July 25, 2014 |
AFTER TWO days of deliberations, a federal jury acquitted six former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges of corruption and fraud yesterday, debunking the government's claims of judicial dishonesty and ticket-fixing. In count after count, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel read "not guilty" from the verdict sheet to a packed courtroom. Sobs of relief echoed from the gallery from family and friends of former Traffic Court judges Michael Sullivan, Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew, Willie Singletary, Thomasine Tynes and Mark Bruno.
July 11, 2014 |
A FEDERAL JUDGE denied motions for acquittal for six former Traffic Court judges and a Chinatown businessman yesterday, on the eve of the defense presenting its case. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel ruled that sufficient evidence existed to support charges of conspiracy for all seven defendants. Prosecutors rested their case yesterday afternoon in the Philadelphia Traffic Court judges' months-long ticket-fixing trial. Lawyers for former judges Michael Sullivan, Robert Mulgrew, Michael Lowry, Mark Bruno, Willie Singletary and Thomasine Tynes and Chinatown businessman Robert Moy are expected to call character and other witnesses starting today.
June 20, 2014 |
DISTRICT ATTORNEY Seth Williams, who has criticized state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's decision to shut down a public corruption probe, yesterday handed the case to a local grand jury for further investigation. Williams said he has listened to or watched some of the audio and video secretly recorded by lobbyist Tyron Ali, allegedly capturing four state representatives and a former Traffic Court judge accepting money or gifts. Kane, responding in March to an Inquirer story about the Ali case, said Ali made 113 recordings from October 2010 to April 2012.
June 18, 2014 |
Called before a grand jury two years ago, Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry testified that when it came to his rulings, everyone was treated "pretty much the same. " On Monday, his lawyer set out to prove it. As the federal ticket-fixing trial of Lowry and five other former judges resumed after a weeklong break, attorney William DeStefano accused FBI agents of focusing their investigation too narrowly and ignoring evidence that backed Lowry's claims. Brandishing statistical analysis of a day in his client's courtroom, DeStefano argued that at least one case singled out by prosecutors as an example of special treatment was anything but. The ticket-holder ended up with the day's worst outcome - a bigger fine than anyone else that day, he said.
May 24, 2014 |
Willis W. Berry Jr.'s decision to run his real estate business out of his judicial office got him suspended from his Philadelphia judgeship in 2009, and in April, a real estate deal cost him his license to practice law. Now, those dealings could put him behind bars. On Thursday, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced that her office had charged Berry with theft and conflict of interest for running the business from his judicial chambers for more than a decade. Berry, 71, surrendered to Philadelphia police Thursday morning and spent several hours behind bars before being released on his own recognizance by Magistrate Francis J. Rebstock.
May 22, 2014 |
In three area primary races Tuesday roiled by corruption allegations, two Democratic incumbents lost their party nominations, but a third easily turned back a challenge. One of the losers was State Rep. J.P. Miranda, charged by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in January with using a "ghost" employee to funnel state money to his sister. In Miranda's North Philadelphia district, Leslie Acosta, daughter of former State Rep. Ralph Acosta, captured almost half the vote, well ahead of Miranda and two other candidates.
April 22, 2014 |
When Philadelphia was deep in the winter of 2011, State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown was in a far warmer place - the Waldorf Astoria's Naples Grande Beach Resort in Florida. Days after her return from the Sunshine State, Brown told a local lobbyist about the trip, a three-day event organized by the nonprofit Women in Government Foundation with drug company backing. That lobbyist was government informant Tyron B. Ali. He secretly recorded Brown as part of an undercover investigation run by the state Attorney General's Office.
April 5, 2014
In continuing its disassembly of national campaign-finance restrictions, the U.S. Supreme Court is relying partly on the naive notion that the tendency of money to influence and corrupt politics has yet to be demonstrated. Striking down limits on how much a single donor may contribute to federal campaigns per election cycle, the court this week compounded its earlier unfettering of corporate and union spending. Asserting a First Amendment right to spend unlimited sums on political expression, the court's majority is undoing a long-standing precedent under which the threat of corruption was deemed sufficient to justify moderate political spending restraints.
April 4, 2014
Stories of local officials using their offices for personal profit are as wearying as they are familiar. The latest concerns Dominic Verdi, a former deputy Licenses and Inspections commissioner who, according to a federal indictment, protected errant bars and strip clubs as long as they patronized the distributor he had a stake in, Chappy's Beer, Butts, and Bets. The story reinforces the public's worst fears of a City Hall in-crowd that works for itself with little concern for anyone else.
March 2, 2014 |
PHILADELPHIA In 2012, Democrat Jose "J.P. " Miranda won 95 percent of the vote in an election that landed him a seat in the state House. Little more than a year later, he was arrested, along with his sister, on corruption charges. On Friday, in a marathon preliminary hearing that pitted the siblings against several former legislative assistants, Miranda's fall from grace continued. Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter ruled that the case against Miranda and Michelle Wilson should proceed to trial.