Budd Dwyer: His TV Suicide And Everything That Led Up To It

By | January 20, 2021

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(Eighty Four Films, LLC)

On January 22, 1987, Robert Budd Dwyer, the acting Pennsylvania state treasurer, pulled out a .357 Magnum during a press conference, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger in front of reporters, family members, and untold numbers of home viewers. Why would a small-time state politician do such a thing?

Who Was Budd Dwyer?

Budd Dwyer was into politics from an early age. After graduating from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, he entered the local scene before winning a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Republican in 1970. He went on to become a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate before running for state treasurer in 1980. 

During his stint as treasurer, investigators in Pennsylvania learned that a clerical error caused some state workers to overpay millions of dollars in taxes. Computer Technology Associates won the bid to sort the whole mess out, and a few months later, an anonymous source told Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh that C.T.A. bribed Pennsylvania officials, including Dwyer, to make sure they did.

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(Dwyer family/Wikimedia Commons)

Dwyer's Legal Troubles

In 1984, Dwyer learned that he was facing charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, perjury, and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. He vehemently denied any connection with C.T.A. and canceled their contract with the state, but all his attempts to thwart the federal government's investigation into the bribery charges were in vain. Prosecutors offered Dwyer a plea deal of five years in prison for one charge of receiving a bribe if he resigned from office and cooperated with the rest of the investigation, but he refused, claiming to the end that he was innocent.

On December 18, 1986, Dwyer was found guilty of 11 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, perjury, and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. The verdict carried a possible sentence of 55 years in prison, a $300,000 fine, and the loss of all rights his family had to his government pension.