Joseph A.Slobodzian / Inquirer Staff Writer
The oft-delayed retrial of the Rev. James J. Brennan -- the former Philadelphia Catholic priest charged with attempted rape and child endangerment in an alleged 1996 incident involving a 14-year-old boy – has been delayed once more.
Jury selection was supposed to have begun Monday before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Coleman but defense attorney William J. Brennan Jr. – not related – asked for a continuance for “further investigation.”
Wednesday’s preliminary hearing for Philadelphia Police Sgt. Thomas Winkis has been put off until Dec. 18 to give his new defense lawyer more time to prepare.
Winkis, 44, was charged on Sept. 27 with involuntary manslaughter, homicide by vehicle and drunk driving in the Sept. 14 crash that killed David Farries, 55, of Fishtown.
Winkis remains free after posting 10 percent of $50,000 bail but as late as Tuesday did not have an attorney of record. That situation ended Wednesday when lawyer Fortunato N. Perri Jr., who said earlier he would defend Winkis, formally entered his appearance before Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Or, in Humberto Fred’s case, $750,000 – the bail he’s being held on for allegedly snapping a picture of Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Wendy L. Pew while she was on the bench at the city’s Criminal Justice Center.
Fred, 31, was due in Pew’s courtroom 603 on Sept. 17 for his preliminary hearing on charges of receiving stolen property and three counts involving illegally possessing and carrying a gun on the city streets.
After three months in Camp Hill, the way-station for newly sentenced inmates in Pennsylvania’s prison system, former Philadelphia parochial school teacher Bernard Shero has arrived at his home for the next 8 to 16 years.
Shero – convicted in January of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, child endangerment, corruption of a minor and indecent assault involving a Northeast Philadelphia altar boy in 1999 – has been moved to the state prison in Houtzdale about 225 miles northwest from lower Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia where he was born and lived.
Houtzdale, in rural Clearfield County, is already home to several notable Philadelphians including Ira Einhorn, 73, the counterculture guru and international fugitive serving life for the 1979 murder of his girlfriend in Powelton Village, and Craig Rabinowitz, 49, the Merion latex salesman serving life for the 1997 bathtub murder of his wife.
When will the Traffic Court judges get their day in court? Probably not for a while.
Recent filings in the ticket-fixing case against six former or current judges on Philadelphia's beleaguered and soon-to-be dismantled Traffic Court suggest the case won't come to trial until sometime next year.
U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly had set a Nov. 12 trial date for the defendants, who face fraud and other charges for allegedly fixing tickets of friends and political associates.
It was last August that Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court decided to again let counties charge people with a crime using an indicting grand jury and the revival has been met with complaints from more than a few defense lawyers.
And none has complained more than veteran lawyer L. George Parry, who on Monday lost a fourth round in his ongoing fight to extract information – any information -- from Assistant District Attorney Joseph McGlynn about the charges against former police officer Richard DeCoatsworth.
“Pick a date,” Parry groaned during the hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Ehrlich. “We have two witnesses who can’t agree on which date they were raped.”
How bad is the problem of witness intimidation in Philadelphia’s criminal court system?
Consider the case of Devin Smith, the 27-year-old man charged in the Feb. 8 killing of Ramona Bell, 49, whose badly beaten body was found inside a house in the 4700 block of Salem Street in Frankford.
Smith had a preliminary hearing Tuesday that ended after two hours with Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan ordering Smith to stand trial for murder -- despite two witnesses “going south” on the prosecutor and a relative of the victim getting charged for allegedly taking a cellphone picture of a witness.
Sometimes, there are too many cases happening at the same time to cover for Inquirer.com or the next day’s Inquirer. Here are two I’ve written about that were resolved earlier this week:
Rasheed Gey, 20, was sentenced to life without parole on Wednesday after being found guilty of first-degree murder in the Feb. 6, 2012 shooting of Dennis Gore Jr., the son of a Philadelphia police officer.
Gey had opted for a nonjury trial before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson, who found him guilty after a trial that began Tuesday.