SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — It was a gloomy morning Friday, as Bill Courtright walked into federal court in Scranton, seven years in prison, the results.
“It was the appropriate sentence under the circumstances it was just a fair sentence,” Paul Walker, Courtright’s Attorney said.
More than a year after pleading guilty to criminal extortion, conspiracy and bribery charges, the sentence is finally in. Seven years in prison, three years supervised release, more than $25,000 in fines and 250 hours of community service.
Courtright’s attorney couldn’t explain why his client did what he did, but says the ruling is just.
“You know, you’re never happy when a client goes to jail. Clearly, but I think that was probably one of the most thoughtful and fairest sentences. I’ve ever had. Practicing defense work for over 30 years,” said Walker.
The judge in this case? Pointing out that “absolute power corrupts absolutely ” as these crimes make the first legal stain on the 63-year old’s record. With punishment handed down, Walker says his client has “taken his licks” and can move forward.
“He’s been you know on pins and needles for nearly two years now. And I think he’s just relieved to get it over with,” Walker said.
The judge also noted that the losses suffered by the city are difficult to quantify as Courtright, the latest to fall in a long line of scandal.
“I’ve lived most of my life in Lackawanna County, and I’ve seen you know what happens in Lackawanna County and I’ve got five kids none of whom are going to return to Lackawanna County, it’s like you have to stop. You know, we look what goes on with the school district we look when I’m with Cordero Macek. And, you know, we’re kind of the laughingstock of Pennsylvania.”
The judge in this case as well as the defense attorney in agreement that the buck has to stop here. But will this punishment be enough to deter future corruption in northeastern Pennsylvania?
The sentence was lighter than those of other corruption cases in eastern Pennsylvania, because of Courtright’s immediate resignation and guilty plea. The judge noted in the courtroom that Courtright has earned the title ‘disgraced former mayor’ despite his record and accomplishments while in office.
The charges stem from Courtright receiving $30,000 from the president of Northeast Revenue Service over the course of four years from 2013 to 2017 in a pay-to-play scheme. The private company handled Scranton’s delinquent taxes while funneling finances to Courtright’s re-election. The scheme ensured the city would keep its contract with the company.
According to prosecutors, taxpayers paid $2.9 million in fees while Courtright was in office despite the city having a proposal that would have saved them $1.8 million over the same period.
Within sentencing guidelines, along with the $30,000, federal prosecutors are including the total value taxpayer’s loss as a result of Courtright not accepting the county’s proposal for kickbacks.
Courtright must surrender on or before 2 p.m. on October 30.