Last Traffic Court judge: I didn't fix tickets

Willliam G. Chadwick Jr. had issued a scathing report.
Willliam G. Chadwick Jr. had issued a scathing report.
Posted: June 23, 2013

ALLENTOWN - The last unindicted judge of Philadelphia's late and not-lamented Traffic Court insisted Friday that she had never fixed tickets.

Christine Solomon took the stand in a hearing here on the state Supreme Court's move to suspend her without pay, and sought to rebut a complaint that she had lied to corruption investigators.

She tried to turn the tables on the investigators, testifying that they had broken a promise to keep interviews confidential, and had bullied and threatened her.

At one point, Solomon testified, Common Pleas Court Judge Gary S. Glazer, assigned to overhaul the troubled Traffic Court, had hollered at her, "Take this as a threat or a promise, I will get you!"

Glazer, who also testified Friday, denied saying that. He and another witness, consultant William G. Chadwick Jr., described Solomon as a liar who sought to stonewall Chadwick's inquiry into widespread ticket-fixing.

In her testimony, Solomon, 61, a former Democratic ward leader, also gave listeners a kind of historic tour of the world of Traffic Court and the Philadelphia ward leaders who did business with it.

As for Solomon's contention that she had cooperated with investigators but just not given answers to their liking, not so, Glazer and Chadwick said.

"Lying to investigators is not cooperation," Chadwick testified. "In law enforcement, that's called obstruction."

Chadwick, backed up later in the hearing by testimony and interview notes from a former colleague on his consulting team, repeated allegations he first leveled against Solomon in his scathing report on Traffic Court released last year.

That report, followed soon thereafter by federal indictments against nine current or former Traffic Court judges, fueled disgust that prompted the Pennsylvania legislature to swiftly vote to abolish Traffic Court. On Wednesday, Gov. Corbett signed the bill turning over the court's duties to appointed hearing examiners overseen by Philadelphia Municipal Court.

The legislation grandfathered Solomon's post as a judge. She will be allowed to serve out her six-year term, earning the salary of $91,000 yearly until 2017, hearing traffic cases as part of Municipal Court.

For now, she is battling the proposed three-month suspension.

On Friday, she and her critics made their cases in testimony before William H. Platt, an Allentown-based senior judge on Superior Court assigned to be a fact-finder for the high court.

In an initial interview last year, Chadwick testified, Solomon said she knew nothing about ticket-fixing - to even be unfamiliar with the term, though she had been a ward leader in Northeast Philadelphia for two decades.

When he learned of Solomon's answers to Chadwick's questions, Glazer, a former federal prosecutor, confronted her.

"I mentioned to her," Glazer recapped Friday from the witness stand, "that it was important that she not lie. It's not good for judges to lie."

After that, Solomon met again with Chadwick and this time, he testified, she admitted having fixed tickets as a ward leader - but added, "I'm not going to implicate anyone else."

Under questioning Friday from her attorney, Samuel C. Stretton, Solomon said it the term special consideration had confounded her. Of the phrase ticket-fixing, she testified, "I've heard the expression, but I was never part of that."

Stretton, an expert in legal ethics and disciplinary rules, is contending that the move to punish Solomon violates the judiciary's independence.

Solomon denied that she had changed her story in the follow-up interview with Chadwick. Even so, under cross-examination from A. Taylor Williams, counsel for the Supreme Court, she acknowledged that she had not wanted to provide information about others.

"We were friends. I'm friends of all the Traffic Court judges," she said. "We were ward leaders together."

When she was the elected Democratic leader of the 53d Ward, Solomon testified, her title was a ruse. She said the previous ward leader, Anthony Iannarelli, "called the shots" but could not hold the title because he had a civil service job that banned partisan involvement.

For a time, Iannarelli, who died in 2005, was also administrator of Traffic Court - having been named to the post by his brother, then president judge.

Solomon testified, her ward duties had also included delivering items to George R. Twardy Sr., a longtime Traffic Court judge and eventually its president judge. Twardy died in 1996.

"I wasn't seeking favors," Solomon testified. "I was just delivering notes to him, envelopes."

Williams suggested that the envelopes might have contained tickets to be fixed. "I didn't give it a thought," Solomon replied.

Nor, she testified, did she ask Iannarelli what she was delivering. "If you knew Mr. Iannarelli, you didn't ask questions," she said.

As Solomon talked about the deliveries, she seemed to echo a point made earlier Friday by Glazer. "In Traffic Court," Glazer testified, "nothing is innocent."


Contact Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or cmccoy@phillynews.com.

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