Pay-to-play charges dropped against former Pennsylvania state senator

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 10/17/2014

All charges have now been dismissed against former Pennsylvania state Sen. Robert Mellow in a case involving alleged corruption at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority. Three of the initial eight defendants are still facing trial after being charged in an alleged pay-to-play political scheme.

A judge dismissed all but one charge against Mellow last week, and prosecutors dropped the remaining charge on Thursday, Oct. 16.

The grand jury indicted Mellow and seven others in March 2013, including former Turnpike Chairman Mitchell Rubin and CEO Joseph Brimmeier, saying the men solicited political contributions from bidders seeking turnpike work contracts, favoring the companies that contributed the most. Charges included bid-rigging, conspiracy, commercial bribery and ethics violations.

Mellow’s attorney is quoted as saying the allegations against his client were based on “innuendo” and not on hard evidence.

Mellow served a brief sentence in federal prison this year on an unrelated conviction.

Rubin and Brimmeier are still facing trial. So is George Hatalowich, the turnpike’s former chief operating officer.

Two turnpike employees, Melvin Shelton and Raymond Zajicek, pleaded guilty to charges of theft and unauthorized use of a state vehicle and were sentenced to probation.

Charges have been dropped against the remaining two defendants, former turnpike vendor Dennis Miller, and business consultant Jeffrey Suzinski.

Rubin, elected chairman of the turnpike in 2003, faces three counts of bid-rigging and six other counts including commercial bribery. Rubin once worked for former state Sen. Vincent Fumo, who was charged with corruption and sentenced to 55 months in prison in 2009. Rubin and his wife, Ruth Arnao, faced separate charges connected to the Fumo trial for “no work” contracts. Rubin took leave in 2006 and was then fired by then-Gov. Ed Rendell.

Brimmeier, who was CEO of the turnpike from 2003 through 2010, was charged with a total of nine counts, including bid-rigging and restricted activities.

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