Pennsylvania Mayor Strikes Plea Deal, Resigns Office

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (CN) — Eastern Pennsylvania saw its third Democratic mayor in the last year and a half convicted of public corruption charges Tuesday.

Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright departs from a funeral service for a Scranton Police patrolman at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, Pa., on Jan. 28, 2019. Courtright resigned on Tuesday after agreeing to plead guilty to bribery, extortion and criminal conspiracy.
(Christopher Dolan / The Scranton Times-Tribune via AP)

Former Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright entered his plea this morning at a federal courthouse in Williamsport, Pa., admitting to charges that he took bribes to dole out city permits or contracts after taking office.

“Between 2014 and on or about January 9, 2019, Courtright accepted tens of thousands of dollars in cash and other things of value from multiple businesspersons who had business pending before the City of Scranton or pending before offices or bodies within the City of Scranton government,” the information against Courtright dated Monday states.

Prosecutors said the 61-year-old mayor stalled projects with a business president seeking to renew his contract with the city for delinquent tax and trash bills and with a developer seeking permits and licenses to do business within the city.

“Courtright obtained payments, campaign contributions and other property through threats of economic harm,” the information states.

The 17-page document also accuses Courtright of using his position as mayor to gain access to a beach property, solicit a staircase installation at a karate club he owns, and obtain landscaping services for his personal home.

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Conner has released Courtright without bail and will determine his prison sentence in November. Courtright resigned from his position as mayor of the 78,000-person city less than 24 hours before accepting the government’s plea deal. He faces a maximum 35-year prison sentence and a $750,000 fine.

Scranton’s city council has 30 days to choose a successor to finish out the two and a half years remaining in Courtright’s term. The Times-Tribune of Scranton reported a judge will intervene at that point. In the meanwhile, the city’s council president is serving as the city’s interim mayor.

Paul Walker, an attorney for Courtwright in Scranton, said the investigation has taken a terrible toll on the ex-mayor’s family.

“He made some mistakes and freely admitted them,” Walker said of Courtwright in an email. “He needed to put this behind him for the sake of his family.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney and lead prosecutor Michael Consiglio did not return an email seeking comment.

Last year saw guilty pleas from former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer to pay-to-play schemes. Pawlowski received 15 years in prison, and Spencer eight.

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