Turnpike figures ordered to trial

Ex-lawmaker, five others face charges.

Posted: July 18, 2013

HARRISBURG - A judge ruled Tuesday that prosecutors presented enough evidence to send to trial an influence-peddling case against a former legislator and five others regarding Pennsylvania Turnpike business.

District Judge William Wenner's ruling came after a week's testimony last month and argument Tuesday by defense lawyers.

Prosecutor Laurel Brandstetter called the allegations a breach of trust. "This is not what the public pays these people to do," she said.

The defendants include former state Senate Democratic leader Bob Mellow, former Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitch Rubin, former chief executive Joe Brimmeier, former chief operating officer George Hatalowich, and two people who worked for turnpike vendors.

Brimmeier's lawyer, William Winning, told the judge that prosecution witnesses had "established that there was no crime."

Sal Cognetti, a lawyer for Mellow, who is in federal prison on unrelated charges, called the turnpike case "unrelated dots."

Arraignment is scheduled for September.

After the hearing, Wenner granted an unusual request by Cognetti: that the state Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case, preserve e-mails between its former prosecutor Frank Fina and Judge Barry F. Feudale, removed by the state Supreme Court as grand jury supervisory judge.

The Inquirer reported Monday that Attorney General Kathleen Kane had sought Feudale's removal after discovering an e-mail the judge sent Fina that criticized her and her predecessor, Linda Kelly.

Cognetti told reporters he was pursuing the matter because it raised the possibility of irregularities in the grand-jury process.

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