No-show warrant issued for Miranda

J.P. Miranda

State Rep. Jose "J.P." Miranda, who was facing a warrant for his arrest after missing a pretrial hearing Tuesday, has agreed to appear Wednesday before a Philadelphia judge.

Common Pleas Court Judge Edward C. Wright granted the bench warrant after Miranda, 28, failed to show for a status-of-counsel hearing. Miranda had hired Center City criminal defense lawyer A. Charles Peruto Jr., who represented him at a preliminary hearing in March, but prosecutors questioned whether Peruto would defend him at trial.

Peruto said he would continue to represent Miranda.

"He drove all the way down from Harrisburg," Peruto said of his client. "He was here, but he was late."

Peruto said Miranda would appear Wednesday before Wright to confirm that Peruto would defend him at trial, set for Jan. 21.

Miranda and his sister, Michelle Wilson, 34, were arrested in January and charged with conflict of interest, perjury, and criminal conspiracy in an alleged scheme to pay a "ghost employee" to funnel cash to Wilson.

Miranda, a Democrat, was elected in 2012 to a first term representing the 197th District, which includes parts of North Philadelphia west of Broad Street through East Falls.

According to court documents, Miranda tried to hire his sister as chief of staff of his legislative offices, but was told by Democratic caucus and legislative officials that it would violate caucus rules and the legislative ethics code.

Instead, Miranda allegedly hired Timothy Duckett as legislative assistant, but told him not to work a 40-hour week and to give part of his pay to Wilson.

At Miranda's and Wilson's preliminary hearing, Duckett - testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution - alleged that he kicked back a total of $1,700 of his $36,000 annual salary to Wilson or Miranda before refusing to continue the practice.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo