Monday, July 6, 2015

Federal judge rejects move by Traffic Court judges to dismiss charges

A federal judge has rejected what he called the "circular" legal logic behind a request from five former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges to dismiss criminal charges filed against them on Jan. 31 in what prosecutors called a widespread scheme to fix tickets at political favors.

Federal judge rejects move by Traffic Court judges to dismiss charges

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Philadelphia Traffic Court at Eighth and Spring Garden Streets was in session Thursday, but some of the judges hearing cases were from out of town. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Philadelphia Traffic Court at Eighth and Spring Garden Streets was in session Thursday, but some of the judges hearing cases were from out of town. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

A federal judge has rejected what he called the "circular" legal logic behind a request from five former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges to dismiss criminal charges filed against them on Jan. 31 in what prosecutors called a widespread scheme to fix tickets at political favors.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kelly ruled Monday that the case will go forward, rejecting the request from former Traffic Court Administrative Judge Michael Sullivan after hearing arguments on the motion last week.

Sullivan's attorney, Henry Hockeimer Jr., had argued that the federal case was built on the prospect of money the city and state might have collected if traffic ticket holders were found guilty by the judges.  But no fine exists without a guilty finding, he said, so no federal crime had been committed.

"To accept the defendants' argument would permit the alleged conspirators in this case to enter into a scheme to commit fraud and then hide behind the argument that the success of their fraud precludes prosecution under the 'money or property interest' requirement of the mail and wire fraud statues," Kelly wrote in a 19-page ruling.

Sullivan's motion was joined by former Traffic Court judges Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew, Willie Singletary and Mark Bruno. Former Traffic Court director of Operations Bill Hird and businessmen Henry Alfano and Robert Moy also joined the motion.  Retired Traffic Court President Judge Thomasine Tynes filed a separate motion to dismiss the charges.

Three other former Traffic Court judges, including retired Administrative Judge Fortunato Perri Sr., have already pleaded guilty to fixing tickets.

Gov. Corbett signed into law two weeks ago legislation that will eventually disband Traffic Court and assign those duties to Philadelphia Municipal Court, where traffic ticket cases will be heard by appointed hearing examiners.

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About this blog
William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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