FEDERAL prosecutors are seeking substantial prison terms for four former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges convicted by a jury of lying, following a lengthy trial on "ticket-fixing" allegations.
In sentencing memos filed Wednesday for Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew, Willie Singletary and Thomasine Tynes, prosecutors say they will ask for prison sentences of a year or more above sentencing guideline ranges.
A jury in July acquitted the four of fraud charges, but convicted them of perjury before a grand jury or making false statements to the FBI.
Prosecutors contend that by convicting the four of lying, the jury found that the judges "gave preferential treatment to [ticket-holders] who were politically and personally connected to the judges and their cronies."
In an opinion filed earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel also said the judges fixed tickets. "The evidence at trial demonstrated very clearly that defendants were influenced by 'extrajudicial communications' when reaching their decisions on select tickets. In short, they and their colleagues were 'fixing tickets,' " Stengel wrote.
Defense lawyers disagree whether ticket-fixing occurred, or say that the practice of giving "consideration" to ticket-holders was the norm and did not rise to the level of a crime.
In the sentencing memos, Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf wrote that the four judges should get substantial sentences, because a judge who lies under oath "should be punished more severely than the typical defendant who commits perjury." She also wrote that the judges "destroyed an entire court system and brought disgrace to the legal profession."
State officials, she wrote, were forced to abolish Philadelphia Traffic Court and create a new system for handling traffic tickets (now the Traffic Division of Philadelphia Municipal Court).
Prosecutors are seeking for Lowry, 58, and Singletary, 33, to be sentenced to about two years, nine months in prison.
They seek about three years in prison for Mulgrew, 57, and ask that it be consecutive to an unrelated 2 1/2-year sentence he is currently serving for defrauding a South Philly nonprofit.
As for Tynes, 71, who served as president judge of Traffic Court, prosecutors are asking that she be sentenced to about three years, three months behind bars.
Bill DeStefano, one of Lowry's lawyers, said Wednesday he will ask for a sentence of probation, with possible home confinement. He contends Lowry didn't lie to a grand jury.
Tynes' lawyer, Louis Busico, in a memo filed earlier this month, asked for a sentence of probation or house arrest for Tynes considering her cooperation and expected guilty plea in a separate case in which the District Attorney's Office charged her with bribery and related offenses for accepting a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet.
Busico has said that Tynes is expected to plead guilty to a reduced charge of conflict of interest in that case, but Wolf wrote in her sentencing memo for Tynes that to date, federal prosecutors had "not received any plea agreement or other documents" that support Tynes' cooperation in the state case. Wolf contended that cooperation shouldn't give Tynes credit in the federal case.
William J. Brennan, Singletary's lawyer, said Wednesday: "It's important to remember Willie Singletary was acquitted of the main charges, and I'm confident that Judge Stengel will fashion an appropriate sentence."
Mulgrew, Tynes and Singletary are scheduled to be sentenced next week. Lowry's sentencing has been postponed to Jan. 8, his lawyer said.
In the trial that ended in July, the panel acquitted three other defendants - ex-Judge Michael Sullivan; Chester County Judge Mark Bruno, who served a few times a year as a substitute Traffic Court judge; and Chinatown businessman Robert Moy - of all fraud charges. They did not face charges relating to perjury or making false statements.
Before the trial, three other former Traffic Court judges - Fortunato Perri Sr., and suburban magistrates H. Warren Hogeland and Kenneth Miller - as well as the court's former administrator William Hird and businessman Henry Alfano had pleaded guilty to their roles in the ticket-fixing case. Hogeland died last year before he was sentenced. The others still face sentencing.