Saturday, May 23, 2015

POSTED: Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 3:33 PM

A second prostitute has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of Keith “King” Tolbert, 35, the former nursing student turned alleged pimp who is charged with felony murder in last August’s death of a “john” who died in a robbery attempt and whose body was dismembered and dropped in the Schuylkill.

Angel Weston, 22, pleaded guilty Wednesday before Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner to conspiracy and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. Lerner set sentencing for Aug. 27 although that will likely be postponed until after Tolbert’s April 6 trial.

Weston’s guilty plea follows that of fellow prostitute Stephanie Foulke, 22, who pleaded guilty Nov. 25 to the same two charges. Even before she went before a judge, Foulke testified for the prosecution at Tolbert’s Nov. 6 preliminary hearing, describing in detail the macabre Aug. 26 death and dismemberment of Francis Zarzycki.

Joseph A. Slobodzian @ 3:33 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, June 23, 2014, 1:00 PM

The oft-delayed retrial of Rev. James J. Brennan for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy has been delayed once again – this time by Traffic Court.

No, Father Brennan did not run afoul of the law while driving. His lawyer, William J. Brennan Jr., however, remains tied up in federal court defending former Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary in the ticket-fixing trial of six former Traffic Court judges and a Philadelphia businessman.

On Monday, which was supposed to be the start of jury selection in Brennan’s retrial, the priest sat alone in the rear of the courtroom waiting to get a subpoena for a new court date while the staff of Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Edward C. Wright communicated with his lawyer by phone during a break in the federal trial.

Joseph A. Slobodzian @ 1:00 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 2:36 PM

Four more Philadelphians who repeatedly dodged jury duty found themselves before a judge Wednesday: one voluntarily and three after getting an early morning escort by court warrant officers who arrested them.

According to Philadelphia Jury Commissioner Daniel A. Rendine, all four people were among those subpoenaed to appear in the city’s new Juror Scofflaw Court on May 21. None showed up and bench warrants were issued for their arrest.

Rendine said one of the four surrendered last week and spent the day in jail before returning Wednesday to plead guilty before Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart, who added a $50 fine. The other three pleaded guilty and were fined $100 before being led to a cell for the rest of the day.

Joe Slobodzian @ 2:36 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, June 16, 2014, 2:15 PM

It looks as if Anthony Nicodemo’s retrial in the alleged Dec. 12, 2012 slaying of Gino DiPietro won’t be happening until early next year.

At a status conference last Thursday, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart scheduled a new pretrial conference for Dec. 1 but the retrial – Nicodemo’s first trial ended May 20 in a mistrial amid rumors someone approached a juror – did not get a firm date. The trial had already lost two alternate jurors because of exposure to pretrial publicity when juror number eight was dismissed, bringing the panel down to 11. Although a criminal trial may continue with 11 jurors, both sides must agree and, in the case of the 42-year-old reputed mob soldier, they didn’t.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo said there is an ongoing investigation into possible jury tampering although no one has been charged.

Joe Slobodzian @ 2:15 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 4:37 PM

The son of West Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell didn’t look far to find a lawyer after his arrest last week in the alleged burglary of a neighbor's house in which he was shot and seriously wounded.

Center City criminal defense lawyer Jack McMahon, who represented Kermit Gosnell in last year’s murder trial in the slayings of infants born alive during illegal late-term abortions, on Wednesday entered his appearance as attorney for Barron Alexander, 22.

McMahon could not be reached for comment but in the past has sympathized with the plight of the children of the notorious owner of the Women’s Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. Barron Alexander Gosnell legally dropped his surname last year after he complained that the Gosnell name was preventing him from getting internships and possible jobs while studying at Cheyney University.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:37 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, May 29, 2014, 1:03 PM

It’s probably not an anniversary he wanted to commemorate, but Rev. Andrew McCormick’s retrial on child sex-assault charges has been set for Feb. 23 – two days short of one year from the start of the ill-starred trial that ended March 12 with a hung jury.

McCormick, 58, was back in court Thursday before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright, accompanied by his new lawyer, Trevan Borum. Borum agreed to represent McCormick after his previous defense attorney, William J. Brennan Jr., withdrew after the jury deadlocked and Bright declared a mistrial.

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp objected to McCormick hiring Borum because Borum’s trial schedule made it impossible for him to defend the priest at any trial before next year. Borum said he begins a six-week federal trial in Allentown on Oct. 6 and a capital murder trial in Philadelphia on Jan. 26.

Joe Slobodzian @ 1:03 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, May 26, 2014, 4:53 PM

Last Wednesday, 92 people were summoned to appear in Philadelphia’s revived Juror Scofflaw Court to explain why they had not reported two or more times when called for jury duty. It’s a problem that Philadelphia court officials say has reached a crisis point: of almost 700,000 to be called for jury duty this year, only about 13 percent will show up.

Probably the best illustration of the problem is that a third of those ordered to appear in scofflaw court – you guessed it – did not show up. Warrants for their arrest have been issued and when they next appear, in custody, they could be fined up to $500 and spend up to 10 days in jail for contempt of court. Court officials hope the revival of a tactic last used 14 years ago, will encourage people to recognize that reporting for jury duty is not just their duty as U.S. citizens but in their best interest.

Of course, some people don’t need an arrest warrant. They were lauded May 15 during a “Juror Appreciation Day” by former Governor Edward G. Rendell; Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield; Common Pleas Court President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper; several other judges and members of various legal organizations.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:53 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 11:09 AM
The Rev. Andrew McCormick gets into a car outside the center for criminal justice Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP)

With two weeks to go before the judge’s deadline, the Rev. Andrew McCormick has found a new lawyer to represent him in his retrial on charges he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy in 1997 when he was at St. John Cantius church in Bridesburg.

Center City criminal defense lawyer Trevan Borum confirmed Wednesday that he will represent McCormick, 58, in the retrial. Borum said he will formally enter his appearance at a May 29 status hearing on the case before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright.

If Borum’s name is familiar to some, it may be because he had been hired by retired Catholic priest Robert Brennan. Brennan, 76, was charged with raping a boy from ages 11 to 14 who was a member of the “altar guild” at the Resurrection of Our Lord parish school in Rhawnhurst. The criminal charges were dismissed after the 26-year-old alleged victim died of an accidental drug overdose on Oct. 13.

Joe Slobodzian @ 11:09 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog
Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian covers the courts and writes about the people who find themselves there and what they face.

You can reach Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or Reach Joseph A. at

Joseph A. Slobodzian
Also on
letter icon Newsletter