The LuLac Edition #1651, June 21st, 2011
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Martin and Lewis. Huntley and Brinkley. All great teams had their run. So too with Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak. Except that Bob and A.J. are facing jail.
A jury of 6 men and 6 women came back rather quickly with their verdict this afternoon. It was characterized by the defense team as a “mixed verdict”, by the prosecution as a “win and warning”.
Cordaro spoke to the media and said he was surprised that people believed the stories of the vendors especially Highland Associates Donald Kalina and undertaker Al Hughes. He made it a point to thank his co defendant and co commissioner A.J. Munchak for not turning to immunity like the others did. Munchak I’m sure had the opportunity to do so. He was calm, composed, a little subdued but typical Cordaro. He told the press that this was not the best day in his life, that his first fifty years have been good to him but stated that while this was tough stuff, others had it worse. He and his lawyers indicated there would be an appeal. Cordaro also made a reference to laying with dogs, getting fleas, never thinking he’d become the dog. Typical Cordaro imagery.
A.J. Munchak was defiant and said that he could not believe his story wasn’t sell able to the jury. He questioned the Feds about his indictment and challenged them asking “where is the money?” He had the line of the day saying he went through “a financial colonoscopy” and said his lawyers were going to have to sort things out.
The Lackawanna County Commissioners meet on Wednesday and if Munchak appeals it will be interesting to see if he will resign. You can bet that majority Commissioners Washo and O’Brien will ask for his resignation.
The Times Leader reports that Cordaro and Munchak were convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy counts relating to money that prosecutors say was paid by Acker Associates and Highland Associates, two firms that did business with the county. Cordaro was also convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, as well as several counts of money laundering and tax evasion. Both men were acquitted of 12 counts of honest services fraud and mail fraud.
Munchak was also acquitted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges that had been filed against him and Cordaro. He was found guilty of two tax related charges.
There are some who say the two men should have stayed off the witness stand. Cordaro was tripped up by the prosecution when he was caught in a lie saying he always cashed out his paychecks when evidence was produced that the checks were deposited. Munchak’s problems on the stand came when he plead ignorance on campaign contributions. Munchak was a well known tax preparer over the years and that did not ring true either. There are some who say that the two should have asked for separate trials. All of that is hindsight of course.
Cordaro and Munchak came into office in the wake of the Joe Corcoran mini dust up. Corcoran allegedly had prisoners from the Lackawanna County jail doing work at his properties. His warden, Mr. Gilhooley was asked to resign. Cordaro and Munchak won the 2003 election by a mere 200 votes. They mistook the election victory as a mandate. They mistook their ascendancy to higher office an entitlement to more. I’m sure they weren’t helped by the pay for play business vendors that might have suggested some things to them. There was a certain type of hubris that allowed all of this to happen. That came primarily from Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak, older and a bit wiser should have known better. But when you get so close to those stars, it never occurs to you that you could also get burned by the sun.
Sentencing is set for September 28th. Both will appeal. The duo will not be jailed. And they have to stay away from their immunity granted witnesses. Maybe if they did that at the start of their term, things might be different. I bet these two guys who owned radio stations together wish there was a rewind button handy just about now.