Porn may play role in Traffic Court-related case

Posted: April 05, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Of all the evidence amassed in the federal case against nine former Traffic Court judges, there is one batch of recordings lawyers for South Philadelphia businessman Henry "Eddie" Alfano fear most.

And they sure weren't made by the FBI.

This week, Alfano's defense sought to block prosecutors from bringing the purported porn stash of former Judge Fortunato Perri Sr. - or any reference to it - into court when Alfano's case heads to trial in May. Perri pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and mail and wire fraud last year, but Alfano has maintained his innocence.

Mention of the videos, which investigators allege Alfano gave the judge in exchange for fixing traffic tickets, would be "extremely inflammatory" and could prejudice a jury, lawyer Carmen C. Nasuti said in a motion filed Wednesday.

So is a courtroom smackdown over smut on the horizon? Prosecutors aren't saying.

"The government will be filing its response in court," Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf said Thursday.

Alfano, who owns a towing an auto repair business and serves as a landlord to two South Philadelphia strip clubs, was one of the few defendants charged in the case who did not serve on the bench or in the offices of Traffic Court, where prosecutors allege the corruption ran rampant.

Judges routinely dismissed citations for friends and the politically connected, prosecutors say, and Alfano plied Perri with bribes including free auto repair, contracting work, and seafood - not to mention the porn.

"When you call . . . I move everybody," the 76-year-old judge told Alfano in one exchange quoted in the indictment.

In another, Perri asked the businessman to "put some pictures" in the trunk of a car the judge had sent to Alfano's shop for repair.

"Pack [the videos] real nice . . . tape 'em and all," the judge was quoted as saying.

But so far, prosecutors have exhibited an almost Puritan restraint, describing those tapes in filings and in court only as "free videos."

It was Alfano's lawyers who opted to bare all.

Their motion Wednesday identified them for the first time as pornographic and named the shop where they came from - Venus Video, an Essington Avenue storefront owned by Alfano and leased to the business' owner, Joe Caristo.

Caristo and Alfano discussed the videos Perri requested in a February 2010 conversation caught by an FBI wiretap, the motion states.

Alfano's lawyers have also asked U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly to bar that recording from court.

"The conversation, with its derogatory remarks toward women and the references to the adult nature of the DVD videos, is extremely inflammatory and prejudicial toward the defendant," their motion says.

As for what titles the judge favored, no one is willing to say. Not Perri, not Alfano, not their attorneys.

None of the men returned calls for comment Thursday.

Caristo, Venus' owner, however, was hardly so circumspect when reached at his shop.

"I lent the DVDs to Mr. Alfano," he said. "Who he gave them to, I couldn't say. I can't remember which ones, but it was normal boy-girl stuff. Nothing weird."


jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-925-2649215-925-2649 

@jeremyrroebuck

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