Ed Pawlowski, the former mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison for rigging city contracts in order to raise cash for his campaigns for higher office.
A jury had convicted Pawlowski, a Democrat, on 47 of 54 charges in March – including conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud, and extortion. Federal prosecutors said Pawlowski came up with a scheme in which he solicited city vendors to fund his unsuccessful campaigns for governor and the U.S. Senate. The contracts included engineering, technology, construction and legal work.
Pawlowski, 53, who'd resigned earlier this year as mayor of Pennsylvania's third-largest city, told federal Judge Juan Sanchez sentenced he chose a life of public service because he “wanted to make a difference.” He said he “worked hard, night and day, to try to bring this city back.”
His completed sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release. Pawlowski, who won re-election in November while under indictment, resigned two months into his fourth term.
Prosecutors had requested a sentence of at least 13 years behind bars. Jack McMahon, Pawlowski’s defense attorney, called it “excessive” and argued for a lighter sentence. The defense has vowed to appeal.
“He thought he was above the law and he chose to abuse the trust of his constituents,” Sanchez said.
The judge also noted that Pawlowski showed “no apologies, no contrition” for his pay-to-play scheme.
Sanchez also ordered Pawlowski to pay over $93,000 in restitution. After his sentencing, he was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
"The citizens of Allentown have been waiting a long time for this day to come," Deputy U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said on the courthouse steps. "He sold the mayor's office to the highest bidder. If you wanted to do business with the city of Allentown, you needed to line the pockets of this mayor with campaign contributions."
Pawlowski, a Chicago native, was Allentown's economic development chief before taking office as mayor in January 2006. The city's downtown was transformed on his watch, with valuable state tax incentives producing a new hockey arena, gleaming office buildings and upscale apartments.
His lawyer, Jack McMahon, said Pawlowski's schemes weren't meant to "line his own pockets," but to help him "bring his skills and talents to a higher and broader base."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.