WILKES-BARRE — In case the judge sentencing Robert Mericle on Friday was not already aware of the weight of his upcoming decision, the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association wanted to be sure.
The group last week wrote a letter to Senior U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik in contrast to the hundreds from family, friends and employees of the real estate developer asking for leniency.
“Your decision represents a seminal moment. Is Mericle going to get another pat on the head or will he finally receive prison time which is years overdue? I hope that you do what’s just and send a message that will be a deterrent for others,” read the association’s letter.
The group’s president, Frank Sorick, said he wanted to impress on the judge that Mericle receive no special treatment, even though his supporters wrote glowingly about his philanthropy, good deeds and the importance of his role in the local economy.
“It was written with the intent that Robert Mericle be treated just like anyone else when it comes to sentencing,” Sorick said.
The group’s letter recommended no specific sentence, leaving that up to the judge. But Sorick said he would like it to be between eight and 14 months in prison, the guideline range for Mericle who pleaded guilty nearly five years ago to misprision of a felony for his role in the “Kids for Cash” corruption scandal that resulted in lengthy prison sentences for former Luzerne County judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella.
Mericle’s company built two juvenile detention facilities in Pittston Township and Butler County.
As a result of getting the work, he paid more than $2 million in finder’s fees to Ciavarella and Conahan. But Mericle, 51, of Jackson Township, withheld information from federal authorities that the former judges took steps to conceal the payments. Mericle later cooperated, testifying against Ciavarella and assisting in other investigations, including that of former state Sen. Raphael Musto. The prosecution of the longtime Democrat from Pittston Township is on hold due to his declining health.
Federal prosecutors recommended that Mericle be given a break and receive no more than a six-month sentence for his assistance. They did not state whether it be in prison, probation or home confinement. Mericle’s attorney asked for an even lower sentence to be served as probation.
Sorick pointed out that Mericle played a key role in the scandal, saying, “Without the money behind this, none of the ‘Kids for Cash’ would have happened.”
He also took issue with the generosity many letter writers attributed to Mericle, saying it may not be for the same reasons they described.
“We do not find Mericle’s hand-outs to be sincere, because, as you may read below, it appears much of his money has been made in illegal and/or unsavory ways,” the taxpayers association letter read. “At his worst, Mericle has profited off and failed to report the ‘Kids for Cash’ scandal. We see no room nor reason for forgiveness in this area.”