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Despite corruption charge, voters re-elected Bonner

Democratic jury commissioner gets more than 18,000 votes in uncontested race.

Bonner

Gerald Bonner’s charge in the Luzerne County corruption scandal did not prevent him from being re-elected county Democratic jury commissioner Tuesday.

Bonner had no opposition and received 18, 310 votes, according to unofficial results.

Incumbent Republican Jury Commissioner Frank Semanski was also re-elected, with 36,045 votes.

Bonner, 66, of Mountain Top, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 1 on a charge of corrupt receipt of a reward for official action for his alleged role in handling a kickback delivered to a fellow county housing authority member.

He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. Bonner’s case wasn’t adjudicated before the election because his trial is at the end of November and may be pushed back.

County Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza has said he will have to see what happens with the charges and discuss the issue with the county board of election and its solicitor.

Bonner’s attorney, Mike Butera, said Bonner wanted to thank friends and supporters “who have stood by him throughout this election.”

County Democrats included Bonner’s name on campaign slate cards handed out Tuesday at the polls.

The county’s two jury commissioners are paid about $10,000 per year plus benefits. Their work has essentially decreased to attending one meeting per year because juror lists are compiled by computers using a driver’s license database.

Bonner did not attend the annual jury commission meeting in September because he had a scheduling conflict, but President Judge Chester Muroski said the federal indictment against Bonner would have prevented him from voting anyway.

State legislators have been discussing legislation that would allow counties to eliminate jury commissioner posts. The posts may also be eliminated if a home rule study commission drafts a new proposed charter governing county government.

Semanski, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has said he answers questions from the public about jury duty and “how the system works” in addition to attending the annual meeting.

The county supplies information about jury duty in a pamphlet, on the court Web site and through phone inquiries, but Semanski said some people are more comfortable approaching him.

Jury commissioners have no authority to excuse people from jury duty. That decision is made by court administration.

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