If things go as planned on Nov. 30 – and, in hard coal country we know to expect the unexpected – former Democratic Party warlord Bob Mellow will stand before a federal judge and receive his sentence. The longtime state senator and admitted criminal will likely appear weak and contrite (at least as contrite as this degenerate gangster can appear) for ravaging the public trust and using state Senate staffers to aid and abet him in the commission of his crimes.
Although Mellow copped a plea, his victims – us – still don’t know the identities of the public servants who helped him carry out his crimes. For all we know they are still on the public payroll, making decisions that impact the lives of hard-working, decent, law-abiding Pennsylvanians.
The judge should sentence Mellow to a lengthy prison term. But I don’t expect that to happen. I hope I’m wrong but I will not be surprised if, for whatever the reasons that Mellow’s slick former federal prosecutor lawyer offers, Mellow does not serve a single day behind the wire.
Attorney Sal Cognetti Jr. might dramatically beg the mercy of the court, arguing that his client is ill and, at 70, cannot suffer the awkward strain of prison that is not even close to the hard-wood paneled offices where Mellow plied his treacherous trade. No mention will likely be made of the countless people who suffer the consequences and harsh aftermath of Mellow’s reign of terror that mocked democracy and set back progress that will not recover in my lifetime.
Mellow might speak, offering a statement in which he will apologize to his family and make a lame act of contrition for his sins. In case you forgot, most taxpayers are not part of the Mellow family tree.
Then we will close the book on another sordid chapter in the pornographic saga that
should shame all good men and women who expect more of government. But even otherwise decent people will remain silent. Most will not utter a bad word about Mellow.
Some, including elected state officials from Mellow’s sordid old circle of friends, might even talk about the good he did, stressing how that good far outweighs the bad. They might even have written a letter on official stationery to the judge, outlining the many good deeds that resulted in the many buildings and other places named in honor of Mellow.
No, they will write, Mellow has suffered enough. Let him retire, they will say, to a soft place where he can dine among friends on linguini with clam sauce rather than cooking cups of noodles over the steam of his prison cell radiator while worrying that some rough seasoned con who never even voted might steal his dinner
To which I say, “Let him eat Ramen.”
Lock him up and when he returns – if he returns – let’s give him a big welcome home surprise. Every time he turns around, from a park to a street to a theater named in his “honor,” let’s make sure he sees that his name has disappeared.
By dishonoring our community, by disgracing the very people he was duty-bound to serve, Mellow must pay by knowing we have not forgotten what he did to us, not for us. By standing up to local tyranny, we will set an example, make an example of him, to show future generations of wannabe public outlaws that we will be vigilant, brave and unyielding in our fight against corruption.
Our one small step for community, our giant step for restoring the public trust will begin by stripping the Mellow name from every place it now is visible in our towns. Among others, there’s a wellness center at Marywood University, a street and a park. Then there is the glorious theater at Lackawanna College in the center of downtown Scranton, the county seat where Mellow once held great power and probably still strikes fear into the hearts of many otherwise unflappable business and political leaders.
The former college president was a Mellow confident. The current president was a Mellow confident. The vice-chairman on the board of directors was a Mellow confident. Others who grace the masthead on the list of trustees also are likely indebted in one way or another to Mellow.
Now they must decide. Will they stand for changing the culture of corruption that created Mellow? Or will they cower and try to hide, refusing to take responsibility? Will they work publicly to restore the luster of their college name or will they try to dance around the dreadful shame that Mellow brought to their reputation? Will they set an honorable example for the brightest young students who might wonder why their school allows the name of an admitted federal felon to grace the centerpiece theater in the heart of their campus?
I left a telephone message yesterday for college President Mark Volk, inviting him to call the show at his leisure so we can talk about how I can help him help his school. Volk just enjoyed a huge induction ceremony so I figure he’s ready to talk about the huge indictment ceremony that captured Mellow.
Mellow appointed Volk to the state ethics commission, by the way. Volk – who survived the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11 and by all accounts behaved honorably – should be ready and able to help us in Northeastern Pennsylvania survive the scourge of corruption that hijacked democracy and killed so many dreams. We’ll see if Volk and others at the college are willing to declare a renewed war on state-sponsored terrorism that will once and for all establish liberty and justice for all in hard coal country.
Today I expect to start calling other lesser known Lackawanna College trustees, to invite them to enlist in this war. Will they join us in removing Mellow’s name from the theater?
A relatively new Lackawanna County judge sits on the board of trustees. I want to call her first. Will she help?