By Joe McDonald
The federal judge in the public corruption trial of Lackawanna County Commissioner A.J. Munchak and former Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro was asked Thursday to move the trial to Scranton from Wilkes-Barre.
The request was made by Mr. Munchak’s lawyer, Chris Powell of Scranton, in a six-page motion to Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo.
Moving the trial to Scranton would be convenient not only for the defense but also the government, Mr. Powell said. It may not be convenient for Judge Caputo, whose courtroom and chambers are in the federal building in Wilkes-Barre. Judge Caputo is known to travel to Scranton for trials. In January, he presided over the Scranton trial of two Shenandoah men accused of a hate crime in the killing of an illegal Mexican immigrant. In an earlier ruling, Judge Caputo denied requests to move the trial out of the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Powell’s law office is about 200 yards from the federal building in downtown Scranton. The prosecutors on the case, assistant U.S. Attorneys Lorna Graham and William Houser, also have offices in the Scranton federal building.
Jury selection is scheduled for June 6 for what is expected to be a three-week trial.
A federal grand jury in Scranton indicted the former majority commissioners on racketeering charges that allege companies seeking contracts with the county made large cash payments to both commissioners in an effort to influence their decisions.
The names of the companies have not been publicly released.
Sources have said the company that allegedly slipped $360,000 in bribes to Mr. Cordaro through an unnamed middleman is Acker Associates, a former Moscow-based civil engineering company that federal prosecutors have referred to as “Company Number 2.” The payments to Mr. Cordaro, estimated at $10,000 a month, started in January 2005 through January 2008.
Company No. 3 – which allegedly gave Mr. Munchak $60,000 and Mr. Cordaro $30,000 through three principals – is known to be Clarks Summit-based architectural design firm Highland Associates. The indictment contains too few details to determine the other companies’ identities.
Mr. Cordaro faces up to 459 years in prison if convicted, and Mr. Munchak faces up to 343 years.
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