Jurors got a taste of some hot courtroom beef Thursday in Pennsylvania as a lawyer for a mayor charged with bribery, fraud, and conspiracy argued over the definition of "meatballs" with a former finance director, the New York Times reports. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawloski is on trial for allegedly accepting over $150,000 in campaign donations in exchange for city contracts. His lawyer, Jack McMahon, is trying to show that the scheme was actually carried out by underlings like former Allentown finance director Garret Strathearn and political consultant Mike Fleck. And that's where the meatballs come in. In wiretap recordings made of phone calls between Fleck and Strathearn, phrases like "how I want my meatballs cooked" and "needs to go make some meatballs" are heard frequently, WFMZ reports.
McMahon said it's clear "meatballs" refers to bribes. But Strathearn and federal prosecutor Michelle Morgan said that's not the case. Under questioning from Morgan, Strathearn said he was single at the time and carried Tupperware in his car to take home hot meals from friends, the Morning Call reports. He said he had some of Fleck's meatballs at a Christmas party, and Fleck's wife offered to make more of them. In fact, Strathearn said, he was disappointed he only got four meatballs from Fleck's wife when he went to pick them up. Things got testy when McMahon said everyone knows "it's a payoff." "The meatballs were the meatballs were the meatballs," Strathearn responded. "And don't laugh, because that tells me that you don't believe me." The judge instructed jurors to ignore the meatball argument.