Thursday, March 26, 2015

Judge Rules Against Early Release For Vince Fumo

By Ralph Cipriano

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter has denied a motion that would have granted former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo an early end to his supervised release.

In a motion filed March 21st, Fumo's lawyer, Dennis Cogan, had sought to terminate Fumo's three years of supervised release after some 13 months.

"His punishments have been considerable and he has suffered much," Cogan wrote in his motion. "He is now almost 72 years of age. His health is not good and his financial losses have been considerable."

The judge, however, took a dim view of the request.

"I am nonplussed by such a motion being filed when defendant has not even completed one of the singularly most important conditions of his supervised release -- community service," Buckwalter wrote in a one-page order issued today.

"Two hundred and eighty-five hours out of a mandated five hundred," the judge wrote. "Not even close. To say that this failure is disappointing is putting it mildly."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Father Engelhardt Loses Appeal

By Ralph Cipriano

A day after they ruled against an appeal from Bernard Shero, a panel of three state Superior Court judges came to the same conclusion regarding the appeal of Shero's co-defendant, the late Father Charles Engelhardt.

In a 25-page decision issued today, the Superior Court judges ruled that seven appeal issues raised by Engelhardt are "either waived or devoid of merit." The judges then affirmed Engelhardt's sentence of 6 to 12 years in jail after being convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.

The 67-year-old priest died last November in jail after serving nearly two years of his sentence. In their opinion, the judges note "that appellant has passed away during the pendency of this appeal. However, consistent with our cases, we decline to dismiss this appeal as moot in its entirety."

This was before the judges went through the appeal issues and dismissed them as "either waived or devoid of merit."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bernard Shero Loses Appeal

By Ralph Cipriano

The state Superior Court has turned down Bernard Shero's request for a new trial.

In a 36-page decision posted online today, a panel of three Superior Court judges ruled that seven appeals issues raised by Shero at a hearing last Oct. 28th "are either waived or devoid of merit."

In their decision, the Superior Court judges affirmed the June 12, 2013 sentence imposed on Shero by Judge Ellen Ceisler. The judge sentenced Shero, 51, to 8 to 16 years in jail after he was convicted by a jury of rape of a child, attempted rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

In its decision, the Superior Court judges did not address the appeal filed on behalf of Shero's co-defendant, Father Charles Engelhardt, except in a footnote to say that the priest's case is "currently pending before this court." Judge Ceisler sentenced Father Engelhardt to 6 to 12 years in jail after being convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.

The 67-year-old priest died in prison last November. In spite of his client's death, defense lawyer Michael J. McGovern, and Engelhardt's religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, had vowed to continue the appeal,  to clear the priest's name. But the courts aren't bound by such sentiments. When an appellant dies, a court can decide that since there's no longer any controversy, the appeal is "abated."

In the case of Father Engelhardt, it's not stated what the Superior Court will do with the priest's appeal. But in treating Shero's appeal separately, the Superior Court judges didn't do Shero any favors. Twice, the Superior Court judges ruled against Shero for raising appeal issues that applied only to Engelhardt.

Sentencings Delayed In FirstPlus Case

By George Anastasia

Mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo and his partner-in-crime Salvatore Pelullo will have to wait two more months before they find out how much time they will be spending as guests of the federal government for their convictions in the FirstPlus Financial fraud case.

Sentencings originally set for this week before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler in Camden have been pushed back to June in order for authorities to have more time to prepare what are expected to be detailed pre-sentence reports.

Scarfo, 49, and Pelullo, 47, are looking at jail time in the 20- to 30-year range. Both have prior convictions which enhance the guidelines used to determine the range of sentence in federal cases.

They each were convicted of more than 20 counts in the racketeering fraud case. The government charged that the pair took behind-the-scenes control of FirstPlus in 2007 and siphoned more than $12 million out of the Texas-based mortgage company through bogus business transactions and phony consulting contracts.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

As Sentencings Approach, A Look At Mob Ties In FirstPlus Case

By George Anastasia
Goodfellas Sal and Nicky Jr.

Unless there are some unforeseen developments -- and in this case that's always possible -- the hammer comes down next week in the multi-million dollar FirstPlus Financial fraud case.

Nicodemo S. Scarfo, Salvatore Pelullo and the brothers John and William Maxwell each have sentencing hearings before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler in the same federal courtroom in Camden where a jury delivered guilty verdicts last year.

Scarfo, the 49-year-old son of jailed mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo, is looking at a sentence that could land him in prison for the better part of the rest of his life. The same can be said for Pelullo, 47, described as a mob associate and with Scarfo the brains behind the 2007 takeover and looting of the Texas-based mortgage company.

The Maxwell brothers -- John the CEO of FirstPlus and William a lawyer hired as private counsel by the firm -- were convicted of many of the same racketeering, conspiracy and fraud counts, but with no prior criminal convictions, they face less potential jail time. That, of course, is a relative term. A 10-year prison sentence might be considerably less than a 30-year sentence but is little solace to the defendant serving the 10 years.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Prosecutor Gets Hot Under Collar; Judge Slaps Him Down

Judge Eduardo C. Robreno
By Ralph Cipriano

They haven't picked a jury yet but the lawyers in the rogue cops case are already going at it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek today challenged defense lawyer Michael J. Diamondstein on his claim that the government may have perpetrated a fraud on a grand jury by putting a witness on the stand who perjured himself.

Turning toward Diamonstein and speaking in a loud voice, Wzorek told the defense lawyer, "We look forward to answering that." The prosecutor told Diamondstein that he and the other defense lawyers in the case could call him as a witness to see if those charges were true.

The prosecutor's baiting of the defense lawyers did not go over with U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno.

"Address the court," the judge snapped.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rogue Cops Say Federal Witness Perjured Himself

By Ralph Cipriano

On the eve of jury selection, a defense lawyer in the rogue cops case has tossed a live grenade.

On Sunday, Michael J. Diamondstein, the defense lawyer for former Police Officer John Speiser, filed a bombshell motion to quash the federal indictment of his client.

In the motion, Diamonstein charges there is ample evidence to prove that the only witness to implicate his client in a RICO conspiracy perjured himself when he testified before a grand jury.

The perjury, Diamonstein writes, was "easily and readily identifiable by the government's agents,"  but the feds chose to willfully ignore it, exhibiting a "reckless disregard for the truth."

If Diamondstein's charges are true, the feds were pretty sloppy. Diamondstein claims that before a witness identified as "C.C." perjured himself before the grand jury, the feds didn't bother to interview C.C. or check out any easily obtained court records that plainly show the government's witness is "an immoral, despicable and opportunistic liar."

Rufus, Rambo & Father Andy

By Ralph Cipriano

The district attorney has until May 10 to decide, after two mistrials, whether to retry Father Andrew McCormick a third time for the alleged attempted rape of an altar boy.

On his twitter account, Rufus Seth Williams, our crusading district attorney, was remarkably low-key about the case. He briefly noted Father Andy's latest mistrial before deleting the tweet and moving on to more important things.

Like the D.A.'s call-in on the WIP morning show where he joked about subpoenaing Eagles Coach Chip Kelly to find out "where all these deals will lead us." And the D.A.'s comparison of himself to Rambo in the D.A.'s running feud with state Attorney General Kathleen Kane over whether to prosecute local pols caught in a sting operation. ["I find myself like John J. Rambo," the D.A. tweeted. "They drew first blood not me."]

Meanwhile, the "friends of Father Andy" have launched a petition drive online to "demand an end to the persecution of Father Andrew McCormick by the District Attorney of Philadelphia." Maybe Father Andy's friends are on to something. Like those tired Rocky and Rambo franchises it might be time to end the priest abuse trials in Philadelphia before we waste any more taxpayer money and have to suffer through any further embarrassments.


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