It was a strange place for a hearing. Peering through a doorway, I could easily see the bars of a county jail. Unlike any local magistrate, this judge had a guard and two clerks sit with him throughout the five-hour hearing. Eleven witnesses were examined by Senior Deputy AG Mark Constanzo, accompanied by six agents and boxes full of files. Prominent Defense Attorney George Heitczman represented Severson, who sat quietly, even though Ron Angle was right behind him.
(1) Agent Kevin Carney, who has worked in law enforcement for about a gazillion years, laid out the background concerning Severson's anonymous smear campaign against Brian Monahan. In 2007, when Monahan ran for magistrate, Severson sent out three mailers slamming him. None of them identified Severson as the person who paid for these ads. Carney also testified to a "John Doe" independent expenditure report, which was filed after the election.
(2) Priscilla Jroski, a notary for thirty-five years and legal secretary with Bethlehem law firm Leeson & Leeson, described seeing Severson sign a document she was asked to notarize. Instead of seeing Severson''s signature, the name "John Doe" was scrawled on an independent expenditure report. She notarized the document after being assured "It's OK" by Attorney Joe Leeson. But in her notary journal, she noted that Severson had signed the document as John Doe.
(3) Cheryl Dorschutz is a gum-chewing graphic designer employed at Severson's Precision marketing. She prepared the anonymous mailers slamming Monahan, using copy supplied by Severson. Severson told her he had talked to a lawyer and was allowed to send anonymous mailers. He also told her he had permission from Pat Vulcano to use his bulk mailing permit.
(4) Mary Lou Yarnell prepares the bills at Severson's Precision Marketing. He paid her cash for the anti-Monahan mailers and she put the money in petty cash. There is no record that the invoice was paid.
Yarnell also describes Severson's practice of using other companies to bill clients for his work. He supplied her with stationary from an outfit called Political Strategies, a California corporation, and had invoices for Severson's services sent to Democrats under that letterhead. When she receives checks made out to Political Strategies, she stamps them for deposit in Precision Marketing's account.
At Severson's direction, she instructed then state rep. candidate Tony Rybak to pay what he owed Severson to Printex, a company owed money by Severson for work involving other candidates.
(5) Pat Vulcano is the owner of the bulk mailing permit used to slime Monahan. He told a grand jury that Severson had denied using his permit, but now he's singing a different tune. He now claims that Severson admitted to him that he used his bulk mailing permit. He explained he suffers from a sleep disorder and that's why he gave the grand jury a different story. Vulcano's wife, Sandy, must have the same disorder. She had to change her story, too, and did so in a letter to the AG. I believe this disorder is called fibberitis.
Vulcano now claims Severson had "carte blanche" to use his permit and "didn't have a problem" with the sleaze mailers directed at Monahan. When he spoke, he denied knowing who had used the permit and condemned the sleaze campaign. He must have been suffering from fibberitis when he spoke to me, too.
(6) Bethlehem City Council Prez Bob Donchez has been using Severson since 1995, and acknowledged paying Severson bills on MJR and Political Strategies letterheads. He assumed these were other Severson companies. He emphatically denied ever asking Severson to bill him in any special way that would make it difficult for the public to know that Severson was running his campaigns.
(7) Steve Goodsoozian, Judge Jack Panella's campaign treasurer, acknowledges paying Severson invoices from companies like MJR and Political Strategies, thinking they were Severson companies. Like Donchez, he denies that he or anyone in Judge Panella's committee ever asked Severson to bill him in any way that disguised Severson's involvement.
(8) Beverly Rossetti happens to own a small mail house known as MJR Services. She actually leases space from Severson and runs his mailroom, but when he asked her to use her company as a front for some of his billing, she told him she'd have to get back to him. Then she got a few checks made out to MJR, which were delivered to her home in Phillipsburg. She gave them to Severson and asked him to stop billing in her company's name. But those checks kept coming. She eventually stopped handing them over. "I was upset. I just felt a little used. The whole thing was distasteful to me."
Call me cRaZy, but I have a feeling that Rossetti's lease with Severson has the shelf life of a loaf of bread at the beach.
(9) Northampton County Controller Steve Barron really lawyered up for his appearance. He was flanked by two attorneys as he walked into the courtroom. He was asked about his pre-Controller activities, when he was Treasurer for the local Dems. He took in the bills and donations, made deposits, paid the bills and filed campaign finance reports.
At one point in '07, Lamont McClure gave him a $12,000 bill from Political Strategies. McClure told him to pay what he could and record the rest as debt. So Barron, who had no idea that Political Strategies was connected to Severson, sent two checks to California. When he later looked at the bank statements, he noticed those checks were endorsed and deposited by Severson's Precision Marketing. He called party bossman Joe Long, but got no explanation.
(Blogger's Note: McClure's connection to Severson's work resulted in a subpoeana being sent to McClure late last week. Because McClure had a scheduling conflict, he was released from the subpoena. But knowledge of his deep involvement has only recently come to light.)
10) Anthony Rybak did himself no favors in his testimony. He acknowledged paying Severson's bills directly to Printex, assuming that was one of Severson's spinoffs. But he had no explanation for his failure to itemize phone calls and campaign signs. He never reported those expenditures. His mommy financed his unsuccessful campaign for the state house in 2006.
11) Precision Marketing's Tim Butler is Severson's right hand man. As he delicately put it, "I am number two." He proceeded to prove that point by being unable to recall any knowledge of any specifics about anything.
George Heitzman gave a detailed closing argument involving criminal intent and the Constitution. AG Mark Constanzo's basic reply? "Hey, we're the Commonwealth." Severson will face a jury.