Monday, January 16, 2017

The Life And Times Of "Little Nicky"

More on the passing of Nicky Scarfo
By George Anastasia

"His legacy, if you can call that, as a ruthless mob boss is unparalleled, certainly in this area," said James J. Leonard Jr. "Nicky Scarfo was the epitome of a gangster in every sense of the word."

Big Trial Editor's Note: This is an advance obituary that Anastasia wrote for the Inquirer before he left the paper. It was updated and published Sunday. A day after Anastasia scooped himself by breaking the story of Scarfo's death on Big Trial.

The Inky story can be read here:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Report: Nicodemo Scarfo Has Died In Prison

By George Anastasia

Nicodemo D. “Little Nicky” Scarfo, who ruled the Philadelphia mob in the 1980s with a temperament and philosophy more suited to the 1920s, has died in a federal prison medical facility in Butner, N.C., according to underworld sources.

Prison officials could not be reached to confirm the report which began circulating in South Philadelphia this morning. Scarfo had been an inmate at the medical facility for more than a year where he was being treated for various medical ailments, including kidney failure. He died Friday.

The 87-year-old mob boss was serving a 55-year sentence on racketeering and murder charges. He was convicted in 1988 along with 16 co-defendants, most of them made members of his notorious crime family. The prosecution, which included charges of murder, attempted murder and extortion, brought down his organization and signaled the end of his eight-year reign as Philadelphia crime kingpin.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"You're Killing My Case"

By Ralph Cipriano

On the witness stand today, retired Detective Joseph Walsh detailed numerous inconsistencies in the many contradictory stories told by Danny Gallagher, the former altar boy who famously and improbably claimed he was raped by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher.

And when Walsh told Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen about those inconsistencies, her response, according to Walsh was, "You're killing my case."

At the end of a nearly three-hour pre-trial hearing today, Thomas A. Bergstrom, a lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, stood before the judge and stated what Sorensen should have done when faced with all those inconsistencies: confront Gallagher and find out what was the truth.

But Sorensen, who was not called by the District Attorney as a witness to refute Detective Walsh, never did confront Danny Gallagher, Bergstrom told the judge. Why? Because, Bergstrom said, Sorensen had to know, "That the kid's a liar."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lanny Davis Seeking Presidential Pardon For Chaka Fattah

Davis and friend
By Ralph Cipriano

He may have lost a bail motion today, but former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah still has one long shot left to stay out of jail -- a request for a presidential pardon from Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton.

In a Jan. 1 letter to President Obama,  Davis and Dr. Therman E. Evans, a New Jersey doctor and pastor, ask the president to pardon Fattah before leaving office later this month.

"We have known him for 30 years and know first-hand his unmatched contributions to improving the life chances of tens of millions of Americans," Davis and Evans wrote.

Davis and Evans cite three key issues that they argue make Fattah a worthy candidate for a presidential pardon -- "the presiding judge exhibited a clear prejudice, there was documented misconduct by the prosecutors, and there are major evidence gaps in the case."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Battle Over 12th Juror Continues With Two Fattah Co-Defendants

By Ralph Cipriano

In a battle over whether two co-defendants of former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah are entitled to bail while they appeal their convictions, defense lawyers claim that the government is ignoring the testimony of five jurors in the case, as well as the improper actions of the trial judge in removing a dissident juror.

The defense lawyers were responding to a brief filed Monday by the government that asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to deny bail motions for Fatttah codefendants Robert Brand and Karen Nicholas.

Neither of the codefendants "present a substantial question that is likely to result in a reversal or new trial on any counts on which a sentence of imprisonment has been imposed," wrote Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric L. Gibson and Paul L. Gray, and trial attorney Jonathan Kravis.

"There is no justification for granting either Brand or Nicholas bail during appeals," the prosecutors conclude. "Accordingly, the government respectfully submits that the appellants' motions for bail pending appeal should be denied."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Archdiocese-D.A. Hearing Moved To Friday The 13th

A scheduled hearing that may feature retired Detective Joseph Walsh testifying against former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen has been moved from 2 p.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Friday.

At the hearing, Thomas A. Bergstrom, the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, is expected to ask Walsh about his investigation into the "Billy Doe" sex abuse case, and why he didn't believe that the former altar boy was telling the truth.

According to Bergstrom, when Walsh told Assistant District Attorney Sorensen about his doubts, she replied, "You're hurting my case" and "You're damaging my case." But according to Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, Sorensen denied that she ever said that.

The hearing will be held before Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright in Courtroom 1101 at the Criminal Justice Center on Friday the 13th, possibly a bad omen for Seth Williams and his self-described "historic" prosecution of the church.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lead Detective In "Billy Doe" Case Didn't Believe Billy

Former ADA Mariana Sorensen [left] 
By Ralph Cipriano

The lead detective in the "Billy Doe" sex abuse case didn't find the former altar boy credible after repeatedly confronting him over numerous factual discrepancies in his many conflicting stories.

And when Detective Joseph Walsh voiced his doubts about the D.A.'s star witness to a top prosecutor, she didn't want to hear about it.

"You're damaging my case, you're hurting my case," is what Thomas A. Bergstrom, a lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, claimed that former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen said about the star witness whose testimony sent three priests and a former Catholic school teacher to jail.

"You can't turn a blind eye to that," Bergstrom said when he asked Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright to invoke the ultimate penalty for prosecutorial misconduct, namely dismissing a retrial of the criminal case against Msgr. Lynn scheduled to begin May 30th.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Defense Lawyers Pound Away At "Rash, Unmethodical" Judge Bartle; Feds Respond By Saying He Did Everything By The Book

By Ralph Cipriano

Lawyers for two of Chaka Fattah's co-defendants have joined the chorus seeking to have their clients stay out of jail while a federal appeals court considers the propriety of Judge Harvey Bartle III's early dismissal of a dissident juror.

Last week, defense lawyers filed a motion seeking to have Fattah, the former 11-term U.S. Congressman, remain free on bail while a federal appeals court considered whether Judge Bartle had abused his discretion by booting the dissident juror.

In a bail motion filed today on behalf of Robert Brand, a Fattah co-defendant, a team of defense lawyers argued that Judge Bartle's "rash, unmethodical dismissal" of the dissident juror who "vigorously disagreed with the ultimate verdict was improper." The bail motion filed on behalf of Brand also claimed that Judge Bartle's "haphazard" questioning of five jurors during the trial "so disrupted the deliberation process" that it "severely prejudiced" the defendant as well as tainted the jury.

In a second bail motion filed on behalf of Karen Nicholas, another Fattah co-defendant, attorney Ann Campbell Flannery criticized Judge Bartle for asking "leading and suggestive" questions of five jurors in the political corruption case. Flannery also asked the federal appeals court to consider whether "the trial judge's quick and continued intrusion into the deliberative process was an abuse of discretion."

 And whether the judge's actions had "a coercive effect" on the remaining jurors, namely "that if one dissented or took longer to deliberate than the others, the others could complain to the court and obtain swift intervention and relief."


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