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A Tale Of One City

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One young man hailed from privilege.

The other arrived from the dark side of Cedar Avenue in Scranton’s South Side.

When their lives crossed in the early evening on April 11, 1984, only one young man walked away.

The other died three days later from injuries he suffered when the driver’s 1981 Subaru slammed into him as he tried to cross the street.

Almost 30 years later, the privileged man is even more privileged – poised to be elected in November to one of the most powerful political offices in Lackawanna County. Yet, he and his most ardent campaign supporters, also men and women of privilege, continue to conspire to keep quiet what police long ago deemed an accident.

Within four months after the victim’s death, his widow and three small children accepted a settlement that totaled more than $1 million spread over 60 years. A law enforcement source who supports the candidate says that the widow even supported the primary political campaign of the man who killed her husband.

The widow, who still lives in Scranton, failed to return a phone call yesterday requesting comment.

The candidate failed to return several.

In the past three weeks since the May 21 primary election, I have left seven detailed messages for him at three different telephone numbers - at the candidate’s current public office and his two private cell phone numbers.

I agreed when a “friend” of the candidate offered to call him last Thursday and suggest that he sit with me and explain what happened that terrible night. That friend told me yesterday that the candidate told him he absolutely refuses to talk with me.

“He’s worried that you’re going to ambush him,” the friend said.

The candidate is more likely worried that I will ask him questions that he doesn’t want to answer, questions that nobody has ever publicly asked him.

Was he drinking the night of the accident? Did police test him for alcohol? Did he and his politically powerful father visit the widow in the days after the victim’s death? Why agree to a million dollar settlement for an accident that police said wasn’t his fault, an accident for which police said they had no witnesses and took him at his word about what happened? Did he suggest keeping the death quiet during the campaign or did his closest campaign advisors – lawyers like himself - urge him not to talk?

A few days before the election, I received in the mail at my home a copy of the official accident settlement agreement that is filed in Lackawanna County Court. Political rivals of the candidate who also knew about the fatal accident wanted me to break the story before the election. Some political experts believe the candidate would have lost his bid for office had the story erupted.

Campaign workers for two of the candidate’s rivals told me that a man had approached them and offered damaging information about the candidate in exchange for $15,000. The campaign workers said they refused the offer.

And I refused to rush the story. Instead, I found out all that I could and gave the candidate more than enough opportunity to tell his story to voters who deserve to know exactly who our political candidates are when they ask for the public trust.  But the candidate dismissed my phone calls and turned down his friend’s suggestion that he speak with me.

Last week I heard from a source close to the race that somebody stole the official court record from the main storage repository.

County Clerk of Judicial Records Mary Rinaldi called me within hours of my requesting the record to report that “the case is missing.” Rinaldi told me Friday that she has no idea how the record disappeared and that a mystery of this kind is rare.

Several sources told me that suspects’ names are circulating throughout the courthouse and the political and legal community.

A source told me yesterday that the candidate recently visited the clerk’s office in the Brooks
Building in downtown Scranton and requested to see the record of his court settlement.

Officials there told him that the document had simply vanished, the source said.

The candidate is not happy, the source said.

District Attorney Andy Jarbola, who signed a widely-circulated letter of support for the candidate during the primary campaign, said yesterday that he also is not happy about the missing file.

“We’re looking into it,” he said.

I interpret that to mean that the county’s chief law enforcement officer has launched a preliminary criminal investigation into the possible theft of an official court document from a supposedly secure county office that is off-limits to the public.

County court employees are able to retrieve court documents from the repository, officials said, but they are required to leave a note identifying themselves.

No such note exists, Rinaldi said.

In my attempts to report this story I have tried my best to be fair. But the candidate refuses to help me understand exactly what happened so long ago as well as during his successful campaign for higher public office.

At 3:15 this afternoon, I will identity the candidate on the air.

Then the people will decide for themselves if this well-respected man who claimed during the campaign to have the highest integrity of all the candidates is deserving of the public trust.

Or, has he simply forgotten how he took the life of a young husband and father, an average man stepping from the shadows and left bleeding on the street, as an above-average young man of privilege told police his version of what happened, dropped the name of a powerful judge for whom he worked and continued living the good life that helped him keep climbing the ladder of success?

Tags :  
Locations : Lackawanna CountyScranton
People : Andy JarbolaMary Rinaldi

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