Two brothers who built a small defense contracting company into one of Johnstown's largest employers with help from the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha say they shouldn't have to go to jail for paying kickbacks to obtain government work.
Ron and William Kuchera, who formerly ran Kuchera Defense Systems, will be sentenced on Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court in Johnstown.
Both pleaded guilty last spring to fraud against the U.S. and conspiracy to avoid paying taxes and face up to three years in prison.
In pre-sentence filings, lawyers for the men say they don't deserve to be locked up because they provided hundreds of people in impoverished Johnstown with jobs, gave work to disabled veterans and donated time, money and effort to dozens of charitable causes.
In addition, the Kucheras have already paid the government $4.6 million in criminal and civil penalties in connection with the case.
"Bill and Ron Kuchera are not people in need of rehabilitation through incarceration," wrote J. Alan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney who represents William Kuchera.
Stan Levenson, who represents Ron Kuchera, said prison for his client will serve no purpose and wastes taxpayer money. He asked for probation or house arrest instead.
The case had previously been connected to an FBI probe of Mr. Murtha, who directed millions in earmarks to Kuchera as chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Federal prosecutors said the Kucheras paid $200,000 to Richard Ianieri, who ran Coherent Systems International and steered $650,000 worth of government work to Kuchera Defense from an $8.2 million earmark in exchange for the kickback.
Mr. Ianieri received the contract after hiring a lobbying firm that employed Mr. Murtha's brother, Kit.
The brothers' lawyers said they have received 152 letters in support of the Kucheras, many from former employees.
At its peak, the Kucheras employed 400 in a region where the poverty level is 22 percent.
Mr. Johnson said the brothers built their business from modest beginnings.
"[William] was a visionary and an entrepreneur in the purest sense of the word, and the [letters] show the extent to which his vision changed lives of the people in Johnstown for the better," he wrote.
He included a list of dozens of local charities that the Kucheras have given to or supported over the years.
In arguing to keep William Kuchera out of jail, Mr. Johnson also said his client suffers from prostate cancer and needs treatment he can't get behind bars.
Torsten Ove: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-231-0132.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-263-1510. First Published December 9, 2013 3:11 PM