By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The chief of staff for Democrats in the Pennsylvania state senate was the first witness to testify this morning as a preliminary hearing began for six of eight defendants charged with corruption involving the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The defendants in the case include the turnpike’s former CEO, Joseph Brimmeier, former turnpike commissioner Mitchell Rubin, and the former longtime Democratic leader of the state senate, Robert Mellow, who is currently serving time for his guilty plea in a federal corruption probe.

The first witness, the Senate Democrats’ chief-of-staff, testified that he would convey requests to Rubin and Brimmeier to sell thousands of dollars of tickets for fundraising events to turnpike vendors.  He also told of the efforts to get turnpike bond work for PNC Bank on behalf of a close friend of Mellow who was PNC’s northeast regional vice-president.

The preliminary hearing is expected to last several days.

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