ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A verdict has been reached in the federal corruption trial of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and co-defendant Scott Allinson.
A jury Thursday night found Pawlowski guilty of 47 counts and not guilty on the remaining seven charges. The mayor sat quietly at the defendant's table as the verdict was read, periodically putting his head in his hand, which was propped on the table. When everyone rose as the jury left the courtroom, the mayor braced himself against the defendant's table.
As the jury began delivering the verdict, the mayor's wife, Lisa, was seen with her head in hands as she sat in the front row of the gallery behind her husband, who was seated at the defendant's table.
She staggered out of the courtroom with the help of court staff, where she collapsed in the hallway. Paramedics tended to Lisa Pawlowski in a witness waiting room with her husband by her side.
Former Allentown City Council President Ray O'Connell was in the gallery when the verdict against Pawlowski was read.
"Justice has finally been served," he said.
O'Connell, who ran in last year's Democratic primary against Pawlowski, said the dark cloud that has been hanging over Allentown since the FBI raid of city hall in July 2015 has finally been lifted.
"Tomorrow is a new day with integrity, honesty and trustworthiness back in city hall," he said.
O'Connell said its unclear what happens next in terms of the mayor's office. The city charter is clear that the mayor must resign following his conviction, he said. What's unclear is when that resignation must happen.
Council has discussed the issue since the mayor's indictment, and O'Connell said council members were unclear as to whether the mayor would need to resign upon a guilty verdict or his sentencing.
Once the mayor does resign, city council President Roger MacLean will be named acting mayor for 30 days, according to O'Connell. Council must then appoint a Democrat to serve as interim mayor until the 2019 municipal election, when someone is elected to serve out the balance of Pawlowski's term.
The mayor was sworn in to his fourth term on Jan. 1.
Pawlowski was facing dozens of charges and accused of trading favors and city contracts in exchange for campaign donations.
Co-defendant Scott Allinson was charged with single counts of bribery and conspiracy, accused of trying to funnel some of the campaign donations to the mayor in exchange for city legal work coming into the law firm, Norris McLaughlin. He was found guilty on both counts.
Allinson sat emotionless as the jury quickly read his verdict. He swiftly left the courthouse shortly after the jury was dismissed.
The verdict comes after weeks of jurors listening to recorded conversations between Pawlowski and his campaign aides, Allinson and the mayor's campaign staff and testimony from nearly 70 witnesses on the stand.
Jurors began deliberating the mayor's fate early Wednesday afternoon, after hearing hours of closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense.
United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen released a statement after the verdict, saying:
“Today’s guilty verdicts send the message again to corrupt politicians that they are not above the law. The jury has held Mayor Pawlowski accountable for selling his office to the highest bidder to fund his personal ambitions. Thinking only of himself, he deprived Allentown residents of their right to receive honest and faithful services from their municipal government. The mayor then tried to cover up his crimes by destroying evidence, lying to the FBI agents who were investigating him, and lying to the federal jurors who heard his case. Our prosecutors and law enforcement partners worked extremely hard to investigate this case, which also resulted in 10 guilty pleas. We hope that those in public office receive the clear message that justice system will not tolerate these abuses of the public trust.”
Prosecutors throughout the trial worked to establish that Pawlowski tied what he expected in campaign donations from vendors to the amount of work they received from the city.
The defense has argued former campaign advisers Michael Fleck and Sam Ruchlewicz were at the center of the alleged pay-to-play scandal, and that Pawlowski was unaware of what they were doing or they were representing the firms caught up in the investigation.
Pawlowski testified in his own defense for nearly three days.
The FBI's investigation into City Hall first became public in July 2015, when agents served a subpoena and searched the controller's office, mayor's office, information technology department and other city offices.
Ramzi Haddad was the first domino to fall, when he pleaded guilty to bribery only about two months after the raid. He was also the first person to link Pawlowski to the investigation. Haddad admitted in court to donating to Pawlowski's campaigns in an effort to get a "fair shake" on his building projects in Allentown. He told federal investigators he feared the mayor - known only at the time as Pulbic Official #3 - would interfere or block his projects.
The first city official to fall was former assistant city Solicitor Dale Wiles, who pleaded guilty in November 2015 to rigging the bidding process for a contract to collect delinquent city taxes in favor of a campaign donor.
Despite the winning law firm initially submitting what was considered the weakest proposal, investigators said the committee manipulated the process, so that the firm which also happened to be a Pawlowski campaign donor received the contract.
In January 2016, Garret Strathearn, Allentown's former finance director, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the alleged bid rigging of the delinquent real estate tax collection contract. He resigned from his post less than two months before the FBI raid of City Hall.
Prosecutors said Strathearn stepped in to replace a committee member, who gave the eventual winning bidder the lowest score. He allegedly told Wiles that the bidding process was being rigged under the mayor's direction because he was dissatisfied with the campaign contributions coming in from the city's then delinquent tax collector.
Mary Ellen Koval in January 2016 resigned her post as Allentown's elected controller about two months after winning her second term in office. Then she appeared in federal court days after Strathearn and pleaded guilty to her role in the FBI probe. Koval pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
In April 2016, former campaign manager and long-time confidant Michael Fleck pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery. Fleck reportedly wore a wire during the FBI's investigation and moved out of the Lehigh Valley days after agents searched City Hall.
Prosecutors allege Fleck worked in concert with others to extort campaign contributions for Pawlowski's aborted U.S. Senate run.
Fleck reportedly leaned on the law firm awarded the delinquent tax collection contract to donate toward Pawlowski's campaign and assure that associates did the same. Prosecutors said he made it clear that the firm's ability to land future contracts was in peril.
Former city Managing Director Francis Dougherty, who resigned without explanation from his post in April 2016, pleaded guilty in March 2017. Dougherty was the city's highest ranking appointed official.
Like the other indictments, Dougherty is accused of manipulating the bidding process to steer city contracts toward companies willing to donate to Pawlowski's state and federal campaigns.
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