- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed won the dismissal of 305 of the 449 charges against him Monday in a case in which prosecutors accused Reed of illegally spending public money to buy thousands of artifacts for museums that were never built.

The order, by Senior Judge Kevin Hess in Dauphin County, agreed with Reed’s lawyer Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. that the statute of limitations had expired on the counts.

However, Hess left intact charges that stemmed from investigators allegedly finding scores of the city-owned artifacts, including antique firearms, in Reed’s home or a separate storage facility, and his alleged attempts to sell the firearms on consignment. The artifacts also included a life-size sarcophagus, a full suit of armor and a life-size buffalo head.

“We’re pleased with the decision,” Hockeimer said. “We believe that this has been an ill-conceived prosecution from the start, and we look forward to vigorously contesting the remaining charges at trial.”

A trial date has not been scheduled for Reed, 66, who served 28 years in office. During his time in office, prosecutors say he obtained the money for the purchases by secretly diverting funds borrowed by municipal agencies and other entities for other purposes that later helped the debt-laden city careen toward bankruptcy.

Reed’s lawyer has argued that Reed carried out the activities in public view with signoff from other government agencies. Reed left office in January 2010, and Hess ruled the statute of limitations expired in January 2015, six months before Reed was charged.

The state attorney general’s office could not immediately say whether it would appeal Monday’s decision. It had argued that the statute of limitations should have run another eight years.

“I don’t agree with the judge’s interpretation of the statute in question and the office is still deciding whether to appeal the decision to a higher court,” Deputy Attorney General Rebecca S. Franz said in a statement. “Even if the decision stands, I look forward to prosecuting Stephen Reed on the remaining 144 counts that carry a maximum possible sentence of 886 years in jail.”

Some of the money for the artifacts came from the more than $200 million borrowed for the renovation of the city’s aging and polluting municipal trash incinerator, prosecutors said. The project contributed heavily to the near-financial collapse of the Susquehanna River city of about 49,000, where one-third of residents live below the poverty line.

Other sources of money included Harrisburg’s impoverished schools and a minor league baseball team once owned by the city.


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