Sunday, November 11, 2018

What's PSU President Barron Hiding? Big Trial Knows!

By Ralph Cipriano

The plane that flew over Beaver Stadium towed a banner that said -- "PRES BARRON: WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? RELEASE THE REPORT!"

Former Penn State Trustee Anthony Lubrano took to the skies last month in his campaign to get Penn State President Eric Barron to release the findings of an investigation into the so called "source materials" for the Louis Freeh Report on the Penn State sex scandal. The investigation into the Freeh Report, done by a minority group of trustees, was buried by the majority on the PSU board as part of an ongoing coverup of epic proportions, aided by an astounding lack of curiosity on the part of the mainstream media.

As to what PSU is hiding, Big Trial's readers already know because this past summer, we printed many of the big secrets contained in those confidential source materials. What are they hiding? That the Freeh Report was filled with faulty opinions dressed up as facts; that Freeh had a conflict of interest; and that Freeh's investigators colluded with former deputy attorney general Frank Fina to repeatedly violate state grand jury secrecy laws, contaminating both probes. And that's just for starters.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Newsweek: D.A. Broke The Law On Plea Bargains In Murder Cases

You have to dig deep into Newsweek's profile of Philly D.A. Larry Krasner to find it, but reporter Steve Volk documents how Krasner  trampled on the rights of the families of murder victims in three homicide cases.

Volk talks to the families of three murder victims who weren't notified, as required by state law, when Krasner struck plea bargains with the killers of their loved ones, resulting in lesser charges and reduced sentences. In the story, Krasner, continuing to prove, as one prosecutor memorably put it, that he "doesn't give a fuck about victims," dismisses those violations as "growing pains." But Volk repeatedly asks the D.A., "Whose side are you on?"

The story can be read here.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Return Of Vincenzo

Former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo will be the featured guest Thursday Nov. 8th at the Parkway Central Library at 1901 Vine Street.

Fumo will be discussing Target: The Senator; A Story About Power And Abuse of Power, available on Amazon. The  biography of Fumo, published last November, was written by Ralph Cipriano of, who will introduce the senator.

The event, which is free, is scheduled to run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Room 108 of the Parkway Central Library, sponsored by the Social Science and History Department.

Advanced registration is recommended by signing up here. For any questions, please call the Social Science and History Department at 215-686-5396.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Old Notes Show That 'Billy Doe' Only Wanted $$$, But D.A. Hid Evidence

By Ralph Cipriano

He wasn't interested in sending anyone to jail; all he wanted was cash.

In February 2009, nearly a full year before he met with the Philadelphia District Attorney's office to press criminal charges, Danny Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," the "lying, scheming altar boy," told a social worker for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that "He has been talking to lawyers," and if "he gets money," he "does not want to press charges."

It was the kind of exculpatory evidence that would have made the district attorney's star witness look like he wasn't out for justice, he just wanted to get paid. The kind of exculpatory evidence that defense lawyers, had they known about it, would have used on cross-examination to question Gallagher's motives and impeach his credibility.

So what did the D.A.'s office do with that exculpatory evidence? Simple; they just buried it.

In yet another blatant example of calculated prosecutorial misconduct under former D.A. Seth Williams, those seven pages of notes from a couple of social workers were never turned over to defense lawyers. Nine years later, however, the notes have mysteriously reappeared, a copy of which was generously supplied to Big Trial. Expect those notes to be an issue in the retrial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, scheduled for some time next year.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Mobsters And Music

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia will be telling some vintage mob stories while the Rowan Jazz Band plays music that mobsters love.

It's the first-ever "Jazz and Organized Crime" concert being presented at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1st, at the Pfleeger Concert Hall at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.

Anastasia covered the mob for The Philadelphia Inquirer for 35 years, he's also the author of ten books, a journalism professor at Rowan, a staff writer for, and lately, a talking head on the History Channel.

The Rowan Band will be lead by director Denis DiBlasio. Tickets are $5 and $10 and can be purchased online at The event is sponsored by Rowan's College of Performing Arts, College of Communications and Creative Arts, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Sad Story Of Sonny D, The Mob, And Some Missing $Millions

By Ralph Cipriano and George Anastasia

As president and CEO of the gigantic Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, Sonny DiCrecchio, AKA "Sonny D," was always doing good deeds for those in need. Like sending a boy stricken with cancer to the Super Bowl. Or taking 135 homeless kids from a shelter out on a shopping spree to buy Christmas presents.

"A Person Never Stands So Tall As When They Kneel To Help A Child -- Sonny D." That's the quote that volunteers wore on the backs of their matching purple jerseys when they chaperoned the annual "Sonny D's Holliday Shopping Party," sponsored by Sonny and his wife, Michelle.

"It's beautiful what Sonny and Michelle do for the children,"said Karen Patton-Faucett, assistant director of Stenton Family Manor, a shelter for families, during a 2016 tribute video to Sonny D posted on Over the years, the scores of volunteers who flocked to Sonny D's annual shopping party to help homeless kids pick out presents and wrap them included then-Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb.

But they may have to cancel the party this year. A woman who answered the phone at the produce market said that Sonny D "resigned" suddenly on Aug. 15th, and left without leaving much forwarding information. Meanwhile, a forensic accountant is digging through the market's financial records, searching for missing money that's said to be between $3 million and $5 million. The FBI is on the case; agents interviewed Sonny D voluntarily for three days, without benefit of a lawyer. As a result, multiple sources say, Sonny's in big trouble. Instead of a do-gooder, the feds see DiCrecchio as a con artist who was doing business with shady characters and financing his good deeds with stolen money.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Did Brett Kavanaugh Grope Christine Ford?

By Mark Pendergrast
As we all know now, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford has come forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when she was 15 and he was a 17-year-old student at Georgetown Prep.  

During a party, he allegedly lured her to an upstairs room and pinned her down on a bed, clumsily trying to pull off her clothes and bathing suit. When she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth. Only when his friend Mark Judge fell atop both of them in his own lustful efforts did she manage to escape and run out. The two boys were “stumbling drunk,” as she may have been as well.
This sounds plausible enough, doesn’t it?  Teenage boys sometimes get drunk at parties and attempt to seduce girls. But the fact that these abuse memories arose in therapy 30 years later should make us more skeptical.  Could this be a case of false memories due to the now-debunked theory of repressed memory?  

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Philly's Looming DROP Apocalypse

By Ralph Cipriano

He was the only son of the Big Bambino, but even that couldn't save him from the political firestorm over DROP.

Seven years ago, Frank "Franny" Rizzo Jr. was one of a half-dozen incumbent City Council members who -- under the city's extravagantly generous Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP -- were eligible to "retire" for a day at the end of their terms, collect six-figure cash bonuses, and then, upon winning reelection (and making a quick trip to the bank), go right back to work the next day.

This being Philadelphia, it was all completely legal.

The rest of the story in Philadelphia magazine can be read here.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Should AG's Catholic Grand Jury Report Run On The History Channel?

By Ralph Cipriano

Wading through the state attorney general's thick grand jury report on the Catholic Church is like wandering through a graveyard.

Of the 250 or so accused predator priests whose alleged perverted exploits are chronicled in 1,356 pages, I counted at least 117 confirmed dead bodies. Another 13 of these ancient men of the cloth who were born before 1940 had the dates of their deaths listed in the report as "unknown."

Some of these codgers were born back in the 1920s; the birthday of the most ancient alleged pervert was way back in 1896, seven years before the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane.

The most ancient predator priest whose death could be confirmed was born in 1869, four years after the Civil War ended. Another alleged predator priest laid out in the report had been dead since 1950, before Eisenhower was president. The crimes these priests allegedly committed against children in six dioceses around the state were from the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. One alleged victim, identified as Bob from Reading, was 83.

Was this really news? Or something that should have run on the History Channel?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Easy Money In The Sandusky Case; Penn State Not Minding The Store

By Ralph Cipriano

On Oct. 1, 2014, Brett Swisher-Houtz, "Victim No. 4" in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case was called to testify as a witness in a civil case.

In Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Penn State University was being sued by its own insurance carrier. The Pennsylvania Manufacturer's Association had taken issue with the large multimillion payouts the university was awarding to 36 young men like Victim No. 4, payments to date that have totaled $118 million.

Steven J. Engelmyer, the lawyer representing Penn State's insurance carrier, had a simple question for Swisher-Houtz, who just a year earlier, on Sept. 12, 2013, had collected a confidential settlement from Penn State of $7.25 million.

“Has anybody from Penn State ever spoken to you?" the lawyer wanted to know.

“Not that I’m aware of,” the witness replied.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

What Conflict, Judge Says

By Ralph Cipriano

After a lengthy examination of his own conscience, State Superior Court Judge Victor P. Stabile has concluded that he doesn't have a conflict of interest with former Penn State President Graham Spanier.

And so yesterday, the judge in a one-sentence order denied a petition by Spanier's lawyers for recusal.

In June, Judge Stabile was the author of a 2-1 Superior Court decision that upheld Spanier's conviction last year on one count of child endangerment in connection with the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Spanier's lawyers had filed the motion for recusal, saying that years before he was a judge, Stabile had testified in a civil case filed against Spanier and Penn State over the fate of the Dickinson School of Law. At the time, Stabile was a graduate of DSL and a member of its alumni association who was  opposed to Spanier and Penn State's plan in 2003 to relocate the law school from Carlisle to State College.

In his order issued yesterday, Stabile stated that Spanier's application for the judge's recusal and request for a re-argument on Spanier's appeal before a new panel of state Superior Court judges or the entire court was "DENIED."

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Slime-Fest At The D-Board

By Ralph Cipriano

To make his closing argument today on behalf of Frank Fina in an ethics case, lawyer Joseph McGettigan sunk to the occasion by applying a fresh coast of slime to many of his client's perceived enemies.

At the end of a three-day hearing before the state Supreme Court's disciplinary board, McGettigan started out by attacking the  investigation of Fina as "dishonorable and shameful."

The disciplinary board, McGettigan said, had gone out of its way to "smear a man and mischaracterize his honorable conduct."

McGettigan was just warming up. By the time he sat down, he had implied that the two women who filed the original ethics complaint against Fina were Penn State "truthers" possibly acting in consort with lawyers for any or all of five criminals that crime-buster Fina had previously put away. McGettigan also attacked the disciplinary board's counsel for supposedly siding with those "five convicted criminals" in a campaign to "defame, denigrate and criticize a hard-working public servant."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

What's Skinny Joey Doing Hanging With Robert De Niro?

In the latest edition of Mob Talk Sitdown, veteran crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser talk about the latest rumors concerning upcoming federal indictments, and why former mob boss Joey Merlino had a steak dinner in New York City with Robert De Niro.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Spanier Seeks Recusal Of Judge For Undisclosed Conflict

By Ralph Cipriano

Lawyers for Graham Spanier have called on the state Superior Court judge who wrote the June 26th opinion upholding the former Penn State president's conviction on one count of endangering the welfare of a child to recuse himself from the case because of an undisclosed conflict of interest.

In a 16-page application for recusal filed yesterday, Spanier's lawyers argue that state Superior Court Judge Victor P. Stabile should disqualify himself because he previously testified in a lawsuit against Penn State and Spanier, and also attacked Spanier in an old email as an "emperor" in "new clothes."

In the application for recusal, Spanier's lawyers seek the vacating of the Superior Court's decision upholding Spanier's conviction, and a chance to reargue their appeal before a new panel of judges, or the entire Superior Court.

Monday, July 2, 2018

'CLOSE HOLD -- Important' -- It's Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina On The Line, Ready To Spill More Grand Jury Secrets

By Ralph Cipriano

The night before former Penn State University President Graham Spanier was going to be arrested, Spanier didn't know about it, and neither did his lawyers.

But Gregory Paw, a senior investigator for the Louis Freeh Group did, thanks to a tip from then Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina.

On Oct. 31, 2012, Paw sent an email to the Freeh Group, which had conducted a separate $8.3 million investigation of the Penn State scandal. 

The subject of Paw's email: "CLOSE HOLD -- Important."

"PLEASE HOLD VERY CLOSE," Paw wrote his colleagues at the Freeh Group. "[Deputy Attorney General Frank] Fina called tonight to tell me that Spanier is to be arrested tomorrow, and [former Penn State Athletic Director Tim] Curley and [former Penn State Vice President for business and finance Gary] Schultz re-arrested, on charges of obstruction of justice and related charges . . . Spanier does not know this information yet, and his lawyers will be advised about an hour before the charges are announced tomorrow."

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Meek Mill Judge: D.A. Abdicated His Responsibility

By Ralph Cipriano

A judge last week blasted District Attorney Larry Krasner for not doing his homework in the Meek Mill case.

According to an alarming 47-page order and opinion issued by Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley, in jumping on the bandwagon to free Meek Mill, the office now run by Progressive Larry was "abdicating its responsibility to conduct a review of this case."

Progressive Larry was already down with the plan to let the rapper out of jail, vacate his prior conviction and grant him a new trial. But the judge wrote that she remained "unconvinced" that Mill's conviction should be overturned "considering the obvious lack of investigation and review" emanating from the D.A.'s office. So the judge denied the newly freed rapper's request for a new trial.

According to the judge's order and opinion, when Progressive Larry latches onto a cause, as in the Meek Mill case, he doesn't let logic or facts, or the duties of his office, get in the way of his emotions. And he didn't let the appearance of a conflict of interest bother him either.

In her order and opinion, the judge gave citizens a frightening look at the assembly line justice now being run out of the public defender's office, where, with the full cooperation of the D.A., hundreds of criminals are getting free passes out of jail. It's law enforcement progressive-style, where the goal is to free as many felons as possible, so they can imperil the rest of us.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Confidential Internal Review At PSU Shreds Louis Freeh Report

By Ralph Cipriano

A confidential internal review of the Louis Freeh Report on the Penn State sex abuse scandal, conducted by the university's own trustees, found factual mistakes, "deeply flawed" methodology, and faulty  opinions that Freeh's own staffers took issue with, in writing.

The trustees also accused Freeh of having a conflict of interest in his dealings with the NCAA.

It was the Freeh Report that the NCAA relied upon in 2012 to impose draconian sanctions on Penn State, including a $60 million fine, a bowl game ban that lasted two years,  the loss of 170 athletic scholarships and the elimination of 111 of Joe Paterno's wins, although the wins were subsequently restored.

On Friday, a group of 11 trustees called on the full 38-member board to release the full 200-page critique of the 267-page Freeh Report, formally renounce Freeh's findings, and try to recoup some of the $8.3 million that the university paid Freeh.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

As His Case Heads For Retrial, Msgr. Lynn Holds A Trump Card

By Ralph Cipriano

The state Superior Court today cleared the way for a retrial of Msgr. William J. Lynn by rejecting an appeal to toss the case against him because of intentional prosecutorial misconduct and double jeopardy.

The monsignor, however, did score one legal victory. In a separate decision, the Superior Court ruled in Lynn's favor to limit the number of supplemental cases of sex abuse that can be introduced as evidence at a retrial, to show a pattern spanning decades of covering up sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The Superior Court's two opinions issued today mean that both sides can proceed with the sequel in their long-running grudge match, once again starring Detective Joe Walsh. Only this time around, Walsh, the D.A.'s former ace lead detective on the case, will be testifying on behalf of the defendant, about prosecutorial misconduct in the D.A.'s office.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bad Rufus & Billy Doe Come Back to Haunt Graham Spanier

By Ralph Cipriano

The state Superior Court, in a split, 2-1 decision, yesterday denied an appeal by Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State University, who was seeking to overturn his conviction last year on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child.

In denying Spanier's appeal, the state Superior Court repeatedly cited the Commonwealth v. Lynn a total of 34 times in 29 pages, as in the case against Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

In the Pennsylvania courts, the Commonwealth v. Lynn now stands as legal precedent. In real life, however,  the case is a scandalous embarrassment to law enforcement, as it involves a fake victim, "Billy Doe," AKA Danny Gallagher, dubbed the "lying, scheming altar boy" in a cover story by Newsweek. And the unscrupulous prosecutor who put Gallagher on the stand is another embarrassment to law enforcement -- a corrupt former district attorney named Rufus Seth Williams who's now wearing a jump suit and sitting in a federal prison.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Amid Smirks And Mocking, An Ethics Expert Rips Frank Fina

By Ralph Cipriano
The Fox Hunting The Fina

Frank Fina did a slow burn today as a lawyer for the state Supreme Court's disciplinary board and an ethics expert wearing a bow tie took turns attacking Fina as an unethical, and overzealous prosecutor who trampled on the constitutional rights of his targets.

"This is a straight-forward case," Amelia C. Kittredge, counsel to the disciplinary board, told a panel of three lawyers who will decide whether Fina, the lead prosecutor in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, should be disciplined or disbarred for misconduct during that secret grand jury investigation.

Frank Fina, Kittredge said, "deliberately and recklessly" violated the attorney-client privilege. It happened in 2012, when Fina questioned former Penn State counsel Cynthia Baldwin before a grand jury about confidential information involving three of her former clients who were once top officials at Penn State.

A prosecutor is not only supposed to be an advocate, Kittredge said, but he's also supposed to be a "minister of justice." But Frank Fina, she said, was an unethical lawyer who broke the most "sacred privilege" in the legal world, namely the attorney-client privilege.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A System of Justice 'Systematically Destroyed'

By Ralph Cipriano

Lawrence J. Fox, a longtime Philadelphia lawyer who's a visiting lecturer at the Yale Law School, is an expert on teaching legal ethics and professional responsibility.

And Fox has harsh words for the conduct of former Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor in the Jerry Sandusky case, as well as for Cynthia Baldwin, the former Penn State counsel who represented three top Penn State officials before the grand jury investigating Sandusky. That was before Baldwin flipped, at the behest of Fina, to become a prosecution witness, and testify against her former clients, an act of betrayal that horrified Fox.

"When lawyers feign representation, but in fact abandon their clients, and worse yet, become instrumentalities of the state, aiding the prosecution of their clients, the entire system of justice is systematically destroyed," Fox wrote in a 2013 filing recently unsealed in Dauphin County Common Pleas Court.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Mayor Kenney's Song And Dance Routine Goes Viral

Mayor Jim Kenney's impromptu song and dance routine over a recent court victory that upheld the city's status as a sanctuary city is getting panned by conservative critics.

A White House spokesman described the mayor's soft-shoe number as "disgusting."

A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate said it was a "sad video to watch."

A co-host on Fox & Friends wondered what the parents of children slain by illegal aliens would make of it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Inky Reporter Scoops D.A.'s Detectives

The D.A.'s Detectives

By Ralph Cipriano

Months ago, our new D.A., Progressive Larry Krasner, dispatched his crack detectives to find the family of murder victim Antwine Jackson, an 18 year-old man shot to death back in 2007.

Progressive Larry allegedly wanted to tell the Jackson family that as part of his historic reform of the criminal justice system, he was planning to let their loved one's convicted killer out of jail, despite a life sentence, and without having to go through the bother of a new trial.

According to Ben Waxman, the D.A.'s spokesman, in the search for Jackson's family, the D.A.'s gumshoes spared no effort. They knocked on the doors of at least four different addresses, they sent out emails, they even mailed letters to the Jackson family through the usually reliable U.S. Post Office. But for months, despite all those efforts, the Jackson family somehow managed to elude the D.A.'s dragnet.

How Much Will Legalized Sports Gambling Hurt The Mob?

New Jersey's going to have legalized sports betting in a matter of weeks; Pennsylvania, in a matter of months.

With the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for sports gambling everywhere, reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser examine the impact the loss of gambling revenues will have on the mob. First, the government stole the numbers racket, and now this.

Just remember, when you place bets with your bookie, you don't have to pay taxes.

It's the latest edition of Mob Talk SitDown.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Detective Files Civil Rights Suit Against D.A.

By Ralph Cipriano

On May 14, 2015, FBI Agent Vicki Humpheys, accompanied by an IRS agent, approached Pierre Gomez, a detective formerly assigned to the security detail of then-D.A. Rufus Seth Williams, and asked if Gomez was willing to cooperate in a federal corruption investigation of his boss.

Gomez's answer was yes. His reward, he claimed in a civil rights lawsuit filed today against the city, was to be repeatedly retaliated against by his superiors in the D.A.'s office.

The day after the FBI buttonholed him, Gomez's lawsuit charged, he was questioned by his bosses at the D.A.'s office about what he told the feds. Weeks later, an investigator who claimed he'd been hired by D.A. Williams's lawyers called and advised Gomez that the city "could make it good" if he stayed loyal to Williams.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court seeks "in excess of $200,000" in damages, and names as defendants the city of Philadelphia, new D.A. Larry Krasner, former Chief of County Detectives Claude Thomas, and Detective Kenyatta Lee.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

'Reform' D.A. Trashes Prosecutor; Lets Convicted Killer Go Free

By Ralph Cipriano

Today, at the request of the D.A.'s office, a judge let a convicted murderer go free. Along the way, the D.A. gratuitously smeared the reputation of a former prosecutor who hadn't even been formally accused of misconduct.

It was all in a day's work for Progressive Larry Krasner, the new D.A. financed by $1.6 million of George Soros's money.

Richard Sax, the former prosecutor targeted in court, said afterwards that he applauded Krasner for being that "rare breed of politician" who keeps his campaign promises. Sadly, Sax said, the campaign promise that Krasner was keeping involved "emptying the jails."

"I just didn't think he [Krasner] would include murderers," Sax said.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Progressive D.A. Larry K. Loses It With Former Prosecutor

Philadelphia Inquirer/Jessica Griffin
By Ralph Cipriano

On the 18th floor of the D.A.'s office, Richard Sax, a retired homicide prosecutor, was talking behind closed doors with Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington.

On Wednesday afternoon, Blessington had summoned Sax to his office to seek his help in fighting the appeal of a third-degree murder conviction. A jury in 2013 found Steven Miller, 22, guilty of shooting to death Maurice Kimble, an unarmed 24-year-old man, outside a restaurant at the Piazza in Northern Liberties, in front of numerous witnesses. Sax, the original prosecutor in the case, had volunteered to testify on behalf of the Commonwealth's efforts to keep Miller in jail. But not everybody was on board with Sax's attempts to help out.

Just minutes into their discussion, Blessington and Sax were startled by a loud banging on the door. Before ADA Blessingon could even say "Come in," a red-faced District Attorney Larry Krasner barged inside, accompanied by at least four armed members of the D.A.'s security detail, with more on the way.

"He lost it," Sax said about the D.A. "He was spitting fire. He was shaking . . . He was pounding on the door like a storm trooper. He brought his entire posse."

"I was only trying to help," Sax said. But instead, he said, he found himself locked in a face-to-face confrontation with a "mean-spirited" Larry Krasner.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Harvey Silverglate's Foreword To Target: The Senator

Editor's Note: Harvey A. Silverglate is a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, and the author of the 2009 classic, Three Felonies A Day; How the Feds Target the Innocent.

By Harvey A. Silverglate

My criminal defense and civil liberties law practice, spanning half a century, has exposed me to several shockingly broad gaps in American life between appearance and reality. 

No gap, in my experience, has been broader than that between the commonly accepted reputation of federal criminal justice and the sordid realities of how the United States Department of Justice, often with the connivance of the federal judiciary, dispenses justice.

A disproportionate number of federal trial and appellate court judges are former prosecutors, and so there is an uncomfortable amount of symbiosis between the Justice Department and the bench. The number and variety of innocent people railroaded by the system would be sufficient to undermine any semblance of public confidence in federal criminal justice if the public understood the details of these cases.

Ralph Cipriano has now taken a giant step in this educational (and muckraking) endeavor. He has written a book describing in often dramatic detail the trials and tribulations of longtime Pennsylvania state Senator (and one-time unchallenged legislative powerhouse) Vincent J. Fumo. Cipriano’s contribution to our understanding is how the system worksand how it enhances the career prospects and power of federal prosecutors while mercilessly, and too often falsely, destroying the lives and careers of the targets. Target: The Senator; A Story About Power and Abuse of Power, is a worthy successor to my own effort to pull open the proverbial wizard’s curtain in the Land of Oz and expose the not-so-obvious manipulations being performed.

On Tour With The Original Gangster

Courtroom sketch by Susan Schary
From Target: The Senator, Chapter One

By Ralph Cipriano

In the back of a prison bus, a U.S. marshal was sitting in a steel cage, armed with a shotgun. He was watching over forty men dressed in blue paper jumpsuits and shackled in handcuffs, belly chains, and leg irons.

Most of the inmates were tattooed young drug dealers with buzz cuts and shaved heads. The oldest guy on the bus, however, looked like somebody’s hippie uncle with his scruffy mop of silver hair and the full white beard he had sprouted in prison. Fellow prisoners called him “Pops,” “Daddy-O,” and “OG,” as in the “Original Gangster.”

As the bus rumbled over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, many young drug dealers were catnapping in their seats. The OG, however, was peering through security bars and tinted windows at a skyline that reflected the glory of a past life.

They used to call him “The Senator.” In the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania, mayors and governors came and went. But from his stronghold in the Pennsylvania Senate, where he held the purse strings to the state budget, Vincent J. Fumo reigned for nearly a generation as a power broker.

Monday, April 30, 2018

An Offer He Couldn't Refuse

In the latest episode of Mob Talk SitDown, George Anastasia and Dave Schratweiser discuss why Skinny Joey Merlino decided last week to cop a plea in New York.

The two ace crime reporters also discuss a couple of pending federal investigations into gambling and drugs, and what it means for the Philadelphia mob.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

'She Knew He Was Gonna Lie'

By Ralph Cipriano

A lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn told a panel of state appeal court judges today that former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen knowingly put a witness on the stand that the lead detective in the case had repeatedly warned her was not truthful.

"She knew he was gonna lie," Thomas A. Bergstrom said about Sorensen and her star witness, Danny Gallagher, the lying, scheming altar boy.

Bergstrom accused the D.A.'s office of taking an "Alice in Wonderland" approach to the archdiocese sex abuse case. First, back in 2011, they indicted Msgr. Lynn, three priests, and a Catholic schoolteacher. Then, they asked Joe Walsh, their "hand-picked detective," to investigate the case, to see if Gallagher's allegations were true, Bergstrom told a panel of three state Superior Court judges. And what did the detective discover? That their "one and only witness is lying," Bergstrom said, referring again to Gallagher.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Prosecutor's 'Lost' Notes And The Trail Of Deception Behind It

Former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen [right]
By Ralph Cipriano

As Desi Arnaz used to say on the old I Love Lucy show, "Luuucyyy, you got some 'splainin to do!"

Now reprising the role of Lucy: former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen.

Court records show that defense lawyers in the "Billy Doe" sex abuse case had repeatedly sought Sorensen's long-lost notes from her initial interview eight years ago with the lying, scheming altar boy whose real name is Danny Gallagher. In three different courtrooms, in front of three different judges, three different prosecutors from the D.A.'s office, including Sorensen, have repeatedly stated that those notes didn't exist. But then, after a gap of eight years, those notes mysteriously reappeared last month, and somebody was kind enough to drop a copy on

The notes, a glaring example of prosecutorial misconduct, are relevant again. That's because the D.A.'s office, under the reform leadership of Progressive Larry Krasner, is proceeding with a planned retrial of Msgr. William J. Lynn. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy is accused of endangering the welfare of a child, Gallagher, by allegedly placing him in harm's way of a predator priest. But today we know that Gallagher previously admitted to Detective Joe Walsh, the lead detective on the case who filed a 12-page sworn affidavit, that Gallagher made up his stories of abuse about supposedly being raped by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher.

But the legal show grinds on. Lawyers on both sides of the Msgr. Lynn case are scheduled to appear in state Superior Court on Tuesday morning, to argue appeal motions filed over the planned retrial of the monsignor. The Superior Court has twice already overturned the Lynn verdict; the monsignor's lawyers on Tuesday will be going for the trifecta. At the hearing, expect Lynn's lawyers to brandish Sorensen's long-lost notes, and tell the appeal judges about a continuing pattern of gross prosecutorial misconduct in the case originally championed by former D.A. Rufus Seth Williams, now wearing a jumpsuit in a federal prison in Oklahoma.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Progressive Larry Krasner Legalizes Prostitution In Philadelphia

By Ralph Cipriano

In Philadelphia, under our new D.A., Progressive Larry Krasner, it's now basically legal to be a prostitute, providing you're just getting started.

Under new policies announced on Feb. 15th by Krasner, his assistant D.A.s are being told "do not charge prostitution cases against sex workers where a person who has been arrested has two, one, or no prostitution convictions." In the case of a novice hooker, ADAs are instructed to "withdraw all pending cases in these categories that would be declined for charging under this policy."

But if a person has "three or more prostitution convictions," then an individual can be "charged with prostitution and immediately referred to DAWN Court," the new rules state. It's enough to make you wonder what Larry Krasner has against old hookers.

Other offenses that ADAs are being told to decline charging include possession of marijuana "regardless of weight," and paraphernalia offenses "where the drug involved is marijuana."

A former prosecutor who read the new policies described them as "agenda driven," adding, "He [Krasner] is very naive and obviously he's someone who has zero experience dealing with crime victims and the effects of crime." Another former prosecutor was even more blunt: "He doesn't give a fuck about victims."

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Prosecutor's 'Lost' Notes And The Pack Of Lies She Wrote

By Ralph Cipriano

On Jan. 28, 2010, Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen and Detective Drew Snyder met behind closed doors at the D.A.'s office with Danny Gallagher, to hear for the first time his tearful tales of abuse.

Snyder had just bailed Gallagher out of Graterford Prison, where he was being held on a probation violation. Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," the lying, scheming altar boy, was a third-rate con man with a rap sheet that included a half-dozen arrests for retail theft and drugs, including one bust for possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin. He was just a junkie hustler trying to figure out a way to stay out of jail, and maybe score some easy cash.

So Gallagher told his stories to the prosecutor and the detective. Eight years later, we know those stories were all lies. But eight years ago, the facts didn't matter because prosecutor Sorensen was an ideologue on a mission, out to get the Catholic Church at any cost. And Detective Snyder, who usually investigated insurance fraud, apparently was in over his head.

Behind closed doors, the third-rate conman peddled an improbable story about a helpless altar boy being passed around by three brazen rapists, who were all conspiring with each other. And a couple of chumps named Sorensen and Snyder bought one lie after another, without doing any investigating. When they got finished, Sorensen wrote eleven of Danny Gallagher's outright lies, and a dozen of her own, into the 2011 grand jury report that indicted three priests and a school teacher for rape, as well as a monsignor, for endangering the welfare of children.

As Sorensen noted in that grand jury report, "These are sordid, shocking acts." She could have been talking about the crimes she committed against truth.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Prosecutor's Missing Notes About "Billy Doe" Mysteriously Reappear

Former ADA Mariana "You're Killing My Case" Sorensen
By Ralph Cipriano

Eight years ago, former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen conducted the first interview with Danny Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," right after a detective bailed the former  altar boy out of jail, so he could assume the staring role in a witch hunt about to be staged against the Catholic Church.

But according to the D.A.'s office, Sorensen took no notes on Jan. 28, 2010, when she and Detective Drew Snyder interviewed Gallagher, along with his parents, at the D.A.'s office. According to what the D.A.'s office represented at two criminal trials, in front of at least three different judges, the only notes that existed from that initial interview with Gallagher were three pages of notes typed up by Detective Snyder.

Eight years later, seven pages of typed notes by Sorensen from that initial interview with Gallagher have mysteriously reappeared, a copy of which was sent to BigTrial. Defense lawyers in the case say those notes should have been turned over at two criminal trials, where three priests and a former schoolteacher were sent to jail for the alleged repeated rapes of Danny Gallagher. It's the latest episode of prosecutorial misconduct in a case replete with it, a case that's headed for a final chapter later this year when a new D.A., Progressive Larry Krasner, plans to retry Msgr. William J. Lynn, the lead defendant, on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Skinny Joey Vs. The Feds: Headed For A Rematch

In the latest episode of Mob Talk Sitdown, veteran crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser do some forecasting on whether reputed Philadelphia mob boss "Skinny Joey" Merlino faces a rematch with the feds, in the aftermath of his mistrial in Manhattan.

The odds are that he does, Anastasia says.

That's because the numbers both reporters are hearing from the secret jury deliberations in the big East Coast mob trial in federal court strongly favor the government.

So let's get ready to do it again. In the meantime, tune in to the latest episode of Mob Talk Sitdown.

Thomas Capano and the Murder of Anne Marie Fahey

By George Anastasia

He was a wealthy and politically connected lawyer, an arrogant and self-assured mover and shaker in Wilmington and throughout the state of Delaware.

She was a young, attractive appointment secretary to the governor.

At one time they were lovers.

She broke it off. He wanted her back.

When she balked, he killed her.

In many ways Tom Capano was more despicable than any mobster I have ever written about.

The Summer Wind is the story of that tragic love affair and senseless murder.

Now available as an ebook.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Billy In Philly -- Recalling Billy Graham's 1992 Philadelphia Crusade

By Ralph Cipriano

America's most famous preacher was tall, 6-foot-3, with a regal mane of silver hair and bright blue eyes. And he seemed frail and unsteady as he walked across the spongy Astroturf at old Veterans Stadium.

Twenty-six years ago, I was standing in line to meet Billy Graham, who was about to launch a historic five-day crusade at the Vet.

I was a 38-year-old reporter  for The Philadelphia Inquirer who had wound up on the religion beat as a fluke. And I was not all that thrilled about meeting Richard Nixon's favorite preacher. But in person, the 73 year-old evangelist disarmed me by how gracious he was.

When it was my turn to greet him, Billy grabbed my hand, held it, and thanked me for all the wonderful stories I had written about him. I wondered if he was kidding, but he seemed so sincere about it, and went out of his way to be kind.

“Why I never knew you were so young and so handsome,” Billy gushed. Ok, he may have been a bit corny, but one on one, this world-famous celebrity would much rather talk about you than himself. I was struck by his humility. He made me wish I’d been kinder to him in print.

Mob Talk Sitdown: A Mistrial In The Merlino Case

In the latest episode of Mob Talk Sitdown, veteran crime journalists George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser have the latest on Philadelphia Mob Boss Joey Merlino.

He dodged another bullet in federal court on Tuesday when a jury failed to reach a verdict on gambling and healthcare fraud charges after a three-week trial. A mistrial was declared. So where does that leave the 55-year-old gangster?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Joey Merlino Rolls the Dice

By George Anastasia

Same game.

Different venue.

Philadelphia's only celebrity gangster, Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, goes on trial this week in federal court in Manhattan for racketeering and conspiracy charges that could land him in jail or a good part of the rest of his life.

He's been there before.

But this time the stakes seem even higher.

The rest of the story can be read HERE.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

How Vince Fumo Saved The Eagles From Moving To Phoenix

From Target: The Senator;
A Story About Power And Abuse of Power

By Ralph Cipriano

Motorcycle cops in South Miami were stopping traffic at every intersection, to let a long black limousine go by without having to brake for any red lights.

Inside the limo, Leonard Tose, the flamboyant big spender who owned the Philadelphia Eagles, was on the way to his super box at the Orange Bowl.

On the afternoon of November 11, 1984, the Eagles were playing the Miami Dolphins. And riding in the back of the limo along with Tose and his daughter, Susan Fletcher, were their VIP guests: Pennsylvania Senator Vincent J. Fumo and his fifteen-year-old son, Vincent E. Fumo II.

The Eagles owner had invited the senator to the game because he wanted to get something off his chest. Up in the super box, Tose told Fumo about his recent negotiations with the City of Philadelphia. The Eagles owner wanted to build luxury skyboxes atop aging Veterans Stadium, to bring in new revenues. But Philadelphia officials had blown him off, and Tose wasn't happy about it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Msgr. Lynn's Lawyers: D.A. Knowingly Put Liar On Stand

New D.A. Larry Krasner Scopes Out His Options In The Lynn Case
By Ralph Cipriano

Lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn have accused the district attorney's office of dishonesty and cowardice, for attempting to escape the consequences of knowingly putting a lying witness on the stand.

The lying witness, of course, is "Billy Doe," AKA Danny Gallagher, the lying, scheming altar boy.

In a testy five-page reply brief filed yesterday in state Superior Court, Lynn's lawyers took issue with the D.A.'s contention that there was no so-called Brady violation that resulted from the testimony last year in Common Pleas Court of retired Detective Joe Walsh, who came forward to expose Gallagher for the fraud he is.

Walsh testified that when he prepped Gallagher for trial in 2012, the detective quizzed the former altar boy about the numerous factual discrepancies in his many imaginative and vastly differing tales of abuse. According to Walsh, Gallagher responded by claiming he was high on drugs, hanging his head and saying nothing, or telling some new stories.

None of Gallagher's evasive activities were reported to Lynn's lawyers, as required by Brady v. Maryland, the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that held that prosecutors must turn over any evidence that might be beneficial to a defendant.

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Hey Fredo -- Bring Out The Peppers And Sausage"

By Ralph Cipriano

Last week, I took a virtual tour of the new merged Inquirer/Daily News/ newsroom, thanks to a brand new feature on their website that's accessible to even hardcore non-subscribers like myself.

It's been 20 years since my last day at the Inquirer, when I was escorted out of the building by an editor. So, I figured I was due for a return visit. But I emerged from my virtual tour feeling like Frank Pentangeli.

Remember the scene in Godfather II where crusty old Frank [AKA "Frankie Five Angels" and "Frankie Pants"] attends the first communion of the late Don Corleone's grandson. It's a big fancy party on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada back in 1958; quite a contrast with the old-fashioned Sicilian wedding scene set on Long Island  in 1945 that opened the original Godfather.

"Hey Fredo," Frank says, "What's with the food around here?"

"A kid comes up to me in a white jacket, gives me a Ritz cracker, and uh, chopped liver, he says canapés  I say uh, uh, can o' peas my ass, that's a Ritz cracker and chopped liver! . . . Bring out the peppers and sausage."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

New D.A. Krasner Going Forward With Retrial Of Msgr. Lynn

By Ralph Cipriano

It didn't take long for our new D.A., Progressive Larry Krasner, to screw up big-time.

In a 24-page brief filed Tuesday in state Superior Court, Krasner, who's in his first month on the job, has decided to go forward with an ill-advised appeal in the case of Msgr. William J. Lynn. He's the former secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia whose 2012 conviction on one count of endangering the welfare of a child has twice been overturned by the state Superior Court.

In the brief, which is filled with all sorts of official dishonesty in a case that is already a travesty of justice, the new D.A. pretends that a trial judge last year didn't find the D.A.'s office under Krasner's predecessor, Rufus Seth Williams, guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. When the judge clearly did, and stated so in open court.

The D.A. also attempts to pave over the main issue in the case, mainly that one of the prosecutors, former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, had no qualms about putting a star witness on the stand, Danny Gallagher AKA "Billy Doe," the lying scheming altar boy, when she knew he was a liar. Even though she had been repeatedly informed by Detective Joseph Walsh, the lead detective in the case, that all the evidence Walsh had gathered during his investigation contradicted the fables Gallagher was telling, but they were politically correct fables that the prosecutors wanted to hear.

D.A. Won't Press Charges Against Teacher Who Cursed Out Cops

By Ralph Cipriano

A Philadelphia schoolteacher who yelled and cursed out police officers during a protest last August over the Frank Rizzo statue will not have to face any legal consequences for his actions.

Police have been informed by the D.A.'s office that Progressive Larry Krasner, our new D.A. elected with  more than $1 million of George Soro's money, has dropped the charges against John Sheerin, who had been arrested and charged with harassment and making terroristic threats.

Police said that Sheerin, 63, a teacher at Julia De Burgos Elementary School in North Philadelphia,  got into an argument with the cops and cursed them out. It happened at a rally where protesters were chanting "Tear it down." Sheerin, standing at a police barricade in front of the statue, was recorded on a cell phone video yelling obscenities at white "racist" cops who were guarding the Rizzo statue at Thomas Paine Plaza.

Sheerin was suspended by the school district, pending an internal investigation. But now that Krasner has let him off, he can return to his job and teach our kids how to curse out cops and get away with it, all in the name of social justice.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Chaos At The D.A.'s Office; Two Different Lists Of Fired Employees

Back In Action
By Ralph Cipriano

On Friday, when the Philly D.A.'s office was closed due to frigid weather, assistant district attorneys were getting calls on their cell phones, telling them to come right down to the office.

Inside, people were lined up, waiting to be fired.

The first list of the newly fired people that went up had 28 names on it. The man on the right, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, was No. 25 on that list.

But by the end of the day, a new list of 31 names went up. And Blessington's name was nowhere to be found. Rumor had it that some last-minute lobbying had saved the job of the lead prosecutor in the case of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Blessington, who had been targeted in the "Porngate" scandal -- unfairly, truth be told, because he supposedly never opened any of the pornographic emails sent to his cue -- had been spared in the purge by Krasner.

"District Attorney Lawrence S. Krasner requests the resignations of the following," the memo from the new chief of staff said, "with the understanding that they are not to return."

Three of the names on the list were circled, highlighting the ADAs with gun permits.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

At D.A.'s Office Nobody Left To Prosecute Msgr. Lynn

Jeff Lindy: The Left-Wing D.A.'s New Right Hand Man
By Ralph Cipriano

After new District Attorney Larry Krasner got through cleaning house yesterday by firing 30 assistant district attorneys, there's nobody left to prosecute Msgr. William J. Lynn.

One of the ADAs whacked by Krasner was Patrick Blessington, the lead prosecutor on the Lynn case. Blessington was also the guy who attacked retired Detective Joe Walsh as a "rogue" cop, saying he wasn't authorized to interview more than 30 witnesses in the Billy Doe case.

 Blessington had nonsensically claimed that Walsh had done the interviews on his own. That, of course, prompted laughs from Judge Ellen Ceisler. In the Philadelphia archdiocese sex abuse prosecutions, Walsh was the key witness who came forward to say that he believed Billy Doe was a liar, and that Doe, whose real name is Danny Gallagher, had admitted to Walsh that he just "made up stuff." The retired detective's testimony has already forced the D.A. to let Bernard Shero, a former Catholic schoolteacher convicted of raping Gallagher, out of jail nearly a dozen years early.

Walsh was going to be the defense's star witness if the D.A. proceeded with its announced plans to retry Msgr. Lynn on one count of endangering the welfare of children. But now it looks as though that retrial may never happen, because of some other moves Krasner made.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

For Big Trial, A Look Back, A Look Forward

By Ralph Cipriano

If they made a movie out of Big Trial's top stories from 2017, it would be called Trading Places, starring former District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams and convicted child rapist Bernard Shero.

Shero, falsely accused of rape by a lying scheming altar boy, got out of jail nearly a dozen years early, thanks to the dogged reporting of this blog, and the revelatory testimony of retired Detective Joe Walsh.

Williams, the corrupt D.A. who cooked up the fraudulent "Billy Doe" prosecution that sent former Catholic schoolteacher Shero to jail, along with three falsely accused Catholic priests, wound up in prison for political corruption, thanks to the work of the U.S. Attorney's Office from Jersey, which prosecuted the case.

If it wasn't legal justice, it certainly was poetic justice -- Shero, finally a free man, and Rufus, in a jump suit, and finally where he belongs, behind bars.


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