intended to 'deter other people who are similarly situated.'

But Muir said he substantially reduced the sentence he had tentatively planned to impose after Asher's conviction Dec. 18 because of an outpouring of more than 130 letters in support of Asher.

Meanwhile, Dwyer's lawyer, Paul Killion, filed a motion Thursday to vacate the conviction against Dwyer, thus clearing his criminal activity from the record. He said Dwyer's death required the verdict be vacated and the indictment against the late treasurer be dismissed.

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Muir took the motion under advisement.

The judge scheduled a bail hearing Monday to determine whether Asher may remain free on bail during appeal. He set Feb. 16 as the date for Asher to report to prison.

Asher, 49, of suburban Philadelphia, was convicted along with Dwyer in a scheme that promised them $300,000 in kickbacks in return for helping steer a government contract to Computer Technology Associates, a California firm.

Dwyer awarded the no-bid contract -- worth up to about $6 million - to CTA in May 1984. He canceled the pact two months later because of a federal investigation, and no bribes were ever paid.

Both men were convicted of one count of conspiracy, one count of perjury, five counts of mail fraud and four counts of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering.

Asher was sentenced to one year and one day on each count, but Muir ordered the sentences to be served concurrently. During the sentencing hearing, Asher's lawyer, William Hundley, asked Muir to allow Asher to perform community service as an alternative to prison.

'Mr. Asher has been such a positive force for good in his community,' he said, pointing to Asher's participation in church and community organizations. 'He has been a truly selfless person ... What all those letters said to your honor was 'Don't take this man away.''

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He said Asher tried to prevent any bribes from going to Dwyer, instead trying to steer them to the GOP state committee. 'He was the only one not looking for something for himself,' said Hundley.

He said he expects Asher will have to serve the entire prison sentence, without chance of early parole.

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