Public corruption convictions for former Lackawanna County commissioner upheld
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that United States District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo denied former Lackawanna County Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro’s latest appeal regarding his 2011 conviction on multiple public corruption charges. Specifically, Judge Caputo adopted the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick and denied Cordaro’s appeal based on the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in McDonnell v. United States.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Judge Caputo rejected Cordaro’s claim that the McDonnell decision required that his convictions for Hobbs Act extortion, bribery and racketeering must be vacated and that he be granted a new trial. Judge Caputo stated that “Cordaro fails to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that no reasonable jury would have convicted him if the jury had been instructed in accordance with McDonnell.” Characterizing the evidence as “straightforward” and “overwhelming,” the Court also found that Cordaro failed to establish that he was actually innocent of the charges.
Cordaro was convicted in 2011, along with former Lackawanna County Commissioner Anthony Munchak, on multiple charges including racketeering and other public corruption offenses relating to the Commissioner’s demands for payments and other benefits from individuals and entities doing business with Lackawanna County. Cordaro was sentenced on January 30, 2012, to serve 132 months’ imprisonment and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence on May 31, 2013. Munchak was sentenced in 2012 to serve 84 months’ imprisonment and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence on May 31, 2013.
After Cordaro’s conviction and sentence were affirmed, Cordaro filed a motion to vacate his conviction and sentence based on alleged ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. A three-day hearing was held in January 2015 and Judge Caputo denied the motion in August 2015. Cordaro appealed that ruling and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court.
Following the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in McDonnell, Cordaro filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on February 3, 2017, and Magistrate Judge Mehalchick issued a Report and Recommendation denying the Petition on September 1, 2017. Cordaro objected to the Magistrate’s findings and by Order dated December 11, 2017, Judge Caputo adopted the Report and Recommendation and upheld all of Cordaro’s convictions.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service. At trial, the government was represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Lorna N. Graham, William S. Houser and Bruce Brandler. Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Cerutti, Chief of Appeals, handled the Habeas Corpus Petition.
Source: United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania