The LuLac Edition #1924, January 30th, 2012
Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak.
MUNCHAK/CORDARO: THE FINALE
IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!!
In my experience in covering federal trials and sentences, I have been used to a quick outcome. During the Ciavarella, Conahan, and Powell sentencing proceedings, the deed was done and the news reports were filed by 11AM. That didn’t happen today. The proposed 11 o’clock deadline came and went. The reason was not the expected theatrics of Bob Cordaro but A. J. Munchak. For the very first time since his association politically and commercially with Bob Cordaro, it was all about A.J.
Munchak stood before Judge Richard Caputo and related to him that the breaths he was taking were labored, Munchak, referring to his children’s statements, impored, begged the judge for mercy. Citing a 5 day hospital stay, Munchak declared that he almost died in the hospital. Munchak told reporters outside that “he was on the mend” but in the Courtroom before Caputo Munchak said that a long prison term would not be very helpful to his health. Munchak had his record in community service highlighted before the judge maintaining that these good deeds should not overshadow this small part of his life. His children made the point that without him in their lives, they as well as his grandchildren will suffer. Munchak did show some remorse saying, "I take full responsibility. I stained the office of commissioner. I am truly sorry."
Munchak was halting and emotional in his speech. There were many in the community who maintained that Munchak was just along for the ride with Bob Cordaro. Speculation ran rampant that Munchak might get a break on the sentencing and it could be on the low side of the federal guidelines. That was not to be. Judge Caputo gave Munchak 7 years to be served at a facility in Florida `so that he could have access to the health care he needs. Munchak was given a reprieve of sorts, the Judge declared Munchak can report on April 3rd. The long delay and the long speech came from the least ubiquitous of the duo. Munchak was fighting for his freedom but in the end, his pleas for mercy were denied. The spotlight that was so kind to Cordaro during their careers, did him no good.
Bob Cordaro fresh from a going away party this weekend, came to Federal Court this morning channeling the late Lou Gehrig. Proclaiming he was “the luckiest man alive”, Cordaro reprised Gary Cooper in “The Lou Gehrig Story”. Standing on the Courthouse steps, Cordaro was blunt when asked how he came to this crossroads in his life. "Because I'm not that smart. It means in terms of associations, in terms of placing trust in the wrong people, I made a lot of bad decisions. There were a lot of situations where decisions were called for, so it was actions, inactions and associations which led to this. I'm the only to blame for being here today, "said Cordaro. This was pretty ironic since Cordaro always fancied himself as the smartest guy in the room. In Court Cordaro’s son Michael, 24, went to bat for him. In tears, the young man said that it bothered him that the world doesn’t know him as his children do. The younger Cordaro said that the community would be a worse place without his father in it. Cordaro said that he would miss great things in his life like seeing his sons graduate and walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. Calling an audible, Cordaro himself asked the Judge to consider the gifts he and his fellow defendant Munchak brought to the table. He made a pitch to the Judge that the tainted men of power could teach inner city kids a thing or two about living their lives. Noting he was a person "of some means," Cordaro said he has "lost every material possession and asset I own." Echoing his pre trial assertions, Cordaro said the county was "bankrupt" when he and Mr. Munchak took office and they turned the county around. He said the prosecution ensures that people will not remember the "good works" they did.
The former commissioner, however, also noted that the "punishment meted out is much more than (my family) can bear."A master salesman all his life, Judge Caputo obviously was not buying. He sentenced Cordaro to 11 years in jail and was taken into custody immediately. Most likely he will be housed in Philadelphia before getting a permanent assignment.
Caputo said that his sentencing was done to send a message. The Federal Judge told the more than 135 people assembled that there are consequences for corruption. Caputo even intimated that he believed Cordaro lied under oath. Caputo, while acknowledging that the men might have done good deeds in their times as public officials as well as being loved by their families and friends, said that there has to be a deterrent to this type of crime.
The prosecution noted that the crimes the men were sentenced on were things that they could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt indicating that the corruption was widespread. It could not have helped that the Cordao and Munchak reign was very brief in County politics, 2004 to 2008. Like two political meteors blazing across the Lackawanna County skyline, as the sun sets today, all that’s left is a burning ember of two men who won election 8 years ago by telling voters things would be different. Indeed they were, but not the way any one would have envisioned it.