Another very prominent and very old Luzerne County figure accused of wrongdoing, in this case abusing his post as a state senator, apparently won’t ever get justice, ruled too mentally feeble to defend himself in court.
The situation — which is continued fallout from the region’s public corruption crackdown that first made headlines five years ago — gives area residents and voters yet another reason to question in whom they should place their trust, and for how long elderly men should be permitted to serve in positions of authority.
Raphael Musto, 84, who once walked the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., and Harrisburg, soon will pad down a hospital’s hallways. A federal judge ruled this week the Pittston Township resident should undergo an evaluation of not more than four months to gauge whether there’s a chance he can recover sufficiently to one day stand trial.
Our non-medical opinion on the eventual ruling: No way, no how.
The ex-lawmaker, who was indicted one week before his 2010 retirement from the state Senate and who prosecutors say had accepted bribes from area businessmen in exchange for official favors, potentially has too much to lose.
And what’s left of his pride.
Musto’s predicament mirrors that of longtime Wilkes-Barre Area School District solicitor Anthony J. Lupas Jr., 78, who was alleged to have conducted a multi-year Ponzi scheme.
Could such a pillar of the community, charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in March 2012 with crimes unrelated to his school post, really have bilked family “friends” and acquaintances out of some $6 million? Seemingly, that question won’t be answered in a court of law.
Less than two months ago, a federal judge determined Lupas also was unable to stand trial due to his mental condition and ordered him to a treatment facility. Lupas’ attorneys argued their client was in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease. The judge asked for an update on Lupas’ condition by mid-March, at which time the court will again consider whether a trial can be scheduled.
The non-resolution of these cases doesn’t sit well for many reasons. For starters, the accused parties don’t have a chance to clear their names.
A jaded public, meanwhile, wonders if a claim of mental or physical incompetency might simply be a ruse used by the well-connected to avoid prosecution.
On the flip side, if either Musto or Lupas legitimately underwent a mental slide concurrent to his being charged with crimes, that’s a strange coincidence. Worse, if the mental deterioration of either man had begun years earlier, was he fit to serve? Or was his decision-making ability on matters of public importance severely eroded?
If the latter scenario is true, and he’d been afflicted with the disease for some time, one wonders if term limits or the non-renewal of a contract might have precluded certain troubles from arising in the first place.