01.23.2012

Character letters unanimously support Munchak

Not one letter released Tuesday suggests leniency for Robert Cordaro
By Christopher J. Hughes chughes@golackawanna.com Go Lackawanna Editor

SCRANTON – Of the 104 letters sent to either United States District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo or Scranton Atty. Christopher Powell, not one expressed any desired leniency in the sentencing of former Lackawanna County commissioner Robert Cordaro.

Cousins, in-laws, county employees, local attorneys, and even one person who testified during the trial of Cordaro and former fellow majority Republican commissioner AJ Munchak all wrote in support of the Taylor resident, expressing calls for consideration of his public service and concern over testimony supposedly tainted because it was tied to Cordaro.

“He was not given a fair chance; his case was tainted by Cordero’s (sic) corruption. AJ Munchak is an innocent man and was found guilty by association,” wrote Sara Doran, of Morristown, N.J., Munchak’s niece in one of the nearly nine dozen letters released Tuesday, Jan. 24.

“If you ask me whether or not I believe Mr. Cordaro was corrupt and venal, I would not hesitate in answering in the affirmative. I am just unable to make the same statement about Mr. Munchak,” Olyphant Atty. Glenn M. Cashuric said in another.

“To put it simply, I just don’t see it.”

The letters were released on the day of a pre-sentence hearing for the men convicted in June 2011 of crimes including bribery and extortion. Prosecutors said Munchak and Cordaro used their public office as a “piggybank,” enriching themselves through so-called pay-to-play politics and campaign events.

They are scheduled to be sentenced at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 30 before Caputo at the William J. Nealon Federal Building in Scranton. Cordaro faces a maximum sentence of 229 years in prison and $4.5 million in fines and Munchak faces up to 93 years in jail and $2 million in fines.

Among the letters written between June 23 – just two days after their guilty verdict – and Aug. 9 was one written on Tennessee Titans letterhead by Munchak’s nephew and current head coach Mike Munchak.

“It would be a travesty to incarcerate a man that is in no way a threat to society and could indeed contribute positively to society for years to come. Please consider leniency for my uncle,” coach Munchak wrote.

Also included is a July 13 letter from Dalton resident John Grow, co-owner, dealer, and managing partner at Gibbons Ford. Prosecutors questioned Grow under oath about the $500 campaign contribution he gave to Munchak that they alleged would help him secure a seat on the Lackawanna County Multipurpose Stadium Authority. Grow testified in June that he did not donate as a means of “buying a position.”

“I asked AJ for the seat on the Stadium Authority because I wanted to carry on my father in laws (sic) legacy… I chose to ask AJ because I trusted him,” Grow wrote.

“I do not believe the guilty verdict was indicative of the true facts. A trial for AJ alongside a much more sinister individual must surely sway the jury just by association.”

Cordaro’s role as the fellow majority leader in county government is mentioned sparingly and maliciously, at best.

“The Cordaro-Munchak administration was undeniably not good for Lackawanna County. There was a complete and utter breakdown regarding oversight that has stained our community,” wrote Atty. Paul T. Oven of Moosic. “I do not, however, believe that Mr. Munchak, personally, knowingly committed a crime or did anything to harm our community or our local government. It’s simply not within him to do so.”

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