Prosecutor in turnpike corruption case resigns from AG post
HARRISBURG — The lead prosecutor in the attorney general's office handling the Pennsylvania Turnpike corruption case has resigned, but the office said the state will be “prepared to proceed” at trial, slated for November.
Laurel Brandstetter, who was based in the Pittsburgh office, could not be reached for comment. Former colleagues and defense attorneys said she resigned, although the reason was unclear.
J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, said he could not comment on personnel matters.
“We will be ready to proceed” at trial, he said. Asked who will replace Brandstetter, Abbott said: “I can't comment on that.”
A pretrial hearing on legal issues is scheduled to begin on Monday before Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis.
Kane's office has accused former turnpike officials of “pay-to-play” in a multimillion-dollar scandal. Defense attorneys claim the case is weak and their clients are innocent.
Prosecutors allege bid-rigging, conflict of interest and influence peddling. Six former officials were held for trial, including longtime politico Joe Brimmeier of Ross, the agency's former CEO under ex-Gov. Ed Rendell.
Prosecutors claim the former employees, a powerful senator and vendors took part in corrupt activities, including contract awards and raising campaign money, and in return received gifts and trips. Some ex-officials allegedly were entertained at barbecues, poker games and sporting events.
The charges, ranging from commercial bribery to conflict of interest, were filed in March 2013 based on an 85-page indictment. The grand jury investigation began under Gov. Tom Corbett, the former attorney general.
The senator accused in the case is Robert Mellow, a Scranton Democrat, who served as president pro tempore, the Senate's highest post, and then as minority leader. He was convicted in federal court and served a prison term in a case involving the use of state resources for campaigns. Sentenced to 16 months in prison in November 2012, Mellow served a portion of his sentence in a halfway house.
His attorneys argue the state charges amount to double jeopardy because the charges in the turnpike case stem from the initial FBI investigation in the case filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office. That's one of the legal issues to be aired next week.
Brandstetter unsuccessfully prosecuted Beaver County Sheriff George David last month on misdemeanor charges of threatening an online reporter and intimidating a deputy sheriff.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter.
Reach him at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers OLB coach Porter teaches as passionately as he played
- 2014 showing has Steelers RB Harris confident he belongs
- 2 killed in single-vehicle crash in Pittsburgh
- Snake bites on the rise in Western Pa.
- Steelers training camp has California University link
- Rossi: Nothing huge, but Huntington helped Bucs
- Pirates trade for Dodgers 1B/OF Morse, Mariners LHP Happ
- Scout restores Brownsville paddleboat’s smokestacks to earn Eagle award
- Marte’s 2 fine defensive plays rescue Pirates in victory over Reds
- St. Barnabas 5K provides various reasons to run
- Brownsville ducky race postponed