Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Judge In Seth Williams Case Has A Conflict Of Interest

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Richard A. Sprague and Lynne Abraham have gone to court seeking to have the current D.A., Rufus Seth Williams, removed from office.

The judge in the case is Abbe F. Fletman, and she has a conflict of interest.

In 2009, Fletman was a defense lawyer who represented Seth Williams in Philadelphia County Election Court. Eight years ago, Dan McCaffery, a candidate in the Democratic primary for D.A., went to Election Court seeking to get Seth Williams thrown off the ballot because he had not made a full disclosure of income in his financial disclosure forms.

Now, eight years later, Fletman's unsuccessful defense of Williams poses a conflict of interest since she became a judge. And nobody will be surprised if lawyers for Sprague and Abraham ask the judge to recuse herself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Msgr. Lynn Case Goes Behind Closed Doors

Sing it Charlie!
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

It was billed as the last pre-trial hearing in the case of Msgr. William J. Lynn, before the lawyers were scheduled to pick a jury next month.

But today in court, Judge Gwendolyn Bright and the lawyers on both sides of the case spent as much time in the back room as they did in the courtroom.

When everyone emerged from the back room, there were hints that the retrial of Msgr. Lynn, scheduled to begin on May 15th, may be postponed indefinitely.

Instead of picking a jury on May 15th, Judge Bright said that she would hold a "status conference."

What could have delayed the retrial? With the judge imposing a nonsensical gag order on the proceedings, it's hard to figure. One side, or both sides might be appealing the judge's pretrial rulings. If so, instead of a retrial happening next month, it may be delayed for about a year. Or, that retrial may never happen at all.

State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, Accused of Bribery, Charges Philly D.A.'s Office With Conflict Of Interest; Seeks Dismissal Of Case

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

A lawyer for State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, accused of accepting $4,000 in bribes, is charging the Philadelphia District Attorney's office with a conflict of interest.

Patrick  A. Casey, a lawyer for Lowery Brown, filed a 21-page motion Tuesday in Dauphin County Court seeking to dismiss the case.

Casey's argument: the Philadelphia D.A.'s office has a conflict of interest in trying  Lowery Brown on bribery charges because the acting D.A., First Assistant District Attorney Kathleen E.  Martin, was a former member of a law firm that represented Brown's main accuser in the sting operation, Tyron Ali.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Final Look At The Legacy Of Little Nicky

By George Anastasia

Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo changed the way the game was played in the Philadelphia underworld. An infamous mob hit and a subsequently botched revenge murder attempt set the tone for the Scarfo era.

They were early strikes in what became a bloody legacy.

Little Nicky played by his own rules.

A final look at his legacy, published in JerseyMan Magazine, can be read here:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

John-John Veasey Guest Lecturer At West Chester University

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

It was advertised on posters all over campus.

At West Chester University on Tuesday night, the Department of Criminal Justice was presenting the latest in their "Crime & Justice Lecture Series."

Previous lecturers included the former leader of the Pagans motorcycle gang. And a former member of the Mexican Mafia.

On Tuesday, the latest attraction was a former Mafia hit man:

"A poor kid from South Philly" who "survived three gunshots to the head, to become a federally protected witness who brought down the Philly mob," the posters said. "And then reinvented himself as a wildly successful car salesman."

Yep, "John-John" Veasey, the former high school dropout, was appearing live at West Chester University to talk about his life in the Mafia and the witness protection program. And his current reincarnation as a born again, right-wing Republican, and millionaire car dealer.

Ralph Natale Vs. Skinny Joey And The "Punks"

By George Anastasia

Some of the guys in South Philadelphia are calling it "fake news."

Others are using a more graphic description -- "bullshit."

They are speaking, of course, of the story that Ralph Natale is spinning in his book, Last Don Standing, which went on sale last month.

Natale discussed the book and his life in the Philadelphia underworld recently in an exclusive interview with Fox 29 crime reporter Dave Schratwieser.

The rest of the story can be read here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Philly's Big Giveaway: 300 Drug Dealers About To Hit Lottery

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

A bunch of drug dealers who have already had their convictions overturned are about to hit the lottery.

In the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Timothy R. Rice, a group of lawyers are quietly negotiating a "global settlement" for 75 civil rights suits filed against the city of Philadelphia.

The plaintiffs in these lawsuits are convicted drug dealers who have already had their convictions overturned because of alleged police misconduct. Now, the drug dealers are looking to cash in at the civil courts for their alleged pain and suffering at the hands of the cops who arrested them. The bad news for Philly taxpayers: once these 75 cases are settled, there are another 225 more cases right behind them that will also be settled, cases featuring 225 more newly emancipated drug dealers anxious to cash in.

The price of settling these 300 civil rights cases will no doubt cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Taxpayers also spending millions more to hire 10 lawyers from two private law firms to defend these civil rights cases in court. But the city has given up, and is now in the process of negotiating a surrender to the drug dealers and their lawyers.

Federal Agent: No Sex Scandal At Penn State, Just A "Political Hit Job"

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

When he was investigating cold cases for NCIS, Special Agent John Snedden knew you always have to start from the beginning.

 "Let's take a deep breath," he said. "And let's go back to square one, to the source of the original allegation, to determine whether it's credible."

On the Penn State campus in 2012, with national security at stake, that's just what Special Agent Snedden did on behalf of the U.S. government. And instead of finding a sex scandal or a cover-up in the cold case he was investigating in Happy Valley, Snedden said he discovered ample evidence of a "political hit job."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Eight Years Ago In Election Court, Rufus Got Caught Using Mom's Credit Cards To Finance His Campaign For Philly D.A.

By Ralph Cipriano
Thanks, Mom

On the witness stand under cross-examination, Rufus Seth Williams explained how he paid for his plane fare, rental car and hotel accommodations when he attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Williams said he charged some $1,600 in travel expenses to an American Express credit card that belonged to his adoptive mother, Imelda. But he was in trouble in Election Court because he neglected to report those American Express charges as income.

Judge Allan L. Tereshko was incredulous. “You used your mother’s credit card?” the judge asked.

“That’s correct, Your Honor,” Williams replied.

It happened eight years ago, long before the Philadelphia Board of Ethics fined Williams a record $62,000 this past January for failing to report gifts and income received between 2010 and $2015 for a total worth of $175,000.

The rest of the story can be read here.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Showers And Leaks: Mike McQueary Blows The Whistle On AG's Office

Alex Brandon/AP
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

At the Graham Spanier trial last month, Mike McQueary, the alleged whistleblower in the Penn State sex abuse case, made a surprising disclosure from the witness stand that backfired on the prosecutors who called him to testify.

On March 21st, Deputy Attorney General Laura Ditka asked McQueary when he first heard that Jerry Sandusky was going to get arrested. Sandusky is the retired coach that McQueary allegedly saw naked in the Penn State showers with a boy.

It was during a bye week in the 2011 football season, McQueary told Ditka.

"I was on my way to Boston for recruiting and I was going from the F terminal over to the B terminals over in Philadelphia Airport," McQueary said. "And there was one of those little trams. The AGs called," he said, referring to the state attorney general's office. And the AGs, according to McQueary, "said we're going to arrest folks and we are going to leak it out."

Monday, April 3, 2017

No Joke: Inky Hits New Low On April Fool's Day By Libeling Msgr. Lynn

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Thomas A. Bergstrom, the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, is so mad at The Philadelphia Inquirer that he's threatened to sue the paper for libel. He's also planning to ask a judge to bar an Inky reporter from covering the upcoming retrial of his client.

Here's what set Bergstrom off:

In an April 1st photo caption that ran on the front of the local section of the newspaper, next to an update about the latest pretrial hearing in the case, the Inquirer wrote: "Msgr. William J. Lynn is accused of sexual misconduct."

That isn't true. Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy, has never been accused of sexual misconduct.

Msgr. Lynn is accused of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, for allowing a priest with a history of abuse -- Edward V. Avery -- to be placed back in ministry. Where he allegedly raped a 10-year-old altar boy named Danny Gallagher, AKA Billy Doe, an alleged victim whose story has since been shot full of holes and revealed to be fake news.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Deadbeat D.A. Gets A New Defense Lawyer

Tom Burke And His New Client
by Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Rufus Seth Williams has a new lawyer. He's Thomas F. Burke, who served alongside Williams in the D.A.'s office back in the 1990s, under Lynne Abraham, when both men were starting out their legal careers as young assistant district attorneys.

In a three-minute hearing today before U.S. Magistrate Timothy R. Rice, Burke announced he was taking over the case.

"I'm in for the long haul," Burke told Rice. He pledged to stay on the case unless he died or was abducted by aliens.

Are you aware, Rice said, that your client, the district attorney of Philadelphia, may not be able to pay for your services?

"I'm very aware of that, Your Honor," Burke said.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Circus Coming Back To Town: Msgr. Lynn Case To Be Retried

Step right up!
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

As the legal combatants were filing out of Judge Gwendolyn Bright's courtroom yesterday, Thomas A. Bergstrom, the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, told the judge he would let her know by Friday whether it's full speed ahead for a retrial of the Lynn case scheduled for May.

The lawyers in the Lynn case are bound by a gag rule nonsensically imposed by the judge, after six years of nonstop local, national and even international publicity of the case.

But the smart money is on a retrial happening in May.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Special Agent Who Investigated Spanier Blows Up Case

FIS Special Agent John Snedden
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

What if everything you thought you knew about the so-called Penn State sex abuse scandal wasn't true?

What if that infamous locker room incident that Mike McQueary supposedly witnessed 16 years ago -- featuring a naked Jerry Sandusky cavorting in the showers with an underage boy -- had nothing to do with sex? And what if the only two officials at PSU who ever spoke directly to former PSU President Graham Spanier about that incident really did describe it as just "horseplay" and not sex?

And what if the guy advancing this contrarian story line was not some crackpot conspiracy theorist, but a decorated U.S. special agent? A guy who had already done a top-secret federal investigation five years ago into the so-called Penn State scandal but nobody knew about it until now?

There would be no pedophilia scandal at Penn State to cover up. And no trio of top PSU officials to convict of child endangerment. The whole lurid saga starring a naked  Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing little boys in the shower would be fake news. A hoax foisted on the public by an unholy trio of overzealous prosecutors, lazy and gullible reporters, and greedy plaintiff's lawyers.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rufus Is Broke, Under Indictment, And Needs A New Lawyer

I Ain't Leaving
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Rufus Seth Williams, our corrupt and scandal-plagued district attorney, has a few new problems to contend with.

When we last saw our intrepid D.A. last week, he was pleading not guilty to a 23-count, 50-page federal indictment charging him with bribery, extortion, wire fraud, and honest services fraud. In the indictment, the feds also accused Williams of stealing $20,000 from his own 84-year-old mother.

But, as court papers filed last week reveal, Williams has other problems. The free-spending D.A., who has stubbornly refused to resign from his $175,000 a-year position, is broke and can't afford to hire a lawyer to defend himself. So the court may have to appoint one for him. Because the D.A.'s original criminal lawyer has already flown the coop. And his current lawyer is asking a judge to let him out of the case.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Frontier Justice: Dauphin County Jury Convicts Graham Spanier

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

The jury in the Penn Sate case today convicted former PSU President Graham Spanier on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, but acquitted him on a second endangerment count, as well as a third count of conspiracy.

On the one count they convicted on, the jury, however, found no "continuing course" of criminal conduct. So under the law the child endangerment charge that Spanier was convicted of fell from a felony to a misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child was the exact same charge that Spanier's former co-defendants, former PSU Athletic Director Tim Curley and former PSU Vice-President Gary Schultz, pleaded guilty to earlier this month. For a misdemeanor offense, first-time offenders such as Penn State's trio of former administrators are typically looking at a prison term of zero to nine months. The defendants could wind up with just probation.

Judge In Msgr. Lynn Case Finds Prosecutorial Misconduct

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

The judge in the Msgr. William J. Lynn sex abuse case announced today that she had found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct serious enough to warrant a new trial for the defendant.

Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright stated that new evidence divulged in a Jan. 13th hearing by retired Detective Joseph Walsh "should have been provided to the defense" back in 2012 when Lynn was originally tried and convicted on one count of child endangerment.

The judge said the misconduct in the district attorney's office amounted to violations of Brady v. Maryland, the landmark 1963 case where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must turn over all evidence that might exonerate a defendant.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Defense In Graham Spanier Trial Rests Without Calling One Witness

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

At 9:35 this morning, Samuel W. Silver, the lawyer for former Penn State President Graham Spanier, stood up in a Harrisburg courtroom and without calling a witness, told the judge that the defense was resting its case.

Five minutes later, Silver began his closing argument to the jury by declaring, "There was no evidence of a crime by Graham Spanier."

"This case involves judgment calls," Silver told the jury. "They made judgment calls," Silver said about Spanier and his two alleged co-conspirators -- Tim Curley and Gary Schultz -- before they pleaded guilty and became government witnesses.

"They made judgment calls," Silver repeated about Spanier, Curley and Schultz. "They did not engage in crimes; they did not engage in a conspiracy."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Time To Flip The Narrative On Rufus

Rufus and Imelda
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

According to the feds and The Philadelphia Inquirer, District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams not only accepted bribes and extorted free gifts. He was so depraved that he stole more than $20,000 from his sick and elderly adopted mother.

This is the same corrupt law enforcement official who accepted $175,000 in unreported gifts and services. The same corrupt law enforcement official who sold his office by doing favors for business owners who were criminals. And by doing favors for friends of business owners who were also criminals.

And yet, neither the federal government nor the Inquirer has made the logical deduction that a man who would sell his office, take whatever freebies he could extort, and steal from his own mother just might be ethically compromised when it came to the administration of justice.

But as far as the feds and the Inky are concerned, when Rufus Seth Williams launched his witch hunt against the Catholic Church, this thoroughly corrupt politician somehow had angels perched on his shoulders.

Anyone see anything wrong with this picture?

Curley And Schultz Score Points For Defense Before Prosecutors Rest Lame Case Against Former Penn State President Spanier

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

With their recent plea bargains in hand, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz showed up at the Penn State sex abuse trial today to testify against their old boss, former PSU President Graham Spanier. And by day's end, they seemed to have scored more points for the defense then they did for the prosecution.

Curley, the former Penn State athletic director who is battling lung cancer, seemed extremely uncomfortable with his role as a cooperating witness for the prosecution in front of a courtroom packed with many Penn State loyalists, including football icon Franco Harris. On the witness stand, Curley professed an amazing lack of memory about most of the key events in the official Penn State sex abuse story line.

"I can't recall the specifics," Curley said about a meeting he had with former football Coach Joe Paterno to discuss what Mike McQueary heard and saw in his infamous 2001 visit to the Penn State locker room. "I have no recollection of that particular encounter," Curley said about a Sunday morning powwow he and Schultz had at Paterno's house to discuss what McQueary had witnessed in the showers. "I don't recall what his [Paterno's] response was."

About a meeting he and Schultz had with Spanier, Curley said, "We gave Graham a head's up." But he added, "I don't recall what the conversation was."

Feds: D.A. Rufus Seth Williams Did Favors For Criminals, Stole Money From His Adopted Mother; Took Bribes And Committed Extortion

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

According to the feds, when District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams received the gift of a custom-made, chocolate-colored sofa worth $3,212, he texted the business owner who had gifted him and asked, "How would you like me to repay you?"

"Stop it," the man identified in the 23-count, 50-page indictment of Seth Williams as "Business Owner #1" texted back. "I don't expect anything when I gift my friends : ) Enjoy."

So Seth Williams kept on taking free gifts that he didn't report. A Louis Vuitton tie worth $205. An iPad worth $300. A $7,000 check, and $2,000 in cash. A Burberry watch for Williams, a Burberry purse for his girlfriend. A preowned 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible worth $4,160. Free airline tickets and a vacation in Las Vegas worth $2,000.

A Punta Canta resort vacation worth $4,805 that included "royal service" bracelets, access to a private beach, and personal butler services at their luxury suite. And a second free vacation in Punta Cana that included a stay in a "Royal Service Presidential Suite."

While he was the city's top prosecutor, Rufus Seth Williams kept on taking bribes and extorting more free gifts.

"I am merely a thankful beggar and I don't want to overstep my bounds in asking," Williams texted Business Owner #1 about a second free trip to Punta Cana, "but we will gladly go." 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How Bad Case Law Made In Philly Came Back to Haunt Graham Spanier

By Ralph Cipriano
For BigTrial.net

In a Harrisburg courtroom today, Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State University, went on trial on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Sadly, as anyone back in Philadelphia familiar with the case of Msgr. William Lynn knows, the state's original child endangerment law doesn't apply to Spanier for the same reason it didn't apply to Lynn. The law also doesn't apply to former PSU Athletic Director Tim Curley or former PSU Vice President Gary Schultz, both of whom pleaded guilty to violating it last week.

The irony is that on the same day Spanier went on trial for allegedly violating a state law that doesn't apply to him, the man behind the making of that bad case law -- Philadelphia District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams -- was indicted by the feds on 23 counts of bribery, extortion, honest services fraud, and wire fraud.

It's a shame the feds also didn't indict Williams for corrupting the law. Because that's what he did.

Monday, March 13, 2017

FBI Exonerated Former PSU President Spanier; Found No Cover-Up

The Penn State sex scandal is making headlines again.

Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former PSU Vice President Gary Schultz, scheduled to go on trial next week on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, pleaded guilty, the Inky reported. That left former PSU President Graham Spanier as the lone defendant in the case.

Meanwhile, veteran journalist John Ziegler has a scoop on lawnewz.com about a federal background investigation of Spanier for a top-secret security clearance that found "not a shred of evidence any kind of cover-up, deception, or malfeasance" at Penn State.

Excerpts from the 110-page report published online by Ziegler:

The circumstances surrounding subject's departure from his position as PSU president do not cast doubt on subject's current reliability, trustworthiness or good judgement and do not cast doubt on his ability to properly safeguard national security information.

Finally, blogger and U.S. government analyst Ray Blehar explores the mystery of why Curley and Schultz would have chosen to plead guilty now. He concludes it wasn't about the law. But it may have been about fear of not getting a fair trial. Or maybe they even got paid under the table, Blehar writes.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

That Liberal Media Bubble

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

In case anybody missed it, Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight.com has written an essay, "There really was a liberal media bubble," that blames the media's inability to figure out Donald Trump was going to be elected president on "groupthink" and a pack mentality.

His thesis: the media suffered from a lack of diversity of viewpoint and independent thought. Rather than finding out what was going on with real people, the media, by talking to each other in an echo chamber, came to the faulty conclusion that Hillary Clinton had a 100 percent chance of winning an election that she lost badly.

My hat's off to Silver for engaging in an exercise that the media seldom does: trying to figure out what went wrong when they screw up. Sadly, this type of thing never happens here in Philadelphia. In a town where we suffer from a double blind: a liberal Democratic newspaper of record that mirrors the prevailing groupthink of our liberal Democratic city. At a time when the newspaper is on life support and our local government is both inept and corrupt.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The FBI Agent And The Inky Reporter

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

A court-appointed lawyer for Chaka Fattah Jr. argues that the federal indictment against him should be dismissed because of an "improper and corrupt" relationship between the lead FBI agent on the case and a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Feb. 17th, Ellen C. Brotman contended that FBI Agent Richard Haag struck a quid-pro-quo deal with Martha Woodall, an Inquirer reporter, that amounted to "outrageous government conduct."

In the 26-page brief filed in the U.S. Third Circuit of Court of Appeals, Brotman claimed that FBI agent Haag agreed to illegally divulge confidential information about the federal grand jury investigation of Fattah to Woodall. In exchange, the reporter supposedly helped the government's case by supplying background information on Fattah's business dealings with the Philadelphia school district.

Brotman contended that the alleged deal between the FBI agent and the reporter had dire consequences for Fattah Jr. -- a blast of embarrassing negative publicity that cost him his job with the school district and made him unemployable.

As a result, Brotman contends, Fattah didn't have money to hire the lawyer of his choice, so he wound up defending himself in court, with disastrous results.

Shroud Of Secrecy Descends Over Long-Running Msgr. Lynn Case

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

A hearing where Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright was supposed to rule on a defense motion to dismiss the retrial of Msgr. William J. Lynn because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct has been moved to March 24th, at 2 p.m.

Judge Bright was originally scheduled to rule on the motion to dismiss on March 1st, but the hearing was postponed without any public explanation.

Seven years into the Msgr. Lynn case, Judge Bright has draped a shroud of secrecy over the proceedings by imposing a gag order on the lawyers in the case. As part of that gag order, those lawyers are required to file motions and legal briefs under seal. Two recent pretrial hearings in the judge's courtroom were marked by lengthy back room conferences.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Quiet End To A Violent Era: No Mourners Or Eulogies For Little Nicky

Reprinted with permission from Gang Land News

By George Anastasia
Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo checked out quietly.

Nicodemo ScarfoGang Land Exclusive!The remains of the former Philadelphia mob boss were returned to the Philadelphia area shortly after he died in a federal prison hospital in Butner, NC, on Friday, January 13. Scarfo was 87 and had spent the last 30 years of his life behind bars. But details about his burial and final resting place are a mystery. 

No big time mob funeral for the violent Mafia don. No FBI agents snapping pictures outside a funeral home where wiseguys and wannabes line up to pay their final respects. No filigreed coffin carried out of some cathedral while television cameras roll and newspaper photographers snap front page pictures.

And usually reliable sources in the underworld, and law enforcement, are keeping his final resting place a secret from Gang Land. Or perhaps they don't have a clue. One unconfirmed report is that Scarfo was cremated and that any memorial was strictly a small, family affair.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Seth Williams Barred From Union League

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

One night last week, R. Seth Williams, our scandal-plagued District Attorney, stopped by the Union League.

But on this night, Williams, a longtime league member, was denied entry into the French Renaissance mansion built in 1865 that occupies an entire Center City block.

Williams, according to a knowledgable source, was informed that he was no longer considered a member of the private club that bills itself as a "shining jewel of history in a city defined by such treasures." That's because Williams hasn't been paying his bills at the club where dues run about $400 a month, or $4,800 a year.

So Williams left and returned with a $5,000 check. The only problem was, the check, according to the source, was drawn on the D.A.'s political action committee. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the reasons Williams is being investigated by a federal grand jury is for alleged use of political funds to pay personal expenses. Not that Seth spending campaign money at the Union League would necessarily be doing anything illegal.

With an ethical cloud hanging over our D.A., however, the Union League wouldn't take the check. But the FBI is aware of its existence.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Shame Of The City: Rufus Seth Williams, Our Lawless D.A.

D.A. Announces He Won't Run Again AP/Matt Rourke
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Last week, R. Seth Williams, our beleaguered district attorney, gave a brief defense of his time in office as the city's top prosecutor.

"Look, I've made some mistakes," Williams told Inquirer political columnist Chris Brennan. But "I was a great D.A. in terms of what we did internally" to change how the office operates.

Allow me to advance an alternative thesis: Williams did institute some far-reaching changes at the D.A.'s office, but it wasn't for the better. With three big decisions during his eight-year tenure, Williams stepped into the middle of public controversies and placed his own personal political ambitions above the law, with disastrous consequences.

The sins of Seth Williams have put innocent men in jail, and allowed 852 convicted drug dealers and hundreds of domestic abusers and other criminals to go free. The sins of Seth Williams have perverted truth and justice, wreaked havoc upon the citizens he was sworn to protect, and will ultimately cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

D.A.'s Office To Start Charging More Domestic Violence Suspects

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

In an abrupt about-face, the beleaguered District Attorney's Office has decided to start charging more suspects in domestic violence cases, even if the victim declines to make a statement.

The D.A.'s office has been criticized privately by police for years for not following state law in charging suspects in domestic violence cases where the police observe injuries and know who the perpetrator is, with or without a victim's statement.

The D.A.'s about face, laid out in an email and a new policy statement, comes after a tumultuous few weeks where a Newsweek article featured the president of the local Fraternal Order of Police blasting D.A. Seth Williams for refusing to charge "iron-clad" cases.

The hundreds of cases declined by the D.A.'s office for charging included an embarrassing attempted bank robbery, where police caught a suspect inside the bank red-handed trying to break into a vault and tampering with an ATM machine. Even  though the cops had stills from a security camera video showing what the suspect was up to, and a written account of the incident from a bank security official, the D.A.'s office refused to charge the suspect.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Missing In Domestic Abuse Case: "A Chunk Of Her HaIr"

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

The victim, a 36-year-old female, was shaking and crying when the police showed up.

She told the cops she had been arguing with her boyfriend when he "grabbed her and ripped out a chunk of her hair," police records state.

"Police noticed a chunk of hair missing from the center of complainant's head," the records state. So on Nov. 20, 2016, police drove to a home in Germantown where the crime had allegedly occurred and found Corey Richardson, 40, in the upstairs bedroom "along with the chunk of missing hair" thrown on the floor.

The cops arrested Richardson, and submitted an affidavit of probable cause to the D.A.'s office. An open and shut case of domestic violence? Not when D.A. Seth Williams' "Smart on Crime" charging unit is on duty.

 On Nov. 21, 2016, the D.A. declined to prosecute the suspect because the victim had not given a statement. Even though the cops protested that the information contained in the officer's statement was sufficient to charge the suspect.

Richardson, however, a career criminal with a history of violent acts, was never charged for assaulting his girlfriend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Cop Who Took Down The Mob

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

He grew up in North Jersey.

He could have been a wise guy.

Instead, he became a cop.

And spent his career building cases that destroyed the mob.

Read the full story here:
http://jerseymanmagazine.com/taking-down-the-mob/

Did Seth Williams Spend Valentine's Day With The Feds?

AP/Matt Rourke
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Reports and all kinds of rumors swept through the city today regarding Seth Williams and the feds.

The first reports involved the feds allegedly escorting Williams out of the D.A.'s office early this morning. Next, the D.A. was supposedly sighted at the federal courthouse at 6th and Market.

Meanwhile, like a pack of vultures, a crowd of reporters and TV camera crews was gathered outside the D.A.'s office, as if they were expecting some sort of big announcement today as the Seth Williams death watch went into full swing.

D.A.'s Office Under Seth Williams Won't Prosecute Domestic Violence

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

On Nov. 22, 2015, Timothy Cohen, 38, of West Philadelphia, a patron at the Liberty Bar, put a hat on the head of a female bar employee.

Cohen then allegedly used the strings from the hat to strangle the victim “to a point where she could not breathe or scream,” according to a police affidavit of probable cause. 

"She struggled with Cohen," the affidavit says, until he "let go and left the premises." Cohen had also gone on Facebook and made “threatening posts” against the victim, according to the affidavit.

The victim was treated at Penn Presbyterian Hospital later that day for a sprained cervical column. But when the cops sent a probable cause affidavit over to the district attorney's office, the D.A. declined to charge the suspect, citing "insufficient evidence." 

The D.A.'s office told the police they needed to obtain photos of the victim's injuries, a copy of the defendant’s phone records and his voice mails. The D.A.'s office also wanted to know if there were any witnesses at the bar who may have seen the incident.

Cohen, according to police records, was not charged for the assault. 

The district attorney's office declined to discuss the case.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Cops, The D.A., And That South Philly Bank Job


By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Everybody agrees that on the morning of Sept. 30, 2016, the police caught Kenneth D. Dixon, 20, of West Philadelphia, inside a Bank of America branch at 23rd and Oregon in South Philadelphia.

Since Dixon was arrested inside the bank at 7:38 a.m., at a time when the bank was closed, it's safe to assume that Dixon let himself in.

The cops thought Dixon was guilty of burglary. That's because they were notified by bank security before they arrived at the scene of the crime that a suspect had been captured on a video camera "attempting to gain access to the vault” and “tampering’ with an ATM machine, according to police records.

But when the cops tried to get the D.A.'s office to approve an affidavit of probable cause, so that Dixon could be charged with burglary, the district attorney's office turned them down later that day, citing "incomplete discovery” and “insufficient evidence." 

As Deputy District Attorney Michael Barry explained in an interview last week, the cops didn't personally witness Dixon trying to break into the vault or tampering with the ATM. They had only observed Dixon inside the bank at a time when it was closed, so the cops could only testify that Dixon was guilty of trespassing. 

What happened next with the bank job is a bizarre tale of how criminal justice in Philadelphia is carried out under the reign of our now admittedly corrupt District Attorney Seth Williams. This is a guy who would be doing everyone in the city a favor by finishing the job he started on Friday, when he announced he wouldn't seek a third term in a May 16th Democratic primary, by resigning from office today.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Our Corrupt D.A. And Four "Truly Innocent" Men That He Put In Jail

Shame of the city: Our corrupt D.A. Photo: AP/Matt Rourke
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

There was a truly cringe-worthy moment at Seth Williams' teary press conference on Friday where he announced that he wouldn't seek a third term as D.A.

It came when Williams was talking about his many alleged accomplishments in office that included the "enhancement of our Conviction Review Unit."

In case you missed it, the D.A. has an entire squad whose mission is, in Williams' words, "to ensure that we do all that we can to exonerate the truly innocent."

"So that not one Philadelphian spends a day in prison if they shouldn't," Williams said.

Unbelievable words coming from this guy, on this day.

Well, the D.A.'s Conviction Review Unit doesn't have to look far to find the "truly innocent." There are four truly innocent men right now that the D.A.'s squad can get started on exonerating. They can begin with Msgr. William J. Lynn and former Catholic schoolteacher Bernard Shero.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Newsweek: Philly D.A. Declined To Prosecute "Iron-Clad" Cases

By Ralph Cipriano

When the alarm went off inside a closed Bank of America branch in South Philadelphia, a security camera captured a suspect wearing a hoodie “attempting to gain access to the vault” and “tampering’ with an ATM machine, according to police records.

When police responded to a call of a theft in progress at 7:38 a.m. on Sept. 30, 2016, they ordered the suspect, still inside the bank, “to come towards the officers” and open a locked back door. Taken into custody was Kenneth D. Dixon, 20, of West Philadelphia.

As far as the cops were concerned, it was a slam-dunk burglary arrest. But when they sent a probable cause affidavit over to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, the D.A. shocked the cops later that same day by declining to charge the suspect.

The rest of the story can be read here.


D.A. Seth Williams Not Running For Reelection

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

District Attorney R. Seth Williams is expected to announce this morning that he will not run for reelection.

The city's first African American District Attorney, elected in 2009, will say that he's decided not to run for a third-term in the May primary against five already declared opponents, with probably more on the way.

The D.A. has called a 10 a.m. press conference at his office to make an "important announcement." Several sources have confirmed that's he's going to say that he's not running. And that Williams is trying to get out ahead of a possible federal indictment that may be coming in the next two weeks.

Video of the Williams press conference from 6ABC can be seen here.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Did A Sex Scandal Force Police Watchdog Kelvyn Anderson Out?

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

He gained a reputation as a reformer and a watchdog while investigating allegations of police misconduct. But did his own misconduct, in the form of an alleged sex scandal, force Kelyvn Anderson out of office?

Anderson, the executive director of Police Advisory Commission, which investigates allegations of police misconduct, resigned last week.

His departure was first reported on Feb. 2 by  newsworks.org. In the story, where Anderson was hailed as a "longtime reformer," he explained that he was "leaving to pursue opportunities for consulting around police and community issues."

Later that same day, Anderson told The Philadelphia Inquirer that a recent executive order from Mayor Jim Kenney broadening the commission's duties had provided "the right opportunity for a new leader to step in," the newspaper reported.

But knowledgable sources tell a different story --- that Anderson's departure from office was proceeded by an investigation of the Police Department's Special Victims Unit. An investigation into allegations that Anderson had a sexual relationship with a woman who was appealing a police misconduct case against officers in the Northeast Detectives Division.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Jury: Farnese, Chapman Not Guilty On All 13 Counts

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment . . .
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

The government saw an international bribery conspiracy in a $6,000 scholarship that state Senator Larry Farnese arranged for the daughter of a Democratic committee woman who wanted to study abroad in Central Asia.

But a jury didn't see it that way. After a week-long trial, a jury today found Farnese and Ellen Chapman, the Democratic committee woman who was Farnese's co-defendant, not guilty on all 13 charges in an overblown federal indictment that alleged conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, as well as violations of the U.S. Travel Act.

For Farnese, it was the end of a 14-month ordeal that began with a grand jury investigation. The news that the FBI was snooping around Farnese's 2011 election as ward leader hit The Philadelphia Inquirer last April. The federal indictment of Farnese and Chapman was announced a month later.

"I always believed that this day would come," an emotional Farnese said today. "I'm an attorney and an elected official and so I never lost faith in the system. In fact, what happened today just reaffirms my faith in the system."

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Jury Begins Deliberations In Farnese Trial

By George Anastasia
for BigTrial.net

The quid pro quo bribery case against state Senator Lawrence Farnese and Committeewoman Ellen Chapman is now in the hands of a federal jury.

The panel of seven women and five men deliberated for about an hour later this afternoon before retiring for the day. The jurors are scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.

The jury got the case after hearing Judge Cynthia Rufe outline the laws that applied int he 13-count federal indictment pending against the two defendants. Among other things, the judge told the jurors that the events at the heart of the case are not in dispute, but the intentions of the two defendants were.

She said the jury would have to decide whether there was criminal intent.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Closing Arguments In Farnese Snore-Fest

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Four lawyers squared off in a federal courtroom today to rehash the Larry Farnese case in closing arguments that amounted to two hours of tedium.

As previously reported, the government sees a $6,000 study abroad scholarship that the state senator lined up six years ago for the daughter of a Democratic committee woman as a sinister plot. The feds have targeted Farnese and Ellen Chapman, the committee woman he did a favor for, with a 13-count indictment that charges conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as honest services fraud through bribery. The government is also alleging multiple violations of the U.S. Travel Act, for sending Chapman's daughter to Kyrgyzstan as part of that vast criminal conspiracy.

On their end, the defendants' lawyers view the case as Big Brother overstepping his bounds by invading the 8th Ward to criminalize politics as usual. Meanwhile, the constituents of the First Senatorial District, who have seen this movie before, are left to wonder whether their third straight state senator in the past 40 years will soon be heading off to jail.

Friday, January 27, 2017

8th Ward Dems Tell Feds Farnese Didn't Have To Buy Votes

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

A Democratic committeeman from the 8th Ward got his dander up today when a prosecutor asked if state Senator Larry Farnese had offered him money in exchange for his vote to make Farnese ward leader.

"Don't be silly," Sam Hopkins, a 20-year veteran of the ward, yelled at Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis on cross-examination. "It's just not done."

A minute later, Hopkins indignantly asked the prosecutor, "Young man, where are you from?" The prosecutor started to answer before he thought better of it, and shut up.

The defense was putting on its case today in the federal fraud trial of the state senator, which has struck many observers, including the judge, as a possible example of prosecutorial overreach. Farnese is charged with allegedly buying the vote of Ellen Chapman, a Democratic committee woman who is his co-defendant, by lining up a $6,000 scholarship for Chapman's daughter.

In the eyes of the government, that $6,000 scholarship, which came from a political action committee, was a bribe that helped Farnese get elected ward leader. But Farnese's lawyers have characterized the scholarship as a good deed, the type of thing that legislators routinely do for their constituents.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Government Winds Down Pathetic Farnese Corruption Case

Is That All There Is?
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Stephen Huntington is a retired lawyer who, back in 2011, aspired to be the Democratic leader of the city's 8th Ward.

Today, Huntington told a federal jury about the phone call he got from a distraught Democratic committee woman, explaining why she couldn't vote for Huntington as ward leader.

"Ellen was crying," Huntington told the jury. She was "very emotional."

The committee woman, Ellen Chapman, supposedly told Huntington that she was going to vote for  state Senator Larry Farnese as ward leader. Why? Because Farnese was lining up a $6,000 donation so that Chapman's daughter could study abroad.

"I felt sorry for her," Huntington explained about Chapman. "I regarded her as a mother who was concerned about her daughter's education. Who can argue with that?"

The answer to Huntington's question: an army of government prosecutors and FBI agents. They saw in a committee woman's tears and a $6,000 educational loan from a state senator a federal conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud through a bribery scheme. The end result was a 13-count federal indictment and a jury trial where the feds are invading 8th Ward politics. And Chapman and Farnese are both facing jail time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Farnese Jury Asked To Decide Between Bribe Or `Good Deed'

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

It was a lesson in political pragmatism delivered by the defense attorney for beleaguered State Senator Larry Farnese at the opening of Farnese's corruption trial.

You don't pay a bribe with a check, lawyer Mark Sheppard told the U.S. District Court jury that will decide Farnese's fate. And you don't pay a bribe for one vote when you need 30.

"This isn't how bribery is done," Sheppard said. "This isn't how criminals act."

In a brief but pointed opening statement that outlined the defense strategy in the trial, Sheppard asked the jury to use "common sense" in evaluating the charges against his client and co-defendant Ellen Chapman, a Democratic Party ward committeewoman.

The two are charged with conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud in what prosecutors said was a bribery scheme to insure Farnese's election as ward leader in Philadelphia's eighth ward back in 2011. Authorities allege that Farnese donated $6,000 from his campaign fund to help underwrite a study abroad program for Chapman's daughter. In turn, the prosecutors said, Chapman agreed to vote for Farnese in the ward election.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Parallels Between The Church And Penn State Sex Scandals

Aaron Fisher
By John Ziegler
for BigTrial.net

Like most readers of this website, I have been following with great interest the tremendous work by Ralph Cipriano exposing the obvious injustice done in one of the major sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church of Philadelphia. 

I recently interviewed Cipriano for my podcast and wrote about the “Billy Doe” case for Dan Abrams’ “LawNewz” websiteThe complete lack of follow up on the most recent bombshells in the story by the news media has been outrageous, however, sadly, it has also not been at all surprising to me. 

You see, for over five years now I have effectively been living the same experience as Ralph during my investigation of the so-called “Penn State Scandal” (To be clear, I have no connection to the school and now actually have disdain for the university for how it has actively promoted a horrendous lie in this matter).  

These two stories have an enormous number of elements in common. One of the most important is that the news media is so completely invested in their original narrative that they can’t bring themselves to even seriously consider that they completely blew each of the cases, even as the evidence piles up that it is obvious that they did.

Farnese Trial: Penny Ante Politics Or Political Corruption?

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

Based on the "standards" set for corruption in Pennsylvania's First Senate District, the case against Larry Farnese seems penny ante at best.

Nevertheless, the 48-year-old South Philadelphia state senator begins the fight for his political life today, trying to refute the charge that he donated $6,000 in campaign funds to a college in order to convince a committeewoman to vote for him in a ward leader election that he won unanimously.

Jury selection began today before U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Rufe. The trial is expected to last about a week.

Farnese holds the same senate seat that once belonged to Henry J. (Buddy) Cianfrani, the quintessential political wheeler-dealer who was convicted of padding his senate payroll with ghost employees. After Buddy there was Vincent Fumo whose political career ended when he was buried under a 137-count corruption conviction built around allegations of influence peddling and millions of dollars in misspent or misdirected cash.

 

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