Ex-Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary's 'personal': 'They were fixing tickets'

Posted: May 30, 2014

TANYA HILTON told a federal jury yesterday that she learned about the system of ticket-fixing from her boss: then-Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary.

"He told me it's something that the judges do among themselves," she testified.

Hilton worked as Singletary's "personal," or assistant, from February 2009 to December 2011. Her job was "basically secretarial work," she said, adding: "I think I was kind of special because I was actually assigned to drive Judge Singletary around at the time."

On the third day of trial for six ex-Traffic Court judges, Hilton provided an insider's look into how the alleged scheme worked.

The term "ticket-fixing" wasn't used by judges and staffers. They called it "consideration," she said.

When she started to work at Traffic Court, she said, Singletary "asked me to take a consideration to someone, to another judge. He gave me a 3-by-5 card."

She gave that card to another judge's "personal" to indicate that Singletary wanted favorable treatment for a ticket holder.

Consideration typically meant a not-guilty verdict, she said.

"What did you think was going on?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek asked.

"That they were fixing tickets," she replied.

Over the years, she said, she would often take 3-by-5 index cards with a "violator's" name and hearing date on them to the "personals" of then-judges Michael J. Sullivan, Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew and Bernice DeAngelis, and to the secretary for then-Judge Thomasine Tynes.

Hilton said she "would fold [the card], so obviously no one else could see what was on it."

"Why . . . ?" Wzorek asked.

"It was illegal," Hilton said.

Other assistants would also give her cards with names on them for Singletary to give favorable treatment, she said.

She placed those cards inside folders and placed the folders facedown on the left side of Singletary's bench. After Singletary ruled on those cases, frequently dismissing them, "he would place [the cards] in a trash can, on the bench," Hilton testified.

Hilton said she also received calls from political folks asking for consideration for others.

John Fenton, an aide in Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell's office, called "perhaps twice a month" Hilton testified, and those tickets were dismissed. Singletary and Blackwell were friends, she said.

A man named Charlie in U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's office called "about three or four times a month," and those tickets would be dismissed, she said.

Someone from then-state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson's office called once. A second time, Johnson called and spoke to Singletary, she said. After the two spoke, Singletary "gave me someone's name. I put it on the calendar for consideration," she said. Johnson is now a city councilman.

The government alleges that a culture of ticket-fixing pervaded Traffic Court, where people who were socially or politically connected to judges, or to people the judges knew, received favorable outcomes on their tickets.

On trial are ex-Traffic Court judges Singletary, 33, Sullivan, 50, Lowry, 58, Mulgrew, 57, and Tynes, 70; Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno, 50, of West Chester; and Chinatown businessman Robert Moy, 56. All face conspiracy and fraud charges.

Hilton also testified that after Singletary learned she was going to be questioned by the feds, he told her "that I shouldn't talk about the 3-by-5 cards." But she said she decided to tell the truth.

Hilton, who now lives in Florida, was subpoenaed to return to Philadelphia to testify in the trial.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel granted her immunity, following a request by prosecutors, in exchange for her testimony.

Hilton admitted that she had also asked for consideration once for a nephew and once for a church member, to help them.

Under cross-examination, William J. Brennan, Singletary's lawyer, asked if Hilton initially thought she was doing something illegal on behalf of her nephew. She agreed she didn't.

"This term of consideration . . . is open for interpretation," Brennan suggested. "Willie Singletary never asked you to go to [another judge] and have a ticket fixed."

"The word 'fix' was not heard," Hilton agreed.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

comments powered by Disqus