City bail official is subject of an investigation He reportedly told a detective to "pick two" of the six warrants to be signed in a pair of N. Phila. shootings.

Posted: April 06, 2005

District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham has asked that a bail commissioner be removed from his post, and the Municipal Court president judge has ordered an investigation into allegations that the commissioner refused to sign a series of six arrest warrants relating to a pair of shootings.

Commissioner Dwain E. Hill told the assigned detective on Feb. 15 that the number of warrants was "too many" and that the detective could "pick two" for him to review and sign, according to the District Attorney's Office and Philadelphia police.

"When the detective insisted that all six were related and that the charges were serious, a verbal confrontation ensued. Bail Commissioner Hill subsequently rejected all six affidavits, which then had to be resubmitted," Deputy District Attorney Albert Toczydlowski wrote to Municipal Court President Judge Louis J. Presenza. (The six affidavits were subsequently approved by someone else.)

Presenza then ordered the bail commissioner selection panel, composed of judges and other court officials, to investigate. Hill, 58, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Presenza said that Hill had submitted a written response to the complaint, but declined to release the document or its contents because of the pending investigation.

Abraham made her request Feb. 18.

Philadelphia has six bail commissioners, who approve warrants and set the initial bail.

The detective sought six arrest warrants identifying four juveniles (two of whom had two cases each) in a pair of North Philadelphia shootings, police said.

The teens ultimately were arrested, and within a month one of them - 16-year-old Tashan Bundy - was also charged with a December slaying that had gone unsolved.

Bundy, of the 1600 block of Parrish Street, is jailed without bail. In a preliminary hearing last month, he was ordered to stand trial as an adult in the Dec. 19 slaying of Robert Smith, a bouncer who was shot multiple times in the chest outside a club in the 1300 block of North Broad Street.

Another of the suspects, Joseph Harville, 16, of the 6000 block of Algon Street, faces a May 9 preliminary hearing on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy, weapons offenses and related crimes. He is jailed after failing to post $50,000 bail.

A third suspect, Ali Williams, 18, of the 900 block of West Flora Street, has an April 25 hearing on the same charges stemming from two shootings. He is jailed after failing to post $150,000 bail.

The name of the fourth teen, who also was accused of being involved in two shootings, was not available yesterday.

Presenza said the bail commissioner selection panel, led by Municipal Court Judge Ronald B. Merriweather, interviewed the detective last week. Next week, the panel plans to interview court personnel. Hill is expected to be the last person interviewed; it was not known when.

Presenza said he expects a report and recommendation from the panel. The group could recommend no discipline or action as serious as termination, the judge said.

Hill was appointed bail commissioner in 1990 and earns $68,437 a year, according to Municipal Court administrators. Bail commissioners are up for reappointment by the Municipal Court every four years.

From 1994 to 2003, he was the subject of four written complaints from the District Attorney's Office.

"This is the most recent outrage in a long string of outrageous conduct," Toczydlowski wrote to Presenza.

Hill received a written reprimand in at least one of those cases, Presenza said.

In that 1999 case, which occurred over the Memorial Day weekend, prosecutors said Hill refused to expeditiously review search warrants needed to investigate a homicide and then refused to review any warrants from the homicide detectives. Hill's actions, Abraham wrote at the time, "jeopardized two homicide investigations."

Contact staff writer Jacqueline Soteropoulos at 215-854-4497 or jsoteropoulos@phillynews.com.

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