Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Ex-Reading mayor guilty of all counts in bribery trial

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The jury in Vaughn Spencer’s federal bribery trial has found the former Reading mayor guilty of all charges in a case of pay-to-play politics that rocked City Hall.

The jurors announced their verdict in federal court in Philadelphia shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, after about only three hours of deliberation.

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The former mayor showed no reaction as the verdict was announced. Asked by WFMZ’s Tom Rader if he had any reaction as he left the courthouse, Spencer replied, “No, I do not.”

His attorney, Geoffrey Johnson, told 69 News that they are evaluating their options for a possible appeal.

“We’re going to assess our options and keep up the good fight,” Johnson said. “I think we had substantial legal challenges on a number of the counts.”

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Spencer will remain free until sentencing. The judge said he will set a date for that in the next 90 to 100 days.

Each bribery charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to federal prosecutors.

The jury got the case late Thursday afternoon, after the attorneys presented their closing arguments in the nearly two-week-long trial.

“It’s clear by the jury’s verdict that they saw the overwhelming evidence of Vaughn Spencer’s guilt,” said Scott Curtis, the lead FBI agent on the case. “Cities like Reading cannot afford to have elected officials like Vaughn Spencer who make selfish decisions and not ones that are in the best interest of the city.”

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Spencer went on trial last week, about 13 months after his indictment on nine counts of bribery and one count each of honest services wire fraud and conspiracy.

Spencer, the feds said, traded city contracts for campaign donations and bribed former city council President Francis Acosta to try and repeal the city’s anti-pay-to-play ordinance.

Prosecutors alleged that Spencer made it clear to donors he would withhold official action from individuals and businesses that didn’t provide satisfactory campaign contributions for his 2015 re-election effort.

Spencer testified earlier this week, however, that “I never promised anything” and “did not keep score” of those contributing to his campaigns.

Spencer, a Democrat who took office in 2012, lost the 2015 primary to current mayor Wally Scott.

When asked if he had any comment on the verdict, Vaughn Spencer replied “No, I do not,” to me, while walking away.

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