A politician who killed himself on live television in 1987.
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- Known For: Suicide
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Budd Dwyer was a Pennsylvania state treasurer from 1981 until 1987. After a state accounting error, there was a bidding war between firms over who would be paid to correct it. Dwyer was convicted in 1986 as having received a bribe from the firm that won the contract.
Budd Dwyer was born in 1939 and first got into politics as a state representative from 1965 until 1970. He then became a state senator from 1971 until 1981, where he left office to become the state treasurer. It was during this time that he allegedly used his clout to steer a contract towards a California firm that had bribed him. Dwyer maintained innocence throughout the trial and after his conviction. Dwyer refused plea bargains that would have given him less jail time but would have required his resignation as treasurer. Dwyer remained treasurer until the day he died, because apparently being convicted isn't enough to remove someone from office in Pennsylvania.
Rise to fame
Dwyer called a press conference on January 22, 1987 - the day before his expected sentencing. Dwyer delivered two monologues.
"I thank the good Lord for giving me 47 years of invigorating challenges, stimulating experiences, many happy occasions, and, most of all, the finest wife and children a man could ever desire. Now my life has changed, for no apparent reason. People who call and write are exasperated and feel helpless. They know I'm innocent and want to help. But in this nation, the world's greatest democracy, there is nothing they can do to prevent me from being punished for a crime they know I did not commit. Some who have called have said that I am a modern-day Job. Judge Muir is also noted for his medieval sentences. I face a maximum sentence of 55 years in prison and a $300,000 fine for being innocent. Judge Demiria has already told the press that he, quote, 'felt invigorated' when we were found guilty, and that he plans to imprison me as a deterrent to other public officials. But it wouldn't be a deterrent because every public official who knows me knows that I am innocent; it wouldn't be a legitimate punishment because I've done nothing wrong. Since I'm a victim of political persecution, my prison would simply be an American gulag. I ask those that believe in me to continue to extend friendship and prayer to my family, to work untiringly for the creation of a true justice system here in the United States, and to press on with the efforts to vindicate me, so that my family and their future families are not tainted by this injustice that has been perpetrated on me. We were confident that right and truth would prevail, and I would be acquitted and we would devote the rest of our lives working to create a justice system here in the United States. The guilty verdict has strengthened that resolve. But as we discuss our plans to expose the warps of our legal system, people have said, 'Why bother, no one cares.' 'You look foolish.' '60 Minutes, 20/20, the ACLU, Jack Anderson, and others have been publicizing cases like yours for years and it doesn't bother anyone.'
This was the end of his prepared statement. He then said from the top of his head:
"I've repeatedly said that I'm not going to resign as State Treasurer. After many hours of thought and meditation I've made a decision that should not be an example to anyone because it is unique to my situation. Last May I told you that after the trial, I would give you the story of the decade. To those of you who are shallow, the events of this morning will be that story. But to those of you with depth and concern the real story will be what I hope and pray results from this morning--in the coming months and years, the development of a true Justice System here in the United States. I am going to die in office in an effort to "...see if the shame[-ful] facts, spread out in all their shame, will not burn through our civic shamelessness and set fire to American pride." Please tell my story on every radio and television station and in every newspaper and magazine in the U.S. Please leave immediately if you have a weak stomach or mind since I don't want to cause physical or mental distress. Joanne, Rob, DeeDee - I love you! Thank you for making my life so happy. Good bye to you all on the count of 3. Please make sure that the sacrifice of my life is not in vain."
He then gave three of his staffers one letter a piece. These letters included a suicide note, an organ donor card, and a letter to the new Pennsylvania governor. He then pulled a .357 revolver out of a manila envelope.
While onlookers begged him to not shoot himself, he asked those sensitive to violence to leave the room and warned of the hazard to bystanders of a gun going off in a closed room.
Dwyer then shot himself through the head and died within seconds. Someone jumped up to the podium with the still warm Dwyer behind him and attempted to keep order. This occurred as local media broadcasted the live press conference. The footage was reran with various levels of censorship on national news broadcasts.
Because Dwyer was still in office, his family was able to collect a 1.28 million dollar state survivor pension. Some have argued that this is the reason he killed himself.
Budd Dwyer was immortalized in the song Hey Man, Nice Shot by the industrial band Filter. Many have been shocked upon finding out that that song is not, in fact, about Kurt Cobain.
The band cKy(Camp Kill Yourself) portrayed Dwyer on their first album's cover art. The lead singer Deron Miller used a hand drawn sketch done by Jess Margera in 1999.
A full length movie/documentary called Honest Man was released in 2010 that covered Dwyer's life. Dwyer's family has attended releases and answered questions about Dwyer.
Please leave the room if this will offend you.
Don't, don't, don't, this will hurt someone.