Indicted Phila. judge suspended with pay

Posted: September 16, 2012

Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Robert Mulgrew, facing a federal indictment on charges that he misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grants to benefit himself and his friends, was suspended from his job with pay Friday.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Friday issued an emergency order directing Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Glazer, who also is acting administrative judge of Traffic Court, to suspend Mulgrew, 55, from official duties.

Operating on a parallel track later on Friday, the state Court of Judicial Discipline, which oversees judges' conduct, ordered that Mulgrew be suspended with pay for now but said it would hear arguments later on whether he should be paid.

"The pending felony criminal charges against Judge Mulgrew undermine both public confidence in the judiciary and its reputation," Joseph A. Massa Jr., chief counsel for the Judicial Conduct Board, wrote in a petition to the Court of Judicial Discipline.

The board investigates allegations against Pennsylvania judges.

Massa's petition had asked that the court suspend Mulgrew without pay.

In an interview, Massa said that because of the gravity of the charges in the indictment, he would continue to argue that Mulgrew not be paid as the judicial review unfolds.

The Court of Judicial Discipline "has the authority to impose sanctions, ranging from a reprimand to removal from office" if warranted, according to its website.

Mulgrew's lawyer, Angie Halim, said she had no comment on the suspension but added, "I would like to reiterate that Judge Mulgrew, Mr. Mulgrew, is going to vigorously defend himself on these charges. These are in fact just charges."

On Thursday, federal agents arrested Mulgrew and Lorraine DiSpaldo, an aide to Democratic State Rep. William Keller, on charges of wire and mail fraud, obstruction, and other counts stemming from their roles in two nonprofit civic groups. The 43-count indictment also charged Mulgrew and his wife, Elizabeth, with signing tax returns from 2006 to 2010 that allegedly hid their real income.

The indictment alleges that Mulgrew and DiSpaldo, between 1996 and 2008, got $900,000 in state economic development grants to benefit two nonprofits, Friends of Dickinson Square and Community to Police Communications. Instead of spending all the money to benefit the community, Mulgrew and DiSpaldo diverted thousands to help themselves and their friends, the indictment charges.

Mulgrew's suspension leaves the seven-member Traffic Court with four vacancies. Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary resigned in February after allegedly showing photos of his genitals to a coworker. Judges Earlene Green and Thomasine Tynes retired in June 2011 and July 2012, respectively, and Mulgrew has been suspended.

Contact staff writer Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520, or @miriamhill on Twitter.

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