Ex-Traffic Court higher-up says he now realizes ticket-fixing was wrong

Posted: June 19, 2014

A FORMER Philadelphia Traffic Court higher-up acknowledged yesterday that he now considers ticket-fixing to be wrong, but didn't previously because it was part of the everyday culture.

"I didn't then" think it was wrong, testified Robert DeEmilio, who had worked as deputy court administrator in Traffic Court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek asked if "there were people who were more equal under the law" - people who received preferential treatment on a traffic ticket because they were connected to the judges.

"Yes," DeEmilio said.

"You had to know somebody?" Wzorek asked.

"Yes," DeEmilio replied.

DeEmilio was testifying at the fraud-and-conspiracy trial of six former Traffic Court judges and a Chinatown businessman accused of conspiring in a ticket-fixing scheme, in which people who were socially or politically connected to the judges were allegedly given favorable treatment on traffic tickets.

The feds contend that by dismissing tickets or reducing fines for the socially and politically connected, the ex-judges defrauded the city and state of money.

DeEmilio was testifying under a grant of immunity, requested by prosecutors, who had subpoenaed him.

He acknowledged on the stand that he had previously asked for "consideration" or special treatment for people he knew who had gotten traffic tickets.

When asked by defense attorney William J. Brennan, who represents ex-Judge Willie Singletary, why he now thinks the past practice of "consideration" was wrong, DeEmilio said he changed his mind after reading the federal indictment against the defendants.

Defense attorney Louis Busico, who represents another ex-judge, Thomasine Tynes, tried to show the jury that people who got "consideration" on their tickets were ordinary folks, not the rich and privileged.

"You didn't have anybody like the Vanderbilts or the Kennedys or any special highfalutin rich person saying, 'Help me out with a ticket.' It was guys and women who got up in the morning . . . regular workers, right?" he asked.

"Yes," DeEmilio replied, agreeing that the friends he had asked for "consideration" for were from the middle-class, working neighborhood in West Philly where he grew up.

Another defense attorney, Paul Hetznecker, who represents businessman Robert Moy, who owns the Chinatown firm Number One Translations, pointed out that Traffic Court saved money when a ticket holder who could not speak English brought in his or her own interpreter.

Testimony in the trial has shown that when an interpreter was needed, the court had to postpone the case and obtain one for another date, or have a Traffic Court employee fill in.

With DeEmilio on the stand, Hetznecker showed data indicating that when a Mandarin interpreter was requested and brought in by the court in 2011, the fee for the interpreter was about $130 to $140 each time.

If ticket holders who didn't speak English "relied on private court interpreters," paying for the cost out of their own pockets, "it would be a benefit and savings to the court, correct?" Hetznecker asked.

"Yes," DeEmilio replied.

Hetznecker contends that Moy helped Chinese-language clients who got traffic tickets by interpreting for them or having his staff help out as interpreters.

The feds, however, contend Moy used his connections with Singletary and Tynes to get tickets fixed for his clients.

Wzorek asked DeEmilio if he would have hired an interpreter who guaranteed no points on a driver's record, as Moy had allegedly advertised in a newspaper.

"No," DeEmilio said.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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