The conflict of interest trial of former sixterm representative Joshua Eilberg (D-Pa.) opened today with a U.S. special prosecutor alleging that Eilberg "knowingly" profited from a $14.5 million federal grant to a hospital here.
Special assistant U.S. attorney Alan M. Lieberman said in opening remarks that a law firm set up by Eilberg got $100,000 in legal fees from Hahnemann Hospital after the hospital received the grant from the Community Services Administration (CSA) in July 1975.
Eilberg lobbied for the grant for Hahnemann and at one point, when it was in doubt, contacted Rep. Daniel J. Flood (D-Pa.) to "get the right people" to release the funds, Lieberman said. Flood at the time was chairman of a House subcommittee that passed on CSA appropriations.
After the law firm received the legal fees, Eilberg drew $34,900 from the firm's account, Lieberman said.
Three months later, an arm of the Library of Congress informed Eilberg in response to his inquiry that his actions would amount to a violation of federal conflict of interest statutes that prohibit congressmen from getting payment for their work before federal agencies.
Eilberg, who lost his reelection bid last November, apparently ignored the opinion.
Eilberg's lawyer, John Rogers Carroll, told the jury that he would demonstrate mistakes in the government's accounting procedures.
"All in all, I expect you will find that those mistakes cheated Mr. Eilberg, rather than the other way around," Carroll said.
He said he would challenge the government's contention that Eilberg knew that the money he got from the law firm was for the work he and his law partners did on the hospital grant.
The trial will continue Saturday morning in U.S. District Judge Raymond Broderick's courtroom with the videotape testimony of Stephen B. Elko, Flood's former administrative assistant. Elko has a heart ailment and was questioned earlier this week from his hospital bed by Lieberman and Carroll.
Eilberg was indicted last fall during his eampaign for reelection.
Essentially the same allegations against Eilberg were taken up in closed hearings by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct last year in which Eilberg testified. That testimony will not be allowed in the criminal trial, because of a ruling by the judge.
The staff of the House committee issued a report severely critical of Eilberg's actions in helping obtain the U.S. grant for Hahnemann Hospital.