Counsel offers closing arguments in Traffic Court trial

Posted: July 18, 2014

AFTER MONTHS of presenting evidence and calling witnesses, the prosecution and defense recapped their cases yesterday during closing arguments in the federal corruption trial of six former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges and a Chinatown businessman.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Wzorek and Denise Wolf have painted the defendants as hack judges who lacked any moral compass as they wittingly wrote off traffic tickets for friends, family members or anyone connected in the city's vast political arena.

All defense lawyers contend their clients had zero intent to defraud the city and the state of the fines and fees that would have accompanied those traffic citations.

Rather, they claim the judges did nothing illegal, having used a legitimate form of judicial discretion - also dubbed "consideration" of tickets - if and when the cases warranted it.

"Whether you think Philadelphia is a cesspool. Whether you think it is a toilet. It's not because of Willie Singletary," said his lawyer, William Brennan, one of two defense attorneys who presented closing arguments yesterday.

"The system in Philadelphia may stink," he added, "but the system he came up in is the only system we have. Don't punish Willie Singletary for flaws in the system."

Both the prosecution and the defense attempted to use a YouTube video of Singletary at a motorcycle rally to their respective advantages. The short video was filmed in 2007 when Singletary - then 25 and a local church pastor - was running for Traffic Court judge. It shows him addressing a group of bikers as he announces his candidacy, administers a "blessing of the bikes" and makes an appeal for campaign contributions.

"Y'all gonna need my hookup, right? It costs money to get that. I gotta raise $15,000 by Friday," he says into a microphone.

But Brennan said his client was in "preacher mode" - a young Baptist demonstrating enthusiasm as he threw his hat into the ring for the very first time.

"It's human nature to try to help," he said. "Maybe [Singletary] was too much of a Samaritan, but the government doesn't have one shred of evidence he fixed tickets."

The government doesn't buy it.

"Shame!" Wzorek said, jabbing a finger in the direction of each defendant.

"This scheme was like a cancer at Philadelphia Traffic Court, eating away at its very integrity . . . They did this day after day, year after year until the FBI arrived. . . . They trampled all over these boundaries and limits like they never even existed. It was a conspiracy to take care of each other."

The sweeping federal indictment handed down in January of last year accused Singletary and former Traffic Court judges Michael Sullivan, Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew and Thomasine Tynes of getting tickets fixed for people. Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno from West Chester, who sat on the bench in Traffic Court only a few times a year, and businessman Robert Moy are among those charged with conspiracy and fraud.

Philadelphia Traffic Court was abolished after the alleged ticket-fixing conspiracy became public. Lawyers for the remaining defendants are expected to wrap up their closing arguments by 3 p.m. this afternoon.

On Twitter: @RuffTuffDH

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