- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A lawmaker accused of using his political influence to benefit an illegal gambling ring pleaded guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanor charges.

Democratic state Rep. Marc Gergely entered pleas in Pittsburgh to counts of conspiracy and accepting an illegal campaign contribution. Felony counts were withdrawn. The seven-term lawmaker, who remains in office, is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 6.

Attorney Louis Caputo also pleaded guilty Tuesday to a criminal solicitation charge in the same case and was sentenced to five years’ probation. Allegheny Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski said the sentence reflected the nature of the offense and the defendant’s cooperation.

The two were accused of aiding Ronald “Porky” Melocchi in an illegal video gambling operation that had some 335 machines at 70 restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and other locations. Melocchi, whose McKeesport operation was raided in 2013, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to 10 years’ probation.

The 2016 grand jury indictment alleged that Gergely used his position to assuage the fears of business owners who were leery of putting gambling machines in their establishments. Mark Serge, a prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office, said in court Tuesday that the lawmaker and prominent liquor license attorney gave the appearance of Melocchi having “friends in high places.”

After the charges were filed, Gergely stepped down from his position as the ranking Democrat on the House Labor and Industry Committee. He was re-elected to the House seat in November.

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