Erie mayor's corruption trial opens

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WASHINGTON, Pa. -- The prosecution's key witness in the public corruption case against the former Erie mayor is "manipulative, devious and a con man," a defense lawyer said in his opening statement yesterday.

Greg Rubino, a real estate broker, was upset at former Mayor Rick Filippi for not supporting a $50 million public subsidy for a casino project at a one-time paper company site, attorney Leonard Ambrose said.

Mr. Filippi, his law partner Rolf Patberg and former campaign manager Eric Purchase are accused of conspiring to use Mr. Filippi's position as mayor to get information about the development before buying land near the proposed casino site.

Mr. Rubino was scheduled to testify today.

Senior state Deputy Attorney General Margaret Cassidy said the 12-member jury will hear that Mr. Filippi used his position to benefit his interests and the interests of his friends.

"He and some of his friends pooled their money to buy properties adjacent to the International Paper property," Ms. Cassidy said.

Mr. Ambrose countered that Mr. Filippi "never elevated any private interest above that of the public."

Prosecutors say the three men committed a crime by concealing Mr. Filippi's interest in a real estate firm that bought the land.

The racetrack and casino plans fell through.


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