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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– It was Oct. 20, 2005, TV helicopters hovered above. Police, firefighters and SWAT teams scrambled to City Hall. There in the observation deck, some 500 feet above the ground, sat beleaguered City Councilman Rick Mariano, as the city held its breath thinking he was going to jump.
“I was under a lot of pressure,” Mariano said. “I was taking a lot of Xanax but I knew what I was doing. I never intended to kill myself.”
CBS3 sat down with Mariano 13 years after that frenzied day — a day Mariano says started with his lawyer telling him he could no longer represent him two weeks before he was to face trial on bribery charges.
“There was a maintenance man that I knew,” Mariano recalled. “He said, ‘What are you doing councilman?’ I said, ‘I’m just sitting here, I might jump.’ I was just kidding him.”
No one thought it was a joke and hours later, Mariano was finally brought down.
“I went up there and just sat there for hours, turned my phone off about three hours later, I turned my phone back on,” Mariano said. “There was like 45 calls.”
A lot has happened since then. Mariano served nearly five years of a six-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence after being found guilty on bribery charges.
The charges stemmed from a $23,000 check he accepted from a company in his council district to pay off mounting credit card debt. He was also found guilty of getting another company to pay for a $5,400 upscale gym membership.
It was a huge fall from grace for the former loyal union electrician turned politician who represented the Juniata Park neighborhood where he grew up.
“I’m a different person now,” Mariano said. “I’m 63 years old. I’m a cancer survivor. My body aches. I live in for, lack of better words, the hood.”
A humbled Mariano looks a bit different these days — much more slim as he says he works out at least three times a week.
He’s still trying to find a steady job, working odd jobs to get by. He’s been out of prison for 10 years, his political career long over.
“I can’t run for office,” he said. “Not that I would. Worst mistake I ever made.”
Mariano says he wants to now offer advice to those seeking political office.
“I would say, ‘Let me tell you a story first and let me tell you what I did wrong and let me tell you, you’re not gonna get rich off this job. If you’re in it for sexual conquests or if you’ve got a big head, back down a little,'” Mariano said.
Mariano is upbeat, looking toward the future as he jokes about the years that helped to define him. There’s no pity party here, only reflections he says on the continuing road to redemption.
“The most important thing in your life should be your family and your reputation,” Mariano said. “I ruined both of them and it hurts but I have to be over it.”