Friday, July 24, 2015

Jimmy Binns Vs. The Daily News

By Ralph Cipriano

In one corner, we have Helen Ubinas, a Philadelphia Daily News columnist who can't believe those "rogue cops" got their jobs back. She wants to know why our top city officials who previously did so much political grandstanding  in this case don't have much to say about it anymore.

In the other corner we have Jimmy Binns, the veteran defense lawyer who not only represented Rocky on the silver screen but also Michael Spicer, one of the rogue cops who beat the rap and got his job back. The same Jimmy Binns who publicly predicted to Judge Eduardo Robreno at a bail hearing last August that his guy would beat all the charges and walk out of federal court a free man.

In her July 15th column, Ubinas wrote about how Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the guy who described the rogue cops scandal as "one of the worst cases of corruption" that he ever heard, sounded like a beaten puppy when she talked to him. After all six cops were acquitted by a jury on all 47 counts, Ramsey told Ubinas, "It was just a matter of time" before they got their jobs back . . . That's our system, unfortunately."

Ubinas wrote Binns an email seeking a copy of the arbitrator's decision that reinstated the six former narcotics officers. Binns responded by writing Big Trial a letter where he ripped Ubinas's column as "silly" and the "naive musings" of a "know-nothing" reporter and her editors.

As a public service, Big Trial will attempt to mediate this dispute and make everybody happy.

"I talked to one guy who said he was dangled over an 18th-floor balcony by some members of the crew," Urbinas wrote. "I believed his story. A jury didn't."

In Ubinas's defense, she's not the only journalist at 8th and Market who put their faith in the RICO indictment of the rogue cops.

At least she doesn't work at the Inquirer, where they treat documents  issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office as though they just came down from Mt. Sinai.

Since the rogue cops got their jobs back, Ubinas wrote that she feels like she's dead. She's pinning her hopes for reform on a future sit-down with Jim Kenney, our next Democratic mayor.

Uh Helen, do we really need any more political grandstanding in this case? Haven't we already heard enough of that from Ramsey and Mayor Nutter?

I disagree with Binns about Ubinas. She's a tough reporter who holds people accountable, like Richard Basciano, the slumlord behind the fatal building collapse at 22nd and Market. We may disagree about the rogue cops, but I admire her for knocking on doors and asking what the hell is going on with that case for her July 15th coumn. But after she visited the police commissioner's office, the mayor's office, and the D.A.'s office, she should have made one more stop.

The U.S. Attorney's Office at Sixth and Chestnut. They're the ones who have some explaining to do.

I sat through some pre-trial hearings and quite a bit of the trial in the rogue cops case. I was shocked by how bad the prosecution's case was. They had nothing but the accusations of a bunch of drug dealers. And no corroborating evidence of any kind to back it up.

The prosecution did not even bother to interview 12 of 15 cops and supervisors who were eyewitnesses at the scene of many of the alleged episodes of brutality until 3 to 7 months after the indictment was issued. When an investigation is that shoddy no wonder the jury wound up tossing all the charges. In a RICO case no less.

One of my favorite government witnesses in the case was Kenneth Williams, the former state trooper and admitted marijuana user who claimed the cops broke down the door of his North Philly home and seized $16,200. That included $14,000 that Williams claimed he had hidden in a suit pocket in his bedroom.

The bulk of that money, Williams told the jury, came from a worker's compensation settlement that he supposedly got ten years earlier. Williams claimed he stored that money in his suit pocket rather than a bank because he was hiding money from family court. But did he have any paperwork to prove he ever got a workers' comp settlement? Nope. Did the feds present any evidence of that payout? Nope again.

I wasn't in the courtroom the day the verdict was read. The doors were locked by the time I got there. But a cop who was inside the courtroom said that when the jury foreman read the verdict, not guilty 47 times, he was staring straight at the lead prosecutor.

If you believe the drug dealers' allegations, as Ubinas  did, then the government's shoddy case is an even bigger travesty. An FBI agent admitted on the witness stand that mistakes were made. Shouldn't some heads roll after a monumental stinker like this, where all six defendants beat every charge on a 47-count RICO indictment? When was the last time that happened?

In the more than two months since the verdict, the U.S. Attorney's office has only issued a couple of canned statements that basically said, we knew this was going to be a difficult case and we stand by our case, even though everybody knows by now that it really sucked.

The day of the verdict, after a gag order was lifted, I asked Patricia Hartman, the spokesperson for the imperial U.S. Attorney's office, why the government didn't interview before the indictment a dozen cops and superior officers who were witnesses to the episodes of alleged police misconduct. I asked why the government didn't offer a paper trail or any proof that the money allegedly stolen from the drug dealers was in their possession when they were busted by the cops.

"I do believe the public is owed an explanation for what went down in this case," I wrote Hartman on May 16th.

Hartman obviously disagreed; she never bothered to write back.

But if Helen Ubinas of the Daily News knocks on Hartman's door, maybe the U.S. Attorney would have to explain how they bungled the case.

Hold them accountable Helen, like anybody else.

Now there's a column that Jimmy Binns would love to read.

Here's the full text of Binns' letter to Ubinas:

Dear Mr. Cipriano,

Helen Ubinas, who works at the Philadelphia Daily News, requested that I share with her the Arbitrator's Award that restored 6 former members of the Narcotics Field Unit to the Philadelphia Police Force, after their recent acquittal.

I was privileged to represent Police Officer Michael Spicer in defense of an Indictment that accused him of engaging in a Rico Conspiracy. The Indictment was the result of an 8 year investigation. The trial of Officer Spicer and his 5 co-defendants lasted for 7 weeks, during which over 40 witnesses testified, including Officer Spicer.

I have read an "article" posted on authored by Ms. Ubinas entitled "How Did The Six Cops Get Their Jobs Back". The author said that she engaged in conversation with one of the drug dealing prosecution witnesses, whom she believed, although none of the 12 jurors who listened to his sworn testimony during the trial shared her opinion as to his veracity. Ms. Ubinas ranted about the failings of the "system" and, by implication, criticized not only the jurors but all those whom she guessed might be in a position to institute changes to correct what she perceives as imperfections within the Police Department and/or the political system/structure of the City of Philadelphia.

During the trial I took notice of your daily presence and that of Mr. Anastasia as well as several other individuals seated in the row allocated to members of the media. I don't know Ms. Ubanis and consequently I have no idea whether or not she attended the trial.  However, from the silly comments contained in her rant I suspect that she did not. As a 6 time indulgent grandparent I usually error on the side of instruction as opposed to scolding. I'm all in favor of giving youngsters a break. Since your reputation as a brilliant journalist has spoken for itself for several decades, I am enlisting your help to seize upon which could be a teachable moment in Ms. Ubinas's “career”. I enclose 3 audios which I request that you forward to Ms. Ubinas and her editors.

The first is an excerpt from the August 12, 2014 contested bail hearing for Officer Spicer before the Honorable Eduardo Robreno. I predicted that Officer Spicer would "prevail on all of the charges and leave his courtroom not guilty of one single crime." My statement to the Judge was based upon what Officer Spicer told me before and after his Indictment, all of which turned out to be true.

The second is my opening statement to the jury at the commencement of the trial.  I promised that the evidence, or lack thereof, would enable them to easily acquit Officer Spicer and the other 5 defendants. That promise was based upon personal interviews with eyewitnesses and the review of over 110,000 documents, the vast majority of which were provided to me by the prosecutor (and most of which formed a part of the “petard” with which the prosecutors hoisted themselves).

The last is my closing speech which was predicated upon what the jury had seen and heard during the 7 week trial. The witnesses for the prosecution and defense (Mike Spicer testified on behalf of ALL the defendants as to each incident that formed the basis of the indictment) were subject to rigorous cross-examination by the lawyers on both sides of the case. I am not going to burden you with transmitting to Ms. Ubinas and her editors the transcript of the trial but please inform them that it is available at the United States District Court Clerk's office, 2nd floor, 601 Market Street. Philadelphia PA.

Hopefully, after listening to the audios and perhaps reading the trial transcript Ms. Ubinas and/or her editors will refrain from publicizing rants about something that they know absolutely nothing about. This will benefit their dwindling readership and perhaps lead to an increase thereof, once they learn to publish articles based on facts, not the naive musings of a young lady.

I sent this letter in an email to Ms. Ubinas and offered her an opportunity to reply. "Speaking of facts," she wrote, and then she pointed out that both Binns and I had misspelled her name. She thanked me for sharing the letter with her.

For anyone who's interested, here's Binns's opening in the rogue cops case and his closing.

And here's Binns's prophecy at the bail hearing last August.

Binns's commentary on that audio clip:

This is a 4 minute audio excerpt of my guaranty to Federal Judge Eduardo Robreno at Mike Spicer's 2nd bail hearing on August 12, 2014. Mike was previously denied bail by Magistrate Judge Richard A. Lloret when the prosecutor misinformed him that Mike struck drug dealer Jason Kennedy in the face with a sledge hammer. Judge Robreno found that allegation not to be supported by the Indictment or the facts. I predicted to Judge Robreno that Mike would prevail on all of the charges contained in the Indictment and that he would leave the courtroom not guilty of any crimes. Mike was arrested in his home @5am on July 30, 2014. In the presence of his wife, he was handcuffed while an AR-15 rifle was pointed at his head. He was placed in solitary confinement at the Federal Detention Center for 12 days until he was released on bail after the contested hearing before Judge Robreno. After a 7 week trial, during which he testified at length on direct and cross examination, Mike was totally vindicated by the jury's unanimous NOT GUILTY verdict (the jury foreman read those words 47 times!), reinstated to the Philadelphia Police Department, paid over $90,000.00 in back salary and been given back his badge and gun that he was forced to surrender at the time of his arrest on the trumped up charges. His 4 children can now return to their respective schools with their heads held high, proud of their hero Police Office father, a cop’s cop.


  1. Maybe to boost readership the media could start to report what actually takes place in a court room, I bet the public would find it intriguing to know that the FBI lie, prosecutors distort facts, indict and threaten the innocent, obtain confessions from the innocent, threaten families and co-workers all while tainting the jury pool with their distorted, made up schemes to convict. The readers will hang on every word. My suggestion is to actually sit through a trial, not make guest appearances in and out of the courtroom, its what is required to get the facts right. Using the same reporter who is handed his articles from the federal prosecutors is a conflict of interests, compare notes with a reporter in the courtroom without any bias and one who is handed his script from the feds and see how they differ. The media has a great responsibility to the public , the unrest we see in almost every city in America today is a result of the treatment of its citizens at the hands of unscrupulous authority figures . There are real criminals out there and the public needs to be protected, but distorting facts and incriminating the innocent makes the prosecutors the criminals, it does not make it right. Standing blindly behind the prosecutors represent our country is no longer an option. I believed in my country right or wrong before witnessing, outright lies and the ruination of good peoples lives at the hands of deceitful prosecutors, who have no moral compass. Talk to defendants after a trial to see how they were treated, not the prosecution, who think they are right regardless. It's called government not GODverment.

    1. Regardless of whose side you're on are the defendants always any better than the prosecutors? Best not to put yourself in the position to begin with

    2. Unless your the innocent defendant, in America you can go to jail whether or not you committed a crime, the feds just need to say you did something illegal, its really that simple. The feds don't take any prisoners, they forgot to tell us the war games had begun, we are just waking up to realize we are under siege. It becomes more apparent each day, almost weekly exonerations, trials that should have never made it to the federal level, the destruction of the families with fathers and mothers in prison unable to support and nurture their children. Changing the way we view our citizens and our myriad of socioeconomic problems, would be the first step, not incarceration, not in all cases . We have to find a better way than ambushing our own people, I view the current judicial systems assault on its own people as crimes against humanity, the way genocide is a crime against humanity. I would rather our financial resources be spent on helping the mental impaired, so the are unable to buy guns to shoot in movie theaters,churchs or schools, to help families learn to break the bonds of poverty and drug abuse and stop the incarceration merry-go-round.
      Crimes can not go unpunished but inventing crimes is doing more damage to our country , alienating millions of defendants and their families can not be the desired results the country wants to achieve.
      Change needs to start at the top, Judge Alex Kozinski ( Ninth Circuit) has suggested changes to the system so defendants and prosecutors can achieve accurate ,truthful results. Some suggestions, such as, not to rely on eyewitness testimony as completely accurate, that fingerprinting is not foolproof as well as DNA evidence, human memory is not reliable, confessions by innocent people happens with surprising regularity, juries following instructions , prosecutors seeking justice not just a conviction, that police be objective in their investigations, guilty pleas are not conclusive of guilt and that long sentences are not a deterrent to crime.
      Its seems somehow easier for us to adapt to new technology , a new phone , program upgrades, car advancements, than to keep pace with the revelations of the horrors of the judicial system, we either do not want to absorb the information or we do not care as we think it does not effect us personally.

    3. I totally see your side as I am a federal witnesses family member
      I know what a trial can do to a family and I do pray for these families as well as the accused but those who do wrong and know it seek problems for themselves. It's sad there are no rules for the feds it seems

  2. Since I've been blogging big trials, I've been amazed by how much of what happens in a courtroom never makes it into the papers. No matter whose side you're on.

  3. How many Narcotics Traffickers have been prosecuted for Tax Evasion, or even have been audited? An admitted Narcotics Trafficker who says he had "so much money" confiscated and then prosecuted for tax evasion might make these unfounded attacks against Police Officers diminish quite a bit.

    A person’s taxable income will generally be subject to the same Federal income tax rules, regardless of whether the income was obtained legally or illegally.

    The United States Supreme Court has ruled that requiring a person to declare income on a federal income tax return does not violate an individual's right to remain silent,[2] although the privilege may apply to allow the person to refrain from revealing the source of the income.[3]



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