Pennsylvania's attorney general yesterday charged a state Supreme Court justice with a series of drug-related felonies, but declined to discuss a related investigation into influence peddling by a bond firm in the state.
Ernest D. Preate Jr., the state attorney general, charged Justice Rolf Larsen with illegally using court employees to obtain prescription tranquilizers over the past 10 years.
Preate declined to comment on other aspects of the ongoing investigation, which include charges by Larsen that a fellow Supreme court Justice received "kickbacks" through "layered corporations" in exchange for steering bond business to his brother, the chairman of Pittsburgh-based RRZ Public Markets.
The other two chief investigators in the case, U.S. Attorney Edward S.G. Dennis and former Maine Attorney General James E. Tierney, also declined to comment beyond the drug-related charges, citing grand jury secrecy laws.
Larsen had no comment yesterday, his office said.
Preate called the charges announced yesterday "the initial result of our special investigation into the Supreme Court."
Regarding the allegations involving state bonds, Preate said, "Obviously, the investigation that the special counsel undertook is broader in scope than the matters covered in this presentment. Their conclusions will be released in due course."
Preate said Larsen is being charged with one count of criminal conspiracy and 27 counts of "obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge," a felony. Each count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Preate said Larsen, in recent testimony before a grand jury investigating the matter, said that until the early 1980s he was paying for the drugs out of his own pocket, rather than using the state insurance plan. He said he hoped that strategy would prevent the public from finding out he was being treated for "emotional difficulties" while holding public office.
Last November, Larsen alleged in a court filing that Supreme Court Justice Stephen A. Zappala had handled cases in a "special manner" when they affected his brother, Charles A. Zappala, RRZ's chairman.
Larsen said one such case was a suit filed by Philadelphia unions last year. The Supreme court's rejection of the union position eventually led to a successful $475 million bond sale by the city's oversight board. RRZ was a co-manager on the deal.
An attorney representing Zappala and a spokesman for RRZ have denied Larsen's allegations.