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Trial Begins for Former Erie Mayor

March 15, 2006

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) _ Former Mayor Rick Filippi, whose bid for a second term was derailed when he was indicted in a corruption case, went on trial on charges of using insider information to try to profit from real estate deals.

Filippi, his law partner Rolf Patberg and former campaign manager Eric Purchase are accused of conspiring to use Filippi’s position as mayor to invest in real estate near the proposed site of a horse racing and casino complex.

All three men have pleaded not guilty.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Margaret Cassidy said in opening statements Tuesday the jury will hear that Filippi used his position to benefit his interests and the interests of his friends.

Defense attorney Leonard Ambrose countered that Filippi ``never elevated any private interest above that of the public,″ and called the prosecution’s star witness ``manipulative, devious and a con man.″

The racetrack and casino plans fell through. The real estate company sold the parcels after the Erie Times-News uncovered the land deals at the center of the charges.

Purchase’s attorney, Joe Conti, said all three men saw the development as something that would benefit Erie. ``You are going to learn that it’s not illegal to invest in real estate,″ he said.

Filippi, elected mayor in 2001, finished fourth in a five-way Democratic primary last year, just months after he was indicted. The trial was moved to Washington County, about 135 miles south of Erie, because of pretrial publicity.

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