The prosecution’s star witness takes the stand this week in the federal bribery trial of Richard Ireland, a Main Line businessman.
Former Pennsylvania Treasurer Robert McCord wore a wire for the government that prosecutors say would show that Ireland planned to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to McCord and other state officials in an effort to win lucrative state contracts.
The government said Ireland asked McCord to “exert pressure” on other public officials to perform official acts “including, but not limited to the award, continuation, and mediation” of those same contracts with Treasury and SERS, the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System.
McCord himself pleaded guilty to public corruption charges and is awaiting sentencing.
In 2015, McCord pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted extortion. While running for Pennsylvania governor the year before, the Democrat tried to strong-arm a law firm and a property management company with financial ties to Harrisburg into donating to his unsuccessful primary campaign.
In both cases, McCord threatened to inflict so-called “economic harm” if his campaign didn’t get the funds it was after.
In one instance, McCord provided “talking points” to an attorney as part of an effort to convince the firm’s managing partner the contribute $30,000 to his flailing campaign.
“My concern is that if he loses and you stiffed him, every time you are trying to get something done through the state government, you are going to have the state treasurer looking to screw you,” McCord told the lawyer, according to court documents.
Peter Vaira, a former federal prosecutor said a jury doesn’t need to convict Ireland for McCord to benefit, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt his cause.
“The prosecutor says, ‘yeah, he helped us, but the guy was acquitted.’ Well, you have to be able to understand that. A conviction will certainly help his sentencing prospect,” said Vaira.
“McCord wore a wire for quite an extended period of time while working with government investigators. And therefore, his level of cooperation has already been very high,” said veteran Philadelphia prosecutor L. George Parry.
Prosecutors will recommend a sentence for McCord, but it will ultimately be up to a judge to determine.