Former traffic court judges are the first to plead guilty

Judge H. Warren Hogeland (left) in a 2002 file photo.
Judge H. Warren Hogeland (left) in a 2002 file photo.
Posted: February 13, 2013

Two retired Philadelphia Traffic Court judges pleaded guilty today to fixing tickets, becoming the first members of the bench to admit what prosecutors say was a rampant and corrupt practice in the city.

H. Warren Hogeland, 75, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert Kelly. Three hours later, former judge 76-year-old Kenneth N. Miller sat in the same chair in the same room and pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

The pleas marked the first since federal authorities unsealed an indictment last month accusing nine current or former judges, and members of their staffs, of routinely fixing tickets for friends, associates and political power brokers.

Miller has agreed to cooperate and testify against others if needed. Hogeland's plea did not include any such agreement.

Kelly scheduled their sentencings for May 24. Both men face less than six months in prison and are likely to argue for probation. But their felony convictions stain what had been decades of public service in their suburban Philadelphia communities.

Hogeland and Miller were appointees to Traffic Court after careers as district justices in the suburbs. Hogeland sat for years in Richboro, Bucks County, while Miller was a mainstay in Upland, Delaware County.

Miller was on the Philadelphia bench for about a year, leaving the Traffic Court bench in early 2008. Hogeland served from 2006 to 2012.

Prosecutors said each accepted or practiced what court insiders coyly called consideration: dismissing tickets, reducing fines or finding offenders not guilty at the requests of judges and others.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek cited a case where Hogeland agreed to dismiss a $150 speeding ticket issued to Miller's son in October 2010. Kirk Miller didn't offer a defense or even show for the hearing but Hogeland ruled him not guilty.

Miller, meanwhile, admitted phoning in a request to fix a 2010 ticket for the son of a Delaware County clerk who had been cited for an illegal turn.

The men were was among 12 people, including nine former and current judges, charged late last month as the result of a long running FBI probe into corruption at the city's traffic court.

Nine defendants were indicted and face trial. Hogeland, Miller and another retired judge, Fortunato N. Perri Sr., were charged without an indictment, a step usually reserved for defendants who intend to plead guilty.

Miller, a resident of Upland, Delaware County, served as a minor court judge there for four decades, starting as a justice of the peace in 1968.

Hogeland, who lives in Richboro, Bucks County, became a judge after 35 years as police officer. In 2006, he retired his magistrate's position and took a seat on Philadelphia's traffic court bench.

His lawyer, Craig Sopin, said the judge's decision to plead guilty "represents his willingness to take responsibility and to do what he believes was the right thing for him, his family and the community he has served with distinction for many years."


Contact John P. Martin at 215-925-2649, at jmartin@phillynews.com or @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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