SCRANTON -- Former state senator Bob Mellow from Lackawanna County gave his first television interview to Newswatch 16 investigative reporter Dave Bohman since his release from federal prison and then a halfway house after serving time for corruption.
Bob Mellow has just written a book, in which he is trying to redefine the most recent chapters of a very public life.
Shortly after he finished serving 40 years in the Pennsylvania State Senate, Mellow was arrested for corruption and tax evasion and served 14 months.
Still, he says, no one should view him as a criminal.
"People who might be listening to this program might believe, 'well, that Mellow, that no good bum, he's a convicted felon. God only knows how much money he stole.' Well, Mellow didn't steal money," Mellow said.
Bob Mellow says his failure to pay full federal income taxes one year was an accountant's mistake and should have resulted in a fine and restitution.
He also says a fraud charge of allowing staffers to do political activity on state time was unfair.
But he took a plea bargain, saying he couldn't fight the U.S. Department of Justice and he says federal prosecutors were determined to pin a crime on him.
"They came in and told me unequivocally that they were going to bring charges against me, that the charges would take place before March 1, 2012, if you will. And that it would be to my best advantage if I went ahead and I had my lawyers work out with their lawyers some kind of a plea, if we would plead guilty to bring this thing to an end, or if not it would escalate to a different level."
As a result of his guilty plea, a judge sentenced Mellow to 16 months in federal prison.
He initially was sent to a prison camp in South Carolina.
While he was there, Pennsylvania's attorney general charged him with being part of a turnpike pay-to-play scheme.
Mellow says federal prison officials then labeled him an escape risk, moved him to a more secure facility in Atlanta, and left him in a section with bank robbers, rapists, and other violent criminals -- often as cellmates.
"They would lay on their back and would start kicking the door and they would call for their mother. The language was horrific. They would threaten everybody they could possibly threaten, while they were still in there. It was just a very, very bad scene out of a horror story that you don't want to see and you don't want to be part of," Mellow recalled.
Bob Mellow's grueling time in federal prison ended in late 2013 when he was transferred to a halfway house in Scranton and eventually released.
The state turnpike charges were dropped soon after.
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But life hasn't been easy for the former state senator since he returned to Lackawanna County.
Buildings, roads, and a park named after him no longer bore the mellow name after he got out of prison.
"It was hurtful when my name was removed because there were no defenders. All the people who came to me asking me to help them get these projects with tens of millions of dollars, not one of them defended me."
But Bob Mellow found plenty of motivation to rebuild his life when his wife and his priest suggest he write a book.
Stories of political figures fill his book, titled, "Used, Abused, and Forgotten."
Mellow talks about former Pennsylvania governors, and U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
"Once I started to write, my mind would open up. It was like a funnel, it would open up wider and wider at the top so that things would come into my mind that I didn't even think about when I sat down with the lead pencil and the paper," said Mellow. "It's great therapy. It's therapy that you can't pay for. It's therapy you can't buy."
But despite the therapy and the book, Bob Mellow knows he'll always carry the title convicted felon. He says he's struggling to come to terms with it.
"Here is the one thing that hurts me. I have a lot to offer," he said. "And I cannot use that experience and that knowledge that I have learned because I'm a convicted felon. And based on the fact that I'm a convicted felon, I'm not totally accepted by society. And that I regret."