07.06.2011

Munchak files motion for new trial

BY DAVID SINGLETON  (STAFF WRITER)

Former Lackawanna County Commissioner A.J. Munchak is seeking a new trial on  public corruption charges, arguing an inconsistency in the guilty verdict  returned against him by a federal jury last month.

The three-page motion for a new trial was filed Tuesday in U.S. District  Court by Mr. Munchak’s attorney, Christopher Powell.

Download  the Motion for a New Trial

Download the  Brief in Support of Motion for New Trial

Mr. Munchak and former Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro were found guilty June  21 after a 12-day trial of taking and extorting bribes from county vendors while  serving as the Republican majority commissioners between 2004 and 2008.

Mr. Munchak, who resigned as commissioner the day after the verdict, was  convicted on eight of 21 counts against him. Mr. Cordaro was found guilty on 18  of 33 counts.

In asking Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo for a new trial, Mr.  Munchak zeroed in on two sets of charges on which he was found guilty – three  counts involving bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and three  other counts involving extortion under color of official right.

Both relate to a pair of $30,000 payments Don Kalina, a co-owner of Highland  Associates, a Clarks Summit architectural and engineering firm, testified he  delivered to Mr. Munchak in May and July 2005.

In his motion, Mr. Munchak contends the verdict is inconsistent and a new  trial should be granted because a defendant cannot be found guilty of both  bribery and extortion involving the same facts and payments.

“You cannot commit an offense of bribery and also extortion at the same time.  It is either bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds or extortion  under color of official right. But not both,” Mr. Powell wrote in a supporting  brief.

Mr. Powell argued the jury had to decide whether there was extortion or an  outright bribe was taken.

“You cannot have both,” the brief said. “Therefore, one of the set(s) of  charges, either the extortion or the bribery set, should have been ruled as  inconsistent.”

Efforts to reach Mr. Powell and Mr. Munchak late Tuesday were  unsuccessful.

The former commissioners are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28.

Mr. Munchak faces a maximum sentence of 93 years in prison and $2 million in  fines. Mr. Cordaro could be sentenced to up to 229 years in prison and fined up  to $4.5 million.

Contact the writer:  dsingleton@timesshamrock.com

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/munchak-files-motion-for-new-trial-1.1171432#ixzz1RQ0sHvhO

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