Judge unseals limited details of convicted state Rep. Acosta's guilty plea

PACOSTA15
State Rep. Leslie Acosta admitted role in laundering.

A federal judge on Tuesday unsealed a court docket entry in State Rep. Leslie Acosta's money-laundering conspiracy case that offered official acknowledgment that she had pleaded guilty in March to the felony crime.

But documents detailing the North Philadelphia Democrat's admission of guilt - including a memo outlining her plea agreement with prosecutors and a summary of her crimes - remain under a court seal.

The unsealing order by U.S. District Judge Joel Slomsky came four days after the Inquirer first reported on the representative's case and the guilty plea she had kept secret from her constituents and House colleagues for more than six months - even while running unopposed for reelection in November.

Although top Democrats including Gov. Wolf and U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chair of the City Democratic Committee, have called for her to resign and withdraw from the ballot, Acosta, 45, has vowed to remain and fight to keep her job even after her sentencing, scheduled for January.

Generally, the state constitution bars public officials from holding office if they have been convicted of felonies, a process that is not considered complete until a sentence is imposed.

Prosecutors charged Acosta last year with aiding in an embezzlement scheme involving her former boss at the Fairhill mental health clinic where she worked years prior to taking office in 2015.

Although authorities have not accused her of personally benefiting from the theft, she admitted to helping Renee Tartaglione, former board president of the Juniata Community Mental Health Clinic, steal thousands of dollars from the publicly funded facility.

According to court filings, Acosta accepted checks for work she did not perform between 2008 and 2012, cashed them, and kicked the money back to Tartaglione.

Sources familiar with the case say Acosta is cooperating with the government and could testify against her former boss at a trial scheduled for November. Tartaglione has denied any wrongdoing.

Acosta's lawyer, Christopher Warren, has said he asked for the sealing order shielding details of his client's guilty plea from public view, but he declined to say why.

Prosecutors at a recent hearing in Tartaglione's case, while not mentioning Acosta by name, said their witnesses had expressed concerns about potential retaliation.

Acosta, whose district includes Fairhill, Hunting Park, and parts of North Philadelphia, has not spoken publicly about her case, citing the advice of her lawyer.

jroebuck@phillynews.com

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@jeremyrroebuck