03.24.2011

Munchak wants trial moved from Wilkes-Barre to Scranton

Federal court in Lackawanna County is convenient for client and others, motion says.

By Mark Guydish mguydish@timesleader.com
Education Reporter

SCRANTON – Arguing it would be far more convenient for him and others involved, Lackawanna County Commissioner Anthony Munchak has filed a motion asking that his corruption trial be moved from Wilkes-Barre to Scranton.

Munchak and former Commissioner Robert Cordaro were charged on Oct. 5, 2010, with multiple counts of corruption including honest services fraud, theft, and extortion. Prosecutors say the men used their positions as commissioners to extort money from various companies that did business with the county

In the motion filed Thursday in federal court, Munchak’s attorney, Christopher T. Powell Jr., argues that Munchak lives three blocks from the federal courthouse in Scranton, Powell has offices within 200 yards of the courthouse, and Cordaro’s attorney also has offices nearby. Cordaro had sought a separate trial but that motion was denied.

Powell contends some of the witnesses are likely to be county employees in the county courthouse across the street “who can simply walk across the street when called to testify and not spend a day in Wilkes-Barre waiting to be called.”

“The convenience to both defendants cannot be overstated in conducting a trial in Scranton,” Powell wrote.

Boxes of evidence and documents would be readily available in Scranton, Powell argues, while a truck would be needed to transport everything to Wilkes-Barre.

And, he notes, “the events at issue all allegedly happened in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and if the jury was asked to view the site of several transactions it would be more than convenient to have the jury simply walk a half block to view the various locations rather than provide transportation to and from Scranton.”

Powell also cites the larger and more numerous courtrooms available in the Scranton federal courthouse, suggesting the trial will be high profile and draw large crowds better served in Scranton. He does not cite the recent trial of former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella, but during testimony of key witnesses the courtroom was standing room only, with spillover watching the trial via closed-circuit television in another courtroom.

U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo has scheduled the trial in the Max Rosenn Federal Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, with jury selection set to start 9:30 a.m. June 6.

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