Scranton mayor resigns, pleads guilty to corruption charges

July 2, 2019 by Ben Marquis

A Democrat mayor in Pennsylvania tendered his resignation amid the issuance of public corruption charges that have led to his personal downfall.

Now-former Scranton Mayor Bill Courtwright faced multiple counts of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy stemming from allegations that he used his official position for his own financial gain, charges to which he has just pleaded guilty.

Bribery, conspiracy and extortion

Courtwright announced his resignation on Monday just prior to federal prosecutors publicly unveiling the charging documents filed against him.

The disgraced public official is said to have put pressure on those seeking contracts and permits with the city to provide bribe payments that were often funneled to him through intermediaries.

Prosecutors said that the mayor exploited his position of power “corruptly to obtain cash and other valuable property from others, with their consent, under color of official right.”

Further, Courtwright is alleged to have received “cash, campaign contributions, and other valuable property from others, with their consent, induced by the wrongful use of fear of economic harm.”

Corruption for personal gain

The charging documents highlighted at least two examples of Courtwright’s alleged corruption, the first being that of business president who sought to renew a city contract to collect delinquent tax and trash bills, and the second being a developer in need of a license and permits to complete a planned project.

The AP reported that a search of Courtwright’s home and office in January, which at the time was believed related to a campaign finance investigation, uncovered thousands of dollars in cash from those two bribed individuals that were stored in a safe in his home.

Courtwright is accused of having received tens of thousands of dollars in cash, the use of beachfront property, and work on a karate club he owned and landscaping at his home, as a result of his bribery and extortion.

Prosecutors alleged that “In some instances, Courtright took adverse official action against persons and entities to cause them to make payments and contributions for the benefit of Courtright.”

Guilty plea

Less than 24 hours after resigning his office, Courtwright pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the charges against him. He is due to be sentenced on November 14 and facesfaces up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

Courtwright is actually the third mayor from eastern Pennsylvania to be hit with federal corruption charges within the past year. Pat Rogan, president of the Scranton City Council will serve as the city’s acting mayor until council appoints a new mayor.

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