Former state senator Ray Musto died Thursday. 85.
Musto was in elective offices for around 40 years. He died with unresolved federal corruption charges. Musto fought to delay the trial, almost from the moment the grand jury made its presentment. Finally, Musto was too old and too sick to go on trial.
I don't know about you, but if I was accused of a crime I didn't commit, I'd spend by last breath defending myself. If Musto went on trial when the first date was set and beat the rap, we'd be erecting a statue of him rather than placing an asterisk on his obituary.
A colleague who worked at another station attributed Musto's popularity to the fact that Ray Musto looked like one of the guys who signed the Declaration of Independence. It wasn't meant as an insult, and if memory serves, the line was delivered to Musto's face. I'll give him that-- Ray Musto had an everyman quality and an approachability few politicians possess. It's why it was so disheartening when federal investigators found envelopes of cash in Musto's office. We expected better. We deserved better.
Any time I think of Rob Mericle, I think of one of my junior high school teachers. Her philosophy on test cheating was as follows: The answer givers would by punished more harshly than the answer takers. The reasoning was that you'd have to be crazy not take the information.
Rob Mericle was apparently a busy guy. He spread the cash around. Yet, he was only charged with failing to report a crime, a relatively minor offense. It can be argued he was the genesis of Kids for Ca$h, but it could also be argued Conahan and Ciavarella were on the prowl for money, and if Mericle didn't supply it, someone else would.
Rob Mericle has donated a lot of time and money to charity. While that's a good thing, remember that no one ever made a donation they couldn't afford. Plus, there is strong evidence to support some of Mericle's money came from projects that benefited from bribery. Once your innocence is gone, you can't buy it back No matter how hard you monetarily grease the eye of the needle, the camel will not pass through.
I will admit that I'm surprised Mericle will see jail time, and a year at that. The judge, rightfully, realized this was a very serious situation. It impacted thousands of lives. Mericle, Ciavarella, and Conahan showed a callous recklessness as they chased dollars and threw children by the side of the road.
Mericle supporters used the "collateral damage" argument to keep him out of jail. They told the judge Mericle employees would be the ones who suffer if the boss goes to jail. First, Mericle, I think, was smart enough to plan for the day he wouldn't be around, voluntarily or otherwise. Second, show me a punishment that doesn't include collateral damage. Ask Penn State fans about that concept.
This is perhaps one of the sorriest episodes in the history of our area. As much as we should move on, what happened in Luzerne County should never be forgotten.