Like a 'clearinghouse,' William Hird got tickets fixed in Traffic Court

JULIE SHAW / DAILY NEWS STAFF William Hird (right) leaves the federal courthouse yesterday. With him is his attorney, Gregory Pagano.
JULIE SHAW / DAILY NEWS STAFF William Hird (right) leaves the federal courthouse yesterday. With him is his attorney, Gregory Pagano.
Posted: January 29, 2014

HE WAS LIKE "a middleman or clearinghouse" for political acquaintances or court leaders who wanted to get tickets fixed in Philadelphia Traffic Court, a prosecutor said yesterday.

William Hird, 68, used his role as a "key administrator" to conspire with Traffic Court judges to get people's tickets dismissed or reduced to lesser offenses, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek told U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly.

"These are benefits not available to the public at large," Wzorek said.

Hird, who was Traffic Court's director of records or court administrator from 2001 to 2011, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, to various counts of wire and mail fraud, and to making false statements to the FBI. Dressed in a pinstriped suit, he politely answered, "Yes, sir," to Kelly when acknowledging his understanding of the proceedings.

Hird was the fourth person to plead guilty in a wide-ranging scandal that rocked Traffic Court last year and led to it being abolished. Six former Traffic Court judges and two businessmen who were indicted along with Hird face trial May 19.

Despite his guilty plea, Hird is not cooperating with the government. His attorney, Gregory Pagano, said after yesterday's hearing: "He's not testifying at any trials."

"Mr. Hird did plead guilty," Pagano added. "He accepted responsibility. He knows he's broken the law, but he never took anything in exchange for anything."

Hird, who remains out on bail, did not comment after his guilty plea. When a reporter took a photo of him outside the courthouse, he yelled, "Get out of here!"

At his sentencing May 9, Hird faces a possible advisory-sentencing-guideline range of 12 to 18 months in prison.

Hird served as personal assistant to then-Traffic Court Judge Fortunato Perri Sr. from 1997 to 2001, and was extremely loyal to him, prosecutors said. Perri was the court's administrative judge from 2000 to 2002.

The plea memo cited examples from 2009 to 2011 when Hird participated in ticket-fixing, including times when then-retired Judge Perri conveyed requests of ticket-fixing to Hird, who in turn told a judge or the judge's staff.

Perri pleaded guilty in March to his role in the ticket-fixing scandal. Two suburban magistrates who heard Philly Traffic Court cases - H. Warren Hogeland, of Bucks County, and Kenneth Miller, of Delaware County - pleaded guilty in February. Hogeland died in August at age 76 of complications from heart surgery; he had not yet been sentenced. Perri and Miller await sentencing.

Facing trial in May are these former Traffic Court judges: Michael Sullivan, administrative judge from early 2011 to September of that year; Michael Lowry; Robert Mulgrew; Willie Singletary; Thomasine Tynes; and Mark Bruno, a Chester County district judge who at times presided over Philadelphia Traffic Court cases.

Businessmen Henry Alfano and Robert Moy also face trial.

Traffic Court duties now are handled by a new Traffic Division of Philadelphia Municipal Court, which, like its predecessor, is at 8th and Spring Garden streets.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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