Jury Selection Begins In Mcdade Trial The Process Was Delayed By No-show Jurors. Pa.'s Highest-ranking Gop Congressman Is Accused Of Accepting Bribes.

Posted: June 11, 1996

The process of winnowing 128 residents of the Philadelphia region into the 12-member jury that will hear the federal racketeering and bribery case against U.S. Rep. Joseph McDade began yesterday in federal court.

Jury selection got off to a slow start after a computer problem delayed the assembling of a usable list of prospective jurors' names and identification numbers.

Salvatore Cognetti Jr., an attorney for the Republican congressman from Scranton, said he was concerned about how representative the jury pool was of the community because of the number of prospective jurors who had failed to report for duty.

Of 207 prospective jurors summoned to appear yesterday for jury selection, only 128 showed at the U.S. Courthouse in Center City.

McDade, 64, is accused of conspiracy, accepting gratuities, and racketeering involving his alleged taking of $100,000 in campaign contributions, trips and other gifts from five defense contractors and a lobbyist for helping them get $68 million in federal contracts. The indictment also charges him with using his staff to solicit bribes.

McDade, a 17-term representative who is dean of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation and the ranking House Republican, has maintained his innocence. He fought the prosecution for four years in a series of pretrial appeals that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joseph Rodgers, a manager with the Office of the Clerk of U.S. District Court, testified that he did not believe the number of absentee prospective jurors was unusually high.

U.S. District Judge Robert S. Gawthrop 3d assured those potential jurors who were in the courtroom that deputy marshals would be in contact with anyone who failed to appear for jury duty.

Yesterday afternoon, Gawthrop and the prosecution and defense attorneys began combing the jury rolls for other prospective jurors who might not be able to serve in a trial estimated to run two months or more.

The charges against McDade involve his acceptance of gratuities from a group of companies, most prominently United Chem Con, a defunct Lancaster, Pa., firm whose president and 11 other company employees have been convicted of charges involving the winning of federal defense contracts.

The indictment also involves alleged bribes and gratuities McDade received from Sperry Corp., a Long Island, N.Y., defense contractor; Grumman Corp., a Long Island defense contractor; James Kane, a Long Island lobbyist now deceased; Westland Corp., a Texas oil company; and GSGS&B, a Scranton, Pa., architectural firm.

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