Except for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s – for that matter the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s - pathological pattern, our history of heart-stopping, political and public corruption, I have no evidence to support my worrisome theory.
Nonetheless I worry that admitted federal felon and degenerate criminal Rob Mericle will never see a day behind bars, wire or any other kind of protective barrier intended to teach him and us a lesson.
I worry that somebody up there is protecting him.
And I don’t mean God.
If a supreme being exists, that mighty force would strike somebody down, refusing to stand for the delay in sentencing Mericle, a mult-millionaire industrial real estate baron and politically philanthropic/philanderer who seems to get richer each day.
More than ever before, Mericle’s cache of credibility grows among our supposedly best and brightest business and “public service” leaders.
They all know he’s a gangster.
But their own greed deludes their thinking, poisons their integrity and challenges the rest of us to say and do something about it. Most people are powerless in the face of such an attack. I wield some power to influence thinking and inspire action but not enough to translate into much of anything that will put Mericle in prison.
I’m also concerned that former state Sen. Ray Musto will also escape justice because of his political and business connections. Federal prosecutors reassure us that they need Mericle to testify as a star witness against Musto, a one-time powerful political warlords and benefactor to many.
I worry that somebody up there, and I don’t mean God, is looking out for his – not our - best interest.
Musto, ever since a grand jury indicted the eighty-six-year-old Depression-style hustler on political corruption charges, has maintained his innocence. He howled that he wanted his day in court. He told me in a hallway at the federal courthouse in Scranton that he would love to sit with me and talk about what led him to this terrible place and that one day we could do just that.
When our paths crossed years ago, Musto would always tell me to give him a call or just stop by his Pittston office and maybe “we could have a sandwich.”
The last time we talked, though, I called his house and asked why he was spotted smiling, shaking hands and offering hugs all around at a local gambling casino when his lawyers were filing briefs claiming that a courtroom appearance would kill him because he’s too sick and feeble to withstand such an emotional ordeal.
We haven’t spoken since then. I believe he’s changed his telephone number,.
I know of no other way to say this but I worry that somebody in the highest reaches of government and business – which, in hard coal country is the same – is protecting Mericle and Musto.
Somebody doesn’t seem to want either man to go to prison – assuming Musto is convicted, of course.
And I have to ask why?
What do they know that could hurt others? What skeletons are they preparing to bring into the open? Who can they sink?
I am not alone in worrying that the deck is purposely stacked in their favor. But the odds do not seem to favor law-abiding citizens who are fast losing faith in the system and in the supposedly sacred public trust.
Mericle, far more than the still beloved Musto, has achieved a kind of acclaim in the face of disgrace that I have never seen.
The once-prestigious Wyoming Seminary in Kingston – just blocks from where the late Mafia boss Russell Buffalno lived, by the way – recently accepted Mericle’s help in building a new athletic field and were so grateful that they named the field after him. A grand ceremony is planned for later this month to honor his good character and community service.
So while Wyoming Seminary’s elite supposedly shapes young minds to help shape a better future, they choose to overlook Mericle’s central role in the “Kids For Cash:” horror where two Mericle fiends/ friends, sold children into slavery for money – two million dollars of which came from Mericle.
A “finder’s fee,” Mericle and his lawyers call his contribution. Yeah, it was a finder’s fee all right – Luzerne County gangster judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan found children crying and afraid and sold them into a lifetime of despair – at least one of which ended in suicide.
Ciavarella and Conahan went away - 28 and 17 ½ years respectively.
Mericle walked away.
Now, at the annual Wilkes-Barre family YMCA dinner, where sitting Luzerne County judge Bill Amesbury – elected to help us heal in the aftermath of the terror that went before – shares a seat with Mericle on the board of directors, more dangerous fools prepare to present a “leadership” award in Mericle’s name.
Four years after pleading guilty in federal court, in the eyes of too many people who should know better, Mericle is more of a model citizen than ever.
Is some judge or prosecutor or elected official protecting him? Is somebody protecting Musto? Is somebody protecting them both?