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.

 

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