Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Janaury 22

Today marks the 21st anniversary of the death of Robert Budd Dwyer. A former Republican state senator, Dwyer served the Pennsylvania as Treasurer from 1980 until 22 January 1987, when he blew the top of his head off during a mid-day press conference at the capitol building in Harrisburg.

At the time, Dwyer was facing a possible 55-year prison sentence for mail fraud, perjury, conspiracy to commit bribery, and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. The charges stemmed from a $300,000 kickback he was alleged to have arranged for the state Republican party -- money offered up by a California-based company that received a no-bid state contract from Dwyer's office. Proclaiming his innocence, he had actually refused prosecution offer for a plea bargain that would have sent him away for a comparatively short five-year sentence. After his conviction, the 47-year-old Dwyer grew understandably despondent over the possibility that he might live out the rest of his days in a cell. On January 21, 1987, Ronald Reagan turned down Dwyer's appeal for a presidential pardon. Calling a late morning press conference the next day to "update" reporters on "the situation," Dwyer read a long, rambling statement that reiterated his innocence. He vowed, moreover, not to spend the remainder of his days in "an American gulag."

Dwyer thanked his supporters, expressed gratitude to his wife and children, then pulled a .357 magnum revolver from a manila envelope. Warning everyone to "stay away" because, "this thing might hurt someone," Budd Dwyer dutifully took his place in the macabre folklore of American politics. Television stations in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia aired complete footage of the suicide during their mid-day broadcasts. As a result, thousands of young children -- home from school thanks to a major snowstorm -- watched the State Treasurer trepanate himself with a single shot.

Over the past two decades, Budd Dwyer has become something of a fixture in the world of sub-popular music. Odes to Dwyer have been recorded by such bands as Mr. Yukk and Poison Control; Ion Dissonance; Tijiuana Car Wash; and Camp Kill Yourself. More well-known artists such as Marilyn Manson, Filter, Ministry and Faith No More have also given Budd Dwyer everlasting life.