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Jury begins deliberating in trial of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Jurors are deliberating the fate of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and co-defendant Scott Allinson.

During his closing arguments, defense attorney Jack McMahon went on a “long tirade” about the whereabouts of Michael Fleck, Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s former campaign manager, Asst. U.S. Attorney Michelle Morgan said.

He demanded to know why federal prosecutors failed to call Fleck to testify, considering he was routinely seen as the mayor’s closet confidant. Morgan gave jurors a simple answer to McMahon’s assertion that prosecutors were trying to hide something from them.

“This is not the Mike Fleck trial, this is the Ed Pawlowski trial,” she said.

Morgan offered a brief rebuttal Wednesday morning to the closing arguments made by the defense on Tuesday. Jurors began deliberating the case around 12:15 p.m. after nearly three hours of jury instruction from U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez. He went through 90 pages worth of instructions for the jury.

Pawlowski stands accused of allegedly trading favors and city contracts in exchange for campaign donations. Co-defendant Scott Allinson stands accused of trying to funnel some of those campaign donations to the mayor in exchange for city legal work coming into the law firm, Norris McLaughlin.

A federal grand jury indicted Pawlowski on 54 counts of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and lying to the FBI.

A grand jury handed down a two-count indictment of bribery and conspiracy against Allinson.

Morgan told jurors that McMahon attacked the government during his closing arguments, in part, by telling the jury 19 times that prosecutors tried to mislead them by selectively editing secret recordings.

Specifically, McMahon argued the prosecution failed to note in some of the recordings played in court that the mayor had left conversations in which alleged bribes were discussed.

But Morgan pointed to direct testimony from former campaign aide, Sam Ruchlewicz, that he told the jury about instances in which Pawlowski had left discussions, which was done by design. She pointed to similar direct testimony from Matthew McTish.

“The government was not hiding from you who was participating in those conversations and when,” Morgan said.

During his closing arguments Tuesday afternoon, McMahon replayed a secret recording made by Ruchlewicz in which Pawlowski is heard implying that Mark Neisser with the engineering firm, T&M Associates, was looking to trade contracts for donations. The mayor is heard telling Ruchlewicz that he’s not a “pay-to-play guy.”

The defense argues that the conversation is the very embodiment of Pawlowski’s refusal to engage in pay-to-play politics, Morgan said. But just as the mayor argued during his testimony that his conversations needed to be taken in the proper context, the jury needs to consider that conversation in context, she said.

She reminded jurors that the mayor is heard in a separate recording a day earlier complaining that Neisser wasn’t returning his phones calls concerning a possible donation. In that recording, Ruchlewicz said Neisser complained his firm wasn’t getting enough work from the city to which the mayor replied that T&M Associates received $900,000 worth of work.

“How about helping out first maybe,” the mayor said in the recording. “Why don’t you tell them that?”

Prosecutors have presented evidence that the mayor held meetings with donors in which they discussed city business and donations. McMahon argued Tuesday there was nothing improper about discussing city business and donations at the same meeting provided the mayor made it clear he was separating the two matters.

“What are you supposed to do? Have the conversation, leave, run around the building and have the next conversation?” McMahon asked jurors on Tuesday.

“What are you supposed to do? How about not sit down to talk about the contract you’re going to give them and then ask for $100,000,” Morgan said Wednesday.

William Winning, Allinson’s attorney, acknowledged to the jury during his closing arguments Tuesday that his client is heard on secret recordings saying “crass things.” But that has nothing to do with campaign donations, and he reminded jurors that the law firm never received the Allentown Parking Authority solicitorship that prosecutors allege was part of the bribe.

“Words do not warrant a conviction in this case,” he said. “Words do not warrant a ruination of his career.”

Winning told the jury that Ruchlewicz kept telling Allinson that he would be named the parking authority solicitor, while telling Richard Somach, an attorney as Norris McLaughlin, the same thing.

“Talk about playing the ends against the middle,” he said.

But Morgan argued the fact that Allinson never made a donation to the mayor’s U.S. Senate campaign or that Norris McLaughlin wasn’t appointed the parking authority solicitor does not prove a lack of quid pro quo.

It illustrates a “good old-fashioned western standoff,” she said.

Morgan argues the mayor wasn’t going to budge until he had donations in hand, and Allinson wasn’t going to donate until the appointment was made. Then the FBI raided city hall in July 2105 and all bets were off, she said.

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