Turnpike corruption prosecutor said to be resigning

Posted: August 14, 2014

The lead prosecutor in the looming corruption and bribery trial of former top turnpike officials and vendors - a signature case for the office of Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane - plans to leave her position ahead of trial.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Laurel Brandstetter is expected to handle pretrial arguments in hearing next week, but then depart from the Attorney's General's Office Aug. 29, according to people familiar with her plans.

The Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the reports of Brandstetter's resignation. Brandstetter also declined comment.

During the buildup to the complex trial, now scheduled to start Nov. 17, Brandstetter has faced as many as nine defense lawyers representing the six defendants.

In March 2013, the Attorney General's Office charged the men with ethics violations, bid-rigging and influence peddling in connection with turnpike contracts.

The former turnpike officials charged were Mitchell Rubin, a Philadelphia businessman and former chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission; former turnpike chief executive Joseph Brimmeier; and former turnpike chief operating officer George Hatalowich.

In addition, the office charged two vendors - Dennis Miller and Jeffrey Suzenski - and a former top Democrat in the State Senate, Robert Mellow.

Brandstetter says those charged exchanged personal gifts and political contributions for contracts in "pay-to-play" transactions. The defendants maintain that the Attorney General's Office is wrongly seeking to criminalize customary political fund-raising.

A graduate of the University of California's Hastings College of the Law, Brandstetter worked as an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County for eight years before joining the Attorney General's Office in 2008.

As a state prosecutor, Brandstetter specialized in political-corruption cases.

She was a lead prosecutor in a 2012 trial that resulted in the conviction of former State Rep. Mike Veon, a Democrat from the Pittsburgh area, on charges of misusing money from a nonprofit organization.

Her partner in the case was former state prosecutor Frank G. Fina.

Fina, now with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, directed the attorney general's ambitious anti-corruption agenda for many years. He and Kane have been at political odds for months, particularly over her decision to shut down a sting operation he supervised that caught five Philadelphia elected officials on tape accepting money or gifts from an informant.


cmccoy@phillynews.com

215-854-4821 @CraigRMcCoy

Staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article.

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