Robert Budd Dwyer was a politician and state official best known for his public suicide. Unlike other public figures who died in office, this case was unique in that television news crews were there to witness the entire event. In fact, several cameras recorded the incident as it happened because the disgraced treasurer had called a public press conference and invited the media to attend, knowing he was going to kill himself.
A few news stations depicted the controversial death on television in its entirety; Budd Dwyer is now one of the most famous people who have committed suicide. However, most people are unaware of exactly why Budd Dwyer killed himself. Leading up to incident, he was the State Treasurer for Pennsylvania and became involved in a bribery case to award a government contract. The crime's discovery and Dwyer's subsequent convictions led him to commit suicide very publicly one day before his sentencing.
Dwyer Shot Himself In The Head At The End Of An Impromptu Press Conference
On January 21, 1987—two days before his sentencing was supposed to take place—Dwyer arranged a press conference with his press secretary James Horshock. He refused to inform members of the media or state officials what he planned to say at the event, leading most to assume he was planning to publicly resign.
He read from a 21-page statement in which he maintained his innocence and blamed his conviction on high ranking officials who supposedly framed him. Eventually, the politician stopped reading from his prepared speech and distributed sealed letters to several members of his staff. He then pulled a .357 Magnum revolver out of an envelope and shot himself through his mouth while those in the room tried to make him drop the weapon.
The Suicide Was Not Shown Live As Many People Believe
Because Dwyer called an official press conference and invited much of the local media, there were several television cameras present when he committed suicide. While the incident was not shown on live television as many people believe, graphic images were depicted in newspapers and on TV. Most networks did not show the death in full, cutting the image before he pulled the trigger, but a few broadcast the footage in its unedited state. A station in Pennsylvania aired the whole clip, and many kids who were home for a snow day saw his bloody death. The news outlet defended its decision, stating that it was a "historic event... [about] an important man."
He Allegedly Took A Bribe From A Californian Company
The catalyst for Dwyer’s eventual suicide came from a trial and conviction for receiving bribes as well as corruption. Prosecutors argued in court that the treasurer awarded a lucrative state contract to a California-based firm in exchange for kickbacks totaling approximately $300,000.
During the 1980s, it became clear that Pennsylvania state employees had been overpaying their FICA payroll taxes. This essentially provides all federal employees with Social Security and Medicare. Officials opened up bids to accountancy firms to determine the refund amount to which workers were entitled. Dwyer accepted bribes from an accountancy company to ensure that they would have the winning bid.
Computer Technology Associates Gave Dwyer $300,000 For Giving Them The State Contract
The California company Computer Technology Associates was eventually announced as the winning bidder of the state contract to calculate necessary FICA refunds. However, Computer Technology Associates, owned by John Torquato Jr., was relatively small and inexperienced, and other firms offered to do the work in the same amount of time for far less than the $4.6 million CTA was set to be paid. According to prosecutors, the company paid Dwyer a $300,000 kickback so he would use his considerable influence to make sure they were awarded the contract.