A political saga that’s spanned decades will soon reach its next turning point as the former mayor of Harrisburg’s criminal trial gets underway.
Stephen Reed faces more than 100 charges for allegedly stealing artifacts bought with public funds.
The 67-year-old has been accused of keeping some of them for himself on his way out of office in 2009.
Reed devoted a lot of time during the latter part of his seven-term tenure to planning a series of public museums meant to boost local tourism.
The project was ultimately abandoned, but not before the Pennsylvania National Fire museum opened, along with the National Civil War Museum, and the city bought thousands of artifacts. Most were for a facility that would’ve focused on the American West.
Investigators for the state Attorney General’s office seized literally truckloads of items, many matching descriptions of the artifacts in city records, from his personal storage space downtown and his home in the Capital City’s Midtown neighborhood in June 2015.
Investigators say Reed hasn’t produced any documentation showing he’s the rightful owner.
But Reed’s lawyer Henry Hockeimer says his client doesn’t have to prove anything. Hockeimer filed a motion in recent weeks to get back some of the items. The court won’t address that until March.
All of the charges remaining against Reed are tied directly to his allegedly absconding with the artifacts.
Initially, he faced nearly 500 counts, many for bribery, racketeering and corruption charges.
But accusations that Reed bribed other officials won’t be part of the trial. Nor will allegations of mishandling public funds or diverting bond proceeds to be spent other than as stated when borrowed.
After Reed’s arrest, former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane pledged to charge some of the other officials involved in the financial transactions that left the Capital City drowning in debt. That led to Pennsylvania’s first and only state receivership of a municipal government.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers never enacted reforms to prevent municipalities suffering the consequences of officials’ financial irresponsibility in the future.
Jury selection starts Monday.