Friday, July 11, 2014

Musto files federal appeal of incompetence ruling

Former state senator due to report to N.C. medical prison Feb. 3

January 17. 2014 11:43PM

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WILKES-BARRE — Attorneys for former state Sen. Raphael Musto filed notice Friday that they are appealing a judge’s competency ruling on the ailing octogenarian.

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit will be asked to review the ruling that denied the defense attorneys ’ request to indefinitely continue Musto’s trial on corruption-related charges and committed him to federal custody to undergo treatment for no longer than four months.

The notice comes as Musto, 84, of Pittston is to report to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C. U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Martin Pane said Musto is to self surrender at the facility on Feb. 3.

U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo issued his ruling on Jan. 7, a day after holding a competency hearing for Musto. Caputo determined Musto who suffers from an illness rendering him mentally incompetent cannot assist with his defense or understand the legal proceedings involving him.

The judge further ordered that Musto, who has non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, be hospitalized at a facility to determine whether “there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future he will attain the capacity to permit the trial to proceed.” The order directed the attorneys to report his condition by March 7 and again four months after he enters a facility.

Musto faces charges that he allegedly accepted kickbacks from real estate developer Robert Mericle and money from a municipal official in exchange for helping obtain a state grant. He has pleaded not guilty and prior to the judge’s order had been free pending trial.

A federal grand jury handed up the first indictment against him in November 2010 prior to his retirement that month from the 14th Senatorial District after 28 years of service. New charges were added in October 2012 and February of last year.

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