By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG – Former Senate Majority Leader Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna, was sentenced Friday to 16 months in prison for using legislative staff to conduct campaign activities.
Mellow was also ordered to repay $120,000 to the state Senate and the federal government. His sentencing came after he pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
A tearful Mellow apologized and begged the court for mercy. His attorneys said he has heart disease, and that his 40-year career in public service, a need to care for an ill adult daughter and record of charity should earn Mellow probation rather than prison time.
U.S. District Judge Joel H. Slomsky said Mellow’s age and civic and charity work do not excuse his crimes. He said Mellow “did a lot of good,” but that his sentence had to serve as a deterrent to others who might break the law.
Mellow served in the state Senate from 1971 until 2010, when he retired. Between 1989 and 2010, he was either Democratic Leader or President Pro Tempore of the Senate for every session.
Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday he hoped lawmakers had learned the lesson to not use public resources for campaign purposes. He investigated and successfully convicted five legislative leaders – not including Mellow – during his time as the state’s attorney general, prior to being elected governor in 2010.
Mellow is the eighth former state lawmaker currently in prison for crimes connected to their time as elected officials.
Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.