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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DA John Morganelli's Monster - Scissorhands Severson

In a prosecutor's world of grisly murders and major drug busts, a disorderly conduct and harassment conviction must seem like small potatoes. But a Senior Deputy Attorney General was willing to prepare for and conduct both a preliminary hearing and jury trial to achieve precisely that result yesterday against political consultant Tom "Scissorhands" Severson. He was willing to make the long haul up and down the turnpike for two days straight. So was a senior judge from Chester County. Why?

Perhaps to prove a point - no one is above the law.

For years, Severson has made our electoral system a mockery. He has thumbed his nose at nearly every disclosure requirement. By his own admission, this is the largest political consultant in the state. He's pretty much had a free ride, too. The District Attorney charged with the responsibility of enforcing our elections laws - John Morganelli - is a big Severson pal and customer. In fact, after yesterday's guilty verdict, the Northampton County District Attorney amazingly assumed the role of defense attorney. Severson's trial attorney, George Heitczman, had no comment. But Morganelli did his best to downplay the reality that his friend and political consultant is now a criminal.

Severson and Morganelli go back at least to 1991, when Severson ran John's campaign against then incumbent DA Don Corriere. That race, incidentally, turned nasty.

Morganelli has continued to use Severson, even after Scissorhands was charged in the funeral fracas. He stuck by Tom even after it became known that Severson was the subject of a statewide grand jury. He has even enlisted Severson's services for political allies seeking office. These include former first assistant DA Paula Roscioli, who used Severson's services when she ran for judge, and won.

In his seventeen years as DA, I can't think of a single elections law prosecution. Knowingly or not, he has given Severson a green light to run wild. In the process, he has created a monster.

In 2001, Moore Township resident Robert Welsh was the victim of a defamatory anonymous mailer when he sought public office. Morganelli told him his hands were tied. "[I]t is perfectly permissible for any citizen to distribute anonymous literature to voters." He refused to investigate.

Under Morganelli's tortured interpretation of our election laws, there's no need to place a disclaimer on a campaign mailer. If that is so, there's really no reason to file campaign finance reports at all. Why bother?

Ironically, Morganelli was all over AG Corbett when the Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom (CFI) began a "public education" effort obviously designed to promote a candidate for the state high court. He demanded an injunction to force CFI to file a campaign finance report, the only remedy that would prevent irreparable harm in the closing days before the election.

But amazingly, Morganelli refused to lift a finger when local political consultant Tom Severson began an anonymous sleaze campaign against local magisterial candidate Brian Monahan in Spring '08. He remained silent in July '08, when Severson started a push poll against county councilman Ron Angle, even though that expense appears nowhere on any campaign finance report, even as an in-kind corporate contribution. When anonymous robo calls began in earnest against council candidates Angle and Peg Ferraro, Morganelli was MIA, even though campaign finance reports fail to reflect the amount of money being spent.

John properly feels it would be a conflict to investigate Severson. But whenever he has referred a question to the state AG, it has always been a half-hearted request at best that frames the facts in a light favorable to Severson. It has been a recipe for disaster in local Lehigh Valley races.

So yesterday's verdict was meaningful. Disorderly conduct and misdemeanor harassment are criminal offenses. There is no Severson exception in the Crimes Code. Victims of those offenses certainly have a little more peace of mind when those offenses are prosecuted.

Whether it's a political consultant in the pocket of a local DA or a cop who beats his wife, all of us are entitled to a criminal justice system in which nobody is above the law.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Morganelli = Severson.

Severson = Political Sleaze.

Morganelli = Political Sleaze.

Morganelli's dismissive comments about his buddy's conviction were insulting to anyone called to serve on a jury in NorCo. It's no wonder he's been thrice rejected by those outside his comfortable home county. He's a vicious little loser with bad judgment and worse friends. He's simply the phoniest politician in the county. He should stop running losing campaigns and start doing the jobs he's actually paid for.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Morganelli's dismissive comments about his buddy's conviction were insulting to anyone called to serve on a jury in NorCo."Agreed. I think John has been an excellent DA, but his comment to the MC is outrageous and an abuse of his authority as DA.

He's allowed to be Severson friend. But he's not allowed to use the authority of his office to demean the work of fellow prosecutors. He is not allowed to use the authority of his office to demean an entire class of offenses. He is not authorized to advoate on behalf of specific clients. He forgot that his client is the Commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

geez all it was, was a pissin contest between two over grown babies.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, a jury has determined that it was criminal harassment and disorderly conduct during, of all places, a funeral mass. Had Angle not left early, who knows how this would have ended?

Severson is pretty much out of control and has had a free hand for far too long.

Larry Kisslinger said...

As R NorCo Chairman '86-'88, I "fired" Severson as R committee member as a known sleazeball of the highest order. Then, article appeared in MCall Sunday issue-front page article (went to two pages) which has never appeared or has been mentioned anywhere since then. My credibility was called into question then and I never appreciated it at all. MSM needs to to do homework as they once did in the past...maybe, seek out and report on my comments from back then? What do I know? Severson is a bully worth millions and I am just getting by because I never played the game. go figure!

Anonymous said...

isn,t that always way larry? go figure

Glenn said...

it's a shame politicians resort to using thugs to win elections. i suppose it goes to insecurity in the candidate using someone like severson.

nicely juxtaposed is your diary on Stoffa. like him or not, the guy is solid and has character.

morganelli should refute severson immediately and enforce the election laws.

Anonymous said...

Morganelli is O'Hare boy until he disagrees with him then he is wrong. Let me guess Morganelli may get disbarred.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I admire and respect John, but have always criticized his use of Severson, both here and in conversation.

Now, in addition, I am really appalled by how he abused the authority of his office post verdict. He undermined the Ag in a case in which, by his own admission, he has a conflict. I have no problem w/ him supporting his friend as a friend, but his public statements were intended to use the authority of his office to demean a criminal prosecution. He was wrong here.

Anonymous said...

so say you. he see's plenty of criminals, this really doesn't rise to that level. ron got scared which in of itself is hard to belive. but hey the jury has spoken and i respect that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, Ron was upset. He called me as soon as he got home the night of that funeral. He was defintely shaken.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the two of them go behind a barn and settle it like men.
That's what real men do.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, that's what grade school kids do. Real men don't need to prove points with their fists.