Former Mayor of Scranton, William L. Courtright, pleaded guilty today before the Honorable Judge Christopher C. Connor at the Federal Courthouse in Williamsport, Pa. to charges of Federal corruption.
In early courtroom proceedings, Courtright, who was represented by Attorney Paul Walker, waived his right to formal indictment by the U.S. government and a trial by jury in favor of his guilty plea.
The former mayor, who resigned yesterday from his post as part of his plea agreement, answered charges of corruption brought against him by Senior Litigation Council Michael Consiglio and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Olschefski on the following counts: violation of Title 18, sec. 371, conspiracy to commit offences against the U.S. Government; violation of Title 18, sec 1951 A, attempt to obstruct commerce by extortion; and violation of Title 18, sec 666A1B, theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.
Consiglio recounted examples obtained by a multi-year undercover FBI investigation including a number of documented actions both captured in video and audio recordings of former Mayor Courtright knowingly accepting money or items of value from sources working with the FBI in exchange for city contracts, licensing, and permitting favors.
Between the years of 2014 and 2019, Courtright used his position of power to target various vendors to benefit the Friends of Bill Courtright campaign committee for cash or items of value.
On one occasion, Consiglio recounted, the owner and manager of a development company was in need of occupancy permits. That business owner, however, was a friend and supporter of the previous Mayor of Scranton. Courtright temporarily halted the development project as a result of not receiving campaign donations from that business owner.
The FBI reported Courtright once saying of someone who did not attend his Mayoral inauguration, “I don’t worry about you coming, I worry about the money.” On another occasion he was reported to have said regarding a vendor, “he makes a tremendous amount of money off of the city, he has to pay.”
Courtright is also accused of instructing a city employee to terminate contracts with a vendor because of low donations to a fundraising event, and regularly directed cash payouts through an intermediary, once recorded asking, “Is he going to sing if he ever gets nailed?”
When finally questioned by the FBI after the years-long investigation, Courtright denied ever getting cash or using an intermediary. However, when agents raided the former Mayor’s basement safe, they discovered $29,450 of marked cash that had been paid to Courtright over time by undercover FBI.
Courtright faces a maximum prison sentence of 35 years, a $750,000 fine, three years supervised release after he serves his sentence, cost of prosecution, and denial of certain federal benefits.
Courtright was released on personal recognizance with the surrender of his passport. His sentencing date is set for November 14, 2019 in the Scranton, Pa. courthouse.