Judge sends 6 defendants in turnpike case to trial

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HARRISBURG -- A judge ruled Tuesday prosecutors had presented enough evidence to send to county court a bid-rigging and influence-peddling case against a former state senator and five others regarding Pennsylvania Turnpike business.

District Judge William Wenner's ruling came after a week of testimony last month and then four hours of argument Tuesday by defense lawyers who said the case lacked evidence and should be thrown out.

Prosecutor Laurel Brandstetter described the allegations as a breach of public trust and improper influence over large contracts.

"This is not what the public pays these people to do," Ms. Brandstetter said, noting evidence that turnpike officials took an active role in helping politicians raise campaign money.

"The fact that a public entity would be involved directly with campaign events is inappropriate," she argued.

The accused include former Sen. Bob Mellow, D-Scranton. The other defendants are former turnpike chairman Mitch Rubin, former chief executive Joe Brimmeier of Ross, former chief operating officer George Hatalowich and two people who worked for vendors, Dennis Miller and Jeffrey Suzenski.

Mellow, the former top-ranking Democrat in the state Senate, is serving a federal prison sentence for an unrelated corruption conviction.

All six are accused of restricted activities, and all but Mr. Suzenski also are charged with bid-rigging and conspiracy.

Mellow, Mr. Rubin, Mr. Brimmeier and Mr. Hatalowich also are charged with corrupt organizations and bribery.

Arraignment is scheduled for September.

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First Published July 16, 2013 2:15 PM


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