Leaps & Bounds

by longformphilly

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Barbara Laker | Philadelphia Daily News | March 2015

RICK MARIANO inched around City Hall’s cramped observation deck, 500 feet above ground, just below Billy Penn’s massive bronze feet.

This was Tuesday, almost 10 years since the then-beleaguered City Councilman came up here alone and despondent, then turned off his cellphone.

“I think I’m gonna jump,” he joked to a security guard.

The guard – and most everyone else – believed him.

Mariano knew he was about to be indicted on bribery charges. His lawyer had just told him he couldn’t represent him anymore. Reporters were nipping at his heels.

Mariano unwittingly thrust the city into a frenzy. Someone called 9-1-1. Firefighters, paramedics, police and a SWAT team scrambled on the streets below.

“That’s what I’m most known for,” Mariano said Tuesday as he soaked in a 360-degree view of Philadelphia. “It’s embarrassing.”

This is the first time he’s been back since that fateful day. Here, his characteristic bubbly, loose-lipped, sharp-tongued ways and self-deprecating humor are gone. He is pensive and subdued, almost somber. So un-Mariano.

“Everything looks smaller up here than it did back then,” he said softly.

Writer bio: Barbara Laker won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting along with her partner Wendy Ruderman for the “Tainted Justice” series, which exposed police corruption. Laker, who joined The People Paper in 1993, has served as a general assignment reporter, assistant city editor and investigative reporter.

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