FBI Probe

Week 1 complete in Allentown mayor's federal corruption trial

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - One down, five weeks to go.

The federal corruption trial for Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has rounded the first lap. Jurors have heard the beginning of the government's case against Pawlowski and some of his defense, presented by attorney Jack McMahon.

Jurors are not hearing testimony on Fridays, but WFMZ's Jamie Stover spoke with both a defense attorney and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney to weigh in on the case so far.

A standing gag order prevents Pawlowski's attorney and the attorneys prosecuting him from making statements to the press.

Seth Weber, who teaches law courses and previously worked as a federal prosecutor, said the government started piecing together its theory.

"Their case is quid pro quo, the mayor took donations in exchange for getting city contracts, and I think that's what we've heard from some of the witnesses that testified," he said.

Those witnesses include Pawlowski's former finance director, Garret Strathearn and his former right hand man and managing director, Fran Dougherty, who testified the mayor directed him to steer city work to the mayor's campaign donors.

"And Fran Dougherty was on tape, you have Fran Dougherty, plus, corroboration for what he says," Weber said.

But, is there also motive in what he says?

That's the position Pawlowski's attorney has taken, on not just Dougherty, but the other witnesses who accepted plea deals.  Those particular witnesses may get a lighter sentence for testifying on behalf of the government.

Defense attorney Gary Asteak summed up that tactic a bit differently.

"They are all rats that jumped off ship because they were threatened," he told 69 News.

Asteak said McMahon will go witness by witness, discrediting the ones he can, and ignoring those he can't.

But according to Asteak, even if the  "everybody else is lying" tactic doesn't work, something else might.

"Everybody's gotta be lying, and he's the only one telling the truth if the jury is going to acquit him, or the jury is going to say you did it, so what," he said.

Apathy, Asteak said, could work in the  mayor's favor. So could charisma. The mayor is expected to testify, according to his attorney's opening statement, though he could change his mind.

"He's going to get the jury to like him and trust him," Asteak said.

Trust and who to believe are the crux of the case, which is why Weber said those following the trial should expect the government's most credible witness at the end.

"You want a superstar, someone Jack McMahon is not going to pick apart, poke holes in credibility, and it's the last thing the jury will remember," Weber said. "I seriously doubt Mike Fleck or Sam Ruchlewicz will be one of the last witnesses.

Ruchlewicz and Fleck both flipped for the government. They'll testify too.  But when?

The trial continues at the Federal Courthouse in Allentown Monday at 9 a.m.


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