WILKES-BARRE -- Former state Sen. Raphael Musto was a man of few words Wednesday morning as he pleaded not guilty to two new federal charges during an arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Malachy Mannion.
Musto, 83, of Pittston Township, did not speak to reporters as he entered and exited the federal courthouse in Wilkes-Barre. In the courtroom he answered Mannion's questions concisely and ended his answers with your honor. When asked how he's pleading to the two new counts, he replied, Not guilty, your honor.
Federal prosecutors last week filed charges accusing Musto of accepting $2,000 from a local municipal official as a reward for helping a municipality obtain state loans.
He was previously charged with accepting money and other items of value from a local developer identified by Musto's attorneys as Robert Mericle.
On Wednesday, Musto exited the passenger seat of his attorney's black Cadillac SRX and walked into the courthouse without assistance.
When asked how he was feeling he smiled and nodded his head. After the brief arraignment, he walked back out of the courthouse, and when reporters asked him if he had anything to say, his attorneys cut in and said he would not be speaking.
Musto's attorneys, John Riley and William Murray, had sought to indefinitely postpone his trial, which was scheduled to begin Nov. 13, due to Muto's poor health.
U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo, who is presiding over the trial, on Wednesday denied the motion, but did agree to postpone the start of the trial until Nov. 26 at the request of prosecutors.
In their motion seeking the indefinite postponement, Riley and Murray said Musto, who suffers from liver disease, experiences debilitating fatigue that leaves him unable to get out of bed two to three days a week. They argued the stress of the trial could kill Musto.
The attorneys also said Musto's cognitive ability has also been so severely diminished that he can read only a few paragraphs before becoming confused, leaving him unable to assist in his defense.
In denying the motion, Caputo said the medical evidence shows that Musto's liver disease is stabilizing. He said any dangers to Musto's health can be mitigated by having medical professionals in or near the courtroom.
Caputo also cited the magnitude of the charges against Musto in denying the motion.
Defendant's case involves alleged corruption by a public official in an environment where several other public officials have been charged and convicted of similar conduct, Caputo said.
A federal grand jury initially indicted Musto in November 2010 on charges of honest services fraud, corrupt receipt of a reward for official action and false statements.
The new indictment alleges Musto, a longtime state senator who also briefly served in the U.S House of Representatives, accepted $1,000 in 2006 and another $1,000 in 2008 from a person associated with a local municipality in exchange for helping pass a loan application for the municipality. Prosecutors have not identified the person or municipality.