On the day Louis A. DeNaples Sr., northeast Pennsylvania's most prominent businessman and philanthropist, was charged with four counts of perjury, who better to call than the last well-known northeast Pennsylvania public figure to find himself on the hot seat?
Cue up Ernie Preate Jr.
Preate, a former Pennsylvania attorney general who served 14 months in jail for mail fraud, said the perjury accusations announced Wednesday against DeNaples are just that -- accusations. Preate was suspicious of the case prosecutors may have, trying to pit an accused mobster already in jail -- William D'Elia -- against the ''hard-working,'' ''generous'' and ''deeply religious'' DeNaples.
''They better have better evidence than having Bill D'Elia testify against Louis DeNaples,'' Preate said. ''If that's all they got, that's going to be a very hard case to win.''
Preate was a rarity in the Scranton area on Wednesday -- someone of prominence who would speak at length and for the record about the day's events.
Surely, though, news of the charges was topic No. 1 in the Scranton region, where DeNaples is known as a highly successful businessman whose myriad interests include a bank, auto parts, real estate and the 720-acre Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Dunmore, Lackawanna County.
''He is one of the most influential people in northeast Pennsylvania because of his business dealings, and the way he leads his life,'' Preate said.
Besides being a business magnate, DeNaples is known for showering his wealth throughout the region on health care and Catholic church institutions, and for serving on their boards of directors.
''He's perhaps our greatest contributor to charities in the county,'' Preate said.
That description of hard-working benefactor stands in contrast to the one presented Wednesday by Dauphin County District Attorney Edward Marsico. ''Our system would not work if we have individuals that come in
and lie,'' Marsico said.
But Preate said the DeNaples he knows is ''a very decent, God-fearing, kind human being'' who shuns the spotlight.
Preate, who left his position as attorney general in disgrace in 1995, withheld comment on one point -- what he'd tell DeNaples if he saw him today.
''If I were to tell him something, it would obviously be lawyer-client,'' he said, referring to the legal privilege that keeps those conversations private. ''So I can't say.''
Ernie Preate Jr. knows about being accused
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.