WILKES-BARRE — Sources close to the family say former state senator Ray Musto has died. He was 85.
Raphael John Musto was born March 30, 1929, and seemed destined for a life in politics from the start.
Musto, known to most in the Pittston area as Ray, served two years in the army in the 1950s.
His father James was a long time state representative from Luzerne County, and when he died in 1971, Ray won a special election to fill his seat.
Ray Musto was re-elected three times to the state house, but his tenure in Harrisburg ended, at least briefly, in 1980 when Rep. Dan Flood, who’d been the 11th District Congressman since 1945, resigned after being censured.
Musto won a four-way special election to fill Flood’s unexpired term and headed to Washington.
But his stay in the nation’s capital would be short. When he ran for a full term later that year, Musto lost to Republican James Nelligan, who he had defeated in the special election just months before.
He wasn’t out of politics for long. Two years later, Musto won election to the state senate, and returned to Harrisburg.
There he stayed for 28 years, representing a district that stretched from Wilkes-Barre to the Poconos.
In 2010, Musto decided not to seek re-election, but before his final term ended, he found himself indicted by a federal grand jury, accused of accepting thousands of dollars in kickbacks.
Ray Musto always denied any wrongdoing, right up until his final days.
But for decades he was known as a man who served and cared for the people he represented.
In a motion filed last month in federal court, attorneys for the former state senator said recent tests done at a federal medical facility in North Carolina reveal that Musto has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or lymph cell cancer.
According to doctors cited in the filing, the cancer is “stage 4″ and the prognosis so poor that chemotherapy may not be worth it.
Musto was ordered to be evaluated at the clinic after a judge in January declared him unfit to stand trial.
The attorneys had asked that Musto be declared both physically and mentally incompetent to stand trial.
In late 2010, federal prosecutors charged Musto with a series of public corruption charges including receiving bribes and kickbacks.
On eight occasions in the four-year span, Musto’s trial was delayed, mostly because Musto’s doctors claimed he was in ill health, and that the stress of a trial would kill the former lawmaker.
Ray Musto was 85.