Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On The Trail of Chaka and Renee's Au Pair

 By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

As the government's case against Chaka Fattah winds down, prosecutors were hot on the trail of the congressman's former live-in au pair.

The au pair is mentioned on page 39 of the government's 29-count, 85-page racketeering indictment under the heading of "Vederman's Payments and Things of Value to Fattah."

The indictment claims that in exchange for Congressman Fattah's support in trying to make co-defendant Herb Vederman a U.S. ambassador, Vederman bribed Fattah by giving him, among other goodies, a $3,000 check on March 11, 2010 to help pay for his au pair's college tuition.

"In or around August 2009, Vederman sponsored Fattah's live-in au pair," the indictment says, identifying the au pair only by her initials, S.M., a native of South Africa.


Informant Calls Doctor `Drug Dealer' At Pill Mill Trial

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

She was an FBI informant who posed as a patient with chronic headaches.

He was a doctor who authorities say ran a "pill mill," prescribing oxycodone, Xanax and Percocet for whoever was willing to come up with a $200 "co-pay" for each five- to seven-minute session.

More than a year after their last office visit, Marian Murphy and Dr. William O'Brien 3d squared off in federal court this afternoon as O'Brien's conspiracy and drug dealing trial entered its second week.

It quickly got personal.

Murphy, a waitress with a lengthy criminal record that includes fraud, identity theft and driving under the influence, called O'Brien "the biggest drug dealer in South Philadelphia" and, her voice rising, her face turning red, asked "Do you know how many people are in rehab because of you?"

O'Brien, who is representing himself, shot right back at the witness, asking, "How is South Philly doing right now? Is it cleaned up?"

O'Brien has been held without bail since his arrest in January 2015, a point he has come back to several times during the trial while portraying himself as the victim of overzealous federal prosecutors and FBI agents.

His cross-examination of Murphy gave him the chance to hammer on that theme with questions that not only challenged her veracity and credibility but that also went to the heart of the government's case against him.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pill Doctor Prescribes Percocet and Wine for Headaches

Photo Courtesy of DrugAddiction.com

By Shealyn Kilroy For BigTrial.net Dr. William O’Brien 3d’s Headache Curing Cocktail Recipe:

-- Glass(es) of wine
-- Half a capsule of Percocet
--One part muscle-relaxer Flexeril
The jury heard this alcoholic pill potpourri ordered on a video played in court on Friday for undercover informant Marian Murphy. Murphy, acting as a first time patient for the federal government, came to visit Dr. O’Brien for her “headaches.”
“With this, you won’t come back for a few months,” O’Brien
said as he walked out of the office.


The Poster Boy For Sex Abuse In Pennsylvania

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

As the Pennsylvania state Senate considers extending the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims to file civil lawsuits [the state House of Representatives has already passed the bill], it's a good time to reflect on the Billy Doe case. The former altar boy who told so many lies that he was featured coast-to-coast on the cover of Newsweek with a Pinocchio nose.
I got mine

Big Trial has led the way in exposing this fraud who put three priests and a schoolteacher in jail and scammed the Archdiocese of Philadelphia out of $5 million. And now Pennsylvania's lawmakers are contemplating a bill that would make it possible for more Billy Does to cash in.

Read all about it:

Newsweek: Outs Lying, Scheming Altar Boy; Philly's Altar Boy Scandal Gets Uglier.

Big Trial: How To Collect $5 Million From the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; The Stonewallers, the Conspiracy of Silence between the Archbishop, the D.A., and the Editor of the Inquirer.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Roundup

A weekly tab of what's going
on in the courts.

By Logan Beck
For BigTrial.net
Jennifer Pizzuti, 32, of Jackson, New Jersey was indicted on charges of making a false government document, forgery, uttering a forged writing, uttering a false government document, and falsifying or tampering with records.

According to the Attorney General, in 2015 Pizzuti was informed by the Department of Health that she was unable to renew her 2-Year Nurse Aide Certification due to “outstanding issues that could disqualify her application.”

In order to be placed to work at multiple facilities that provide long-term and in-home care for elderly patients, she forged a Nurse Aide Certificate rather than taking the necessary steps to satisfy the requirements necessary for a legitimate certification.

While Pizzuti has not yet been convicted of these charges, she potentially faces between 18 months to 10 years in prison, and and between $10,000 to $150,000 in various fines.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Senator Casey Said No To "Ambassador" Herb

Senator Casey at the Chaka trial/philly.com/David Swanson
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

He's a former clothing store magnate and lobbyist who gravitates to politicians the way a groupie chases rock stars.

In the past decade, he's given away more than $100,000 to some of his favorite Democrats. But what he really wanted to do was become a U.S. ambassador.

Herb Vederman, Ed Rendell's former unpaid deputy mayor, was also best buddies with Congressman Chaka Fattah.

Herb and Chaka were so close that for years, Fattah pushed Vederman for an ambassador's post. The congressman went as far as to sign and hand-deliver a letter to President Obama on Oct. 30, 2010, advocating for Vederman's appointment as U.S. Ambassador to anywhere.

But standing in the way of Vederman's lifelong goal was U.S. Senator Bob Casey. The Pennsylvania Democrat made a VIP appearance at the Chaka Fattah trial today to explain how he declined Congressman Fattah's request to support Vederman's candidacy for an ambassadorship in 2008, even though Casey was happy to continue to accept campaign donations from Vederman. Herb was sure disappointed about not getting that ambassadorship, the senator testified, and he expressed that disappointment twice directly to Casey.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Another Cooperating Witness Fingers Chaka

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Mark M. Lee, a lawyer for Congressman Chaka Fattah, asked Greg Naylor about his negotiations with the government. And what the feds told Naylor he could expect to gain from his guilty plea, cooperation with the government, and his testimony in court today against the congressman.

"I don't believe they [the feds] had any interest in what I had to gain," Naylor bluntly replied. His discussions with the government prior to his guilty plea, he said, were "not a negotiation." Not after he got caught lying to the FBI.

Naylor, a retired political operative who was once close to Fattah, testified in federal court today about how he handed out about $200,000 in cash on Election Day, known as "walking around money," when the congressman was running for mayor of Philadelphia back in 2007. And how he wrote more than $20,000 in checks to cover the college tuition bills of Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr.

The payments, which originally derived from campaign cash, came from Naylor's political consulting firm, Sydney Lei & Associates Inc., and were usually made on a monthly basis to Drexel University and Sallie Mae, the student loan corporation, Naylor testified.

Why did he steal campaign money to write checks to cover Chip Fattah's college loans, and then try to cover it up afterwards with a phony paper trail?

"The congressman asked if I would help out," Naylor explained in direct testimony under the questioning of Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Gray. Naylor said he kept writing checks for four years until the congressman told him, "We're done, we're good."


Pill Doctor Pecks Away At FBI Agent

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

It could be the dream of any accused felon who's ever been busted by the feds.

Turn the tables on your accusers. Put them on the witness stand under oath. And then make them squirm while you play lawyer and get to ask all the questions you want.

Dr. William O'Brien 3rd was living the dream today. For the second straight day, the accused pill doctor who's representing himself at his criminal trial in federal court had FBI Agent Diana Huffman stuck on the witness stand for more grueling hours of his amateur cross-examination.

For two hours on Tuesday and more than five hours today, O'Brien dragged Huffman through the minutiae of the case, going over one patient file after another. When he wasn't pecking the FBI agent to death, the pill doctor was talking up his own credentials, showing off his medical knowledge, and making speeches to the jury.

Meanwhile, Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Beth Leahy was growing increasingly irritated with O'Brien's act. And Judge Nitza Quinones was getting more work than a baseball umpire because the prosecutor was objecting to virtually every question O'Brien asked. At times, Leahy objected to three questions in  a row from the doctor, objections that were all sustained by the judge.

None of which phased O'Brien, who didn't act like he was ready to give up the spotlight any time soon.

"Your Honor, the defendant is testifying," the prosecutor yelled after O'Brien finished another speech to the jury.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pagan Leader Rants About Pill Mill

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

Sam Nocille was angry.

A leader of the outlaw motorcycle club known as the Pagans, Nocille was in prison in 2013 while associates continued to profit from a pill mill operation authorities say he helped set in motion.

The problem was that those associates had stopped kicking up to Nocille who had been receiving about $2,000-week, his share from the illegal street sales of oxycodone, methadone, Xanax and Percocet.

"All of a sudden he's changing the whole fuckin' thing," Nocille said in a phone call to his wife in which he complained about Peter Marradino, an associate who was part of the scheme. "It's not gonna happen...The door was opened for him due to me."

In another call, Nocille said of Marradino, "I'm gonna split his fuckin' head."

The Nocille tapes (all prison phone calls are recorded)  were played along with several others today in the trial of Dr. William O'Brien 3d whose medical offices, authorities allege, were the nerve center of a multi-million dollar pill mill operation set up by Nocille.

"Even that fat motherfucker Bill in Levitttown is gonna get it," Nocille said in another rant recorded in January 2014. One of O'Brien's office was in Levittown.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pill Doctor Regrets Asking Undercover FBI Agent For A Blow Job But Says He's Innocent Of Drug Charges

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

Dr. William O'Brien, charged with running a "pill mill" that dumped millions of dollars of illegal drugs onto the streets of Philadelphia and the suburbs, told a federal jury this afternoon that it was wrong for him to ask an undercover FBI agent posing as a patient for a blow job.

"I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I asked a patient for oral sex," O'Brien, who is acting as his own defense attorney, said in an opening statement to a federal court jury that will decide his fate. "I shouldn't have done it as a physician. I shouldn't have done it as a man. It was wrong."

But that was the only concession the doctor made today during a 45-minute address to the jury at the start of  his trial. For most of that time, O'Brien attacked the prosecution, claiming the government's case was built on lies and misinformation.

"They're not going to be able to prove it," O'Brien said of the charges of conspiracy, drug dealing, money-laundering and bankruptcy fraud outlined in a 140-count indictment brought against him and 10 co-defendants. "An indictment is only one side of the story...I finally get to tell my side."

All of O'Brien's co-defendants have pleaded guilty. Several are expected to testify for the government, including his ex-wife/girlfriend with whom he was living at the time of his arrest in January 2015. The jury will also hear from investigators and three exotic dancers who have said they exchanged sex for prescriptions for oxycodone, methadone and other controlled substances.

Unlike the undercover FBI agent, the dancers said they agreed to the sex-for-scripts proposal that prosecutors allege was part of a broader drug operation run out of O'Brien's offices and set up by members of the Pagans, an outlaw motorcycle gang.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Doctor's Office Served Pagans, Pills And Prostitutes

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

He was a doctor who federal authorities say turned his practice into an illegal drug distribution center for a group of outlaw bikers.

He charged $200 per visit but seldom bothered with a medical exam.

Instead, the feds say, he wrote thousands of prescriptions for oxycodone, methadone, valium and Percocet, drugs that quickly ended up on the streets. While most of his "patients" paid cash, several dancers who worked at area "gentleman's clubs" exchanged sex for scripts.

Over a two-year period, authorities say, Dr. William O'Brien 3d pocketed $1.8 million while his "patients," many of them members and associates of the Pagans, generated millions more in street sales. Some were pulling in as much as $10,000 a-week, according to court documents.

This week in U.S. District Court a jury will begin hearing testimony in the case against O'Brien; a case based on a two-year federal investigation that revolves around Pagans, pills and prostitutes.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Roundup

Joseph J. Talafous
A weekly tab of what's going on in the courts.
By Logan Beck For BigTrial.net
New Jersey Attorney General:
A New Jersey lawyer has been indicted with a laundry list of charges after it was discovered that he stole over $1 million from his clients between October 2004 and May 2015 through his attorney trust or business account. He has since been disbarred.
Joseph J. Talafous Jr., 53, of Tom’s River, NJ was indicted for collectively stealing $1,528,022 from a variety of different clients, including $402,418 from a trust fund for a young boy whose father had passed away, as well as from clients who had passed away themselves. Talafous faces multiple charges of money laundering, theft by unlawful taking, theft by failure to make required disposition of property, misapplication of entrusted property,  theft by deception, as well as filing fraudulent state income tax returns.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cool Hand Lindenfeld

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

He never raised his voice, and he never lost his cool.

Today in federal court, Thomas Lindenfeld, the government's star witness in the corruption case against Congressman Chaka Fattah, was cross-examined by three veteran defense lawyers, who did their best to rile him.

They yelled, they baited the witness, they tossed insults at him.

Through it all, Lindenfeld never took offense. The guy who worked presidential campaigns on behalf of the DNC, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, however, typically refused to answer a yes or no question with a simple yes or no answer. Instead, the government's star witness stayed relentlessly  on message, using every question from a defense attorney as another opportunity to restate his talking points.

By the end of the day, he was barely ruffled, and hadn't backed off any part of his story. And that had to be bad news for Chaka Fattah.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Chaka's Spin Doctor Sells Him Out

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Thomas Lindenfeld's story was that he did Congressman Chaka Fattah a favor, and then he got left holding the bag. To the tune of $600,000.

So when the feds came knocking, Lindenfeld, facing 20 years in jail, sold out Chaka and the other fellow conspirators in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence.

In a soft voice and a low-key demeanor, Lindenfeld was on the witness stand for less than an hour in U.S. District Court today, telling his sad tale with many one and two-word answers. Meanwhile, several defense lawyers were jumping up to complain to the judge that they couldn't hear the witness.

Lindenfeld, a political consultant who was once a trusted member of the congressman's inner circle,  was the last of seven witnesses to testify today. He followed a dreary lineup that included a former nonprofit official who suffered frequent memory lapses, a NASA bean-counter, a forensic auditor and three accountants.

It was hard to figure who was the most boring government witness as the Chaka trial ended its third day, because the competition was so fierce. The courtroom was packed with print and TV reporters, many of whom were fighting to remain conscious as the witnesses droned on. The agony was prolonged by one prosecutor who sounded like he was teaching kindergarten, and one defense lawyer who appeared to be the master of the pointless cross-examination.

But all that is expected to change tomorrow when Lindenfeld will have to run a gauntlet of defense lawyers on cross. "Expect blood in the streets," a lawyer in the courtroom was overheard telling a sleepy TV reporter.


Battaglini Continues To Fight His Conviction

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

Jailed South Philadelphia bookmaker Gary Battaglini will be in town for another month --- as a guest of the federal government.

Battaglini, currently serving a 96-month sentence on racketeering/gambling charges, was in court this morning in an ongoing battle to have his conviction overturned. Dressed in a green prison jumpsuit, his hair a little grayer than when he appeared for sentencing two years ago, the soft-spoken reputed mob associate argued that his trial lawyer had improperly advised him on his appellate rights.

"He told me there was no grounds to file an appeal," Battaglini said during an hour-long hearing before U.S. District court Judge Eduardo Robreno in the same 15th floor courtroom where Battaglini and three others were convicted in February 2013.

His trial lawyer, Lawrence O'Connor, appeared as a government witness and disputed most of what his former client said.

Robreno gave both sides in the case time to file written briefs on the issue and indicated that he would rule in about a month. In the meantime, he ordered that Battaglini should remain at the Federal Detention Center at 6th and Arch Streets until the issue is resolved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A $1 Million Loan At The Center Of The Fattah Investigation

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

Chaka Fattah's campaign for mayor was not going well.

Once considered the favorite, he was falling far beyond in the polls to Michael Nutter in the 2007 Democratic Party primary, a race that for all intents and purposes decided who the next mayor of Philadelphia would be.

So Fattah asked Albert Lord for help.

Lord, a well-heeled business executive based in Washington, DC., told the federal jury in Fattah's corruption trial on Tuesday that they met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia in the spring of 2007.

"The congressman said that in order to win he would need more money for media buys," Lord recalled.

That, federal authorities allege, was the genesis for an illegal $1 million loan to the Fattah campaign, a loan repaid in part -- $600,000 -- with funds siphoned from federal grants to Fattah-sponsored educational programs.


CBS Seeks To Sever Larry Mendte Esquire

CBS wants Larry "The Canary" to fly the coop
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Larry Mendte's former employer, CBS Broadcasting Inc., apparently has seen enough of his act as an amateur trial lawyer.

In the long-running civil case where Mendte's former co-anchor Alycia Lane is suing CBS and Mendte for damages, CBS has filed a motion to sever Mendte from the case.

Specifically, CBS in a motion filed last month  in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court asked Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson to try Lane's case separately against Mendte first. Then, if needed, CBS's lawyers have asked the judge to hold a second trial where Lane would be suing just CBS.

"CBS will be highly prejudiced if [Lane's] case against it is tried at the same time as the case against Defendant Mendte," argued lawyers for CBS and Michael Colleran, a former CBS president and general manager who is also named as a defendant in Lane's suit.

In response, former CBS anchorman Mendte, representing himself, wrote that he found it curious that in eight years of litigating the Lane case, CBS never suggested separating Mendte as a defendant, until he became his own lawyer. If the defendants are tried separately, Mendte has asked the judge to try CBS first.

"They [CBS and Colleran] apparently want to use me the way cave workers use a canary," Mendte the novice lawyer wrote. That's because, as far as CBS is concerned, as the canary in the mine shaft, Larry Mendte may have already done too much singing.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Defense: Crimes Were Committed, But Not By Defendants

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

A lawyer for Congressman Chaka Fattah Sr. conceded that the government had uncovered evidence of fraud, theft and corruption in the racketeering case that opened today against the 11-term congressman and four co-defendants.

But those crimes, attorney Mark Lee told a federal jury, had been committed by the government's two key witnesses, longtime Fattah associate Gregory Naylor and high-powered Washington, DC, political consultant Thomas Lindenfeld.

"Congressman Fattah had nothing to do with what the government alleges," Lee said in an opening statement before a packed courtroom and an 18-member (six are alternates) jury panel that will hear testimony in what is expected to be an eight-week trial.

Lee's 30-minute opening outlined a theme that was repeated, in varying degrees, by the other four defense attorneys as well: No one is disputing the essential facts in the case. What is being disputed is the government's interpretation of those facts.

Robert Welsh, the lawyer for Herbert Vederman, said the government was "cherry picking events out of context."

Barry Gross, who represents Robert Brand, said the prosecution had come to a "flawed conclusion" based in part on a rush to judgment. "Sometimes the truth gets in the way of a good story," said Gross, who like Welsh, is a former federal prosecutor.

The prosecution, on the other hand, told the jury that Fattah and his co-defendants were willing participants in a conspiracy designed to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds and federal grants to cover Fattah's political and personal debts.

Fattah, who was first elected to congress in 1995, "abused his office and his oath over and over again . . . to serve his own interests," said Assistant U. S. Attorney Paul L. Gray.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Larry Mendte Claims He Helped Alycia Lane Land A New TV Gig

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Former Philly anchorman Larry Mendte, representing himself in court today, told Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson that he had helped his old colleague Alycia Lane land a new broadcasting gig at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.

 Lane got fired in 2008 from her old job as co-anchor with Mendte at CBS in Philadelphia, after she was accused of punching a New York City police officer, a charge that was eventually dropped.

Later that same year, the FBI arrested Mendte for repeatedly using a "KeyCatcher" device to hack into Lane's personal and work computers allegedly more than 7,000 times in two years. After his arrest and guilty plea, Mendte told the judge, "public sentiment about Alycia Lane changed dramatically." Instead of being viewed as an alleged cop assailant, Lane was seen as a "victim," Mendte said. That's why she got hired in 2009 as a TV anchor in Los Angeles, Mendte told the judge.

Larry Mendte's new career as a lawyer was off to a good start. The judge couldn't contain her laughter. "That's good," she said.


The Roundup

Keith Smith 
A weekly tab of what's
going on in the courts.

By Shealyn Kilroy
For BigTrial.net

Chester County District Attorney:

A Chester County man has been charged with murdering his girlfriend who recorded her  own death on her cell phone,  the District Attorney’s office disclosed on May 11th. 

On May 2, Keith Smith got into an argument with girlfriend Wesley Webb in their home in Schuylkill County. Three children under the age of 14 live at their home and were upstairs during the argument. Webb told Smith she was going to take the two children and leave the house. Smith then took his single-shot 12 gauge shotgun and shot Webb in the chest while she was seated in the living room. Smith turned the gun on himself and fired, but he did not succeed at killing himself. The children came down the steps after the shots and dialed 911.

Authorities say Webb’s phone was recording the audio of her killing and continued recording up until police arrived.

“Fuck you! How’s that. That’s where we just went,” Smith says on the recording after the shooting, according to authorities.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Chaka Fattah Heads To Court

By George Anastasia
For BigTrial.net

Opening statements are scheduled for Monday in yet another Philadelphia political corruption trial.

Call this politics, payoffs and a Porsche and put lame duck Congressman Chaka Fattah Sr. at center stage. Fattah, who was defeated in the Democratic Party primary earlier this month, is in the final year of a congressional career that began in 1995.

The trial that opens Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle 3d will determine whether he begins his retirement wearing a prison jump suit.

"I'm not sure how he's going to explain some of this," said a source familiar with the case. "It's going to take some gyrations."

The 29-count indictment handed up in July charged Fattah and four co-defendants with conspiracy, bribery and fraud. The government alleges that the congressman played fast and loose with federal grants and other earmarked funds, using them to pay off personal and campaign debts, including $600,000 that was spent on his failed Philadelphia mayoral campaign in 2007.

The trial is one of four political corruption cases generating headlines.

On Tuesday John H. Estey, one-time aide to Gov. Edward Rendell, pleaded guilty in an illegal campaign funding scheme that was part of an FBI sting targeting Harrisburg legislators. In a separate case, the former mayors of Reading and Allentown have emerged as targets in a federal pay-to-play investigation. And then there is South Philadelphia State Senator Larry Farnese, indicted this week in what authorities allege was a $6,000 bribery scheme to insure his election as a Democratic Party  ward leader back in 2011.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Roundup

A weekly tab of what's
going on in the courts.

By Shealyn Kilroy
For BigTrial.net

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:

The gold Ford Taurus is pictured in this surveillance video still
A jury acquitted a man of all charges related to a 2014 carjacking involved shooting. Terrance Munden was one of three men who were up against federal prosecutors of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney’s office.

In June 2014, pharmaceutical delivery man Ricardo Tuesta was making a stop at Wellness Pharmacy on Ridge Avenue. Surveillance video show two men in a gold Ford Taurus approach Tuesta’s vehicle. What was not shown on video was the altercation that ensued inside Tuesta’s van. During the melee, a gun went off and shot Tuesta in the hand, which caused him to lose a portion of his finger. Police arrested Charles Wardlaw who claimed the other men involved included Robert Hartley and Terrance Munden.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Norcross Comes Out Of The Shadows To Dispute "Hatchet Job"

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

He came out of the shadows where he usually operates, the "widely feared, fantastically wealthy, all-powerful" George Norcross.

The unelected and unaccountable political boss of South Jersey, who, according to Philadelphia magazine, showed up unannounced in Philadelphia on Primary Day last year as part of his secret campaign to take over our city.

And, just a year later, according to Philly mag, Norcross the "conqueror" -- a guy who may harbor an Alexander the Great complex -- is now "well entrenched" in Philadelphia's government and politics. His insurance company has gobbled up a bunch of local government contacts. And, even worse, Philly mag claims, Norcross meddled in the Philadelphia mayor's race by allegedly orchestrating a plot to import $725,0000 in union PAC money from New Jersey, for the benefit of Jim Kenney. Meanwhile, the magazine cautions, the rest of us should be worried about this rich and mysterious one-percenter who works in the dark, while "granting not a single on-the-record interview to a reporter."

That's how reporter Holly Otterbein describes George Norcross in the May issue of Philly mag, under the headline, "Norcrossing the Delaware/He's already conquered New Jersey. Now George Norcross is invading Philadelphia -- and the city's power crowd is too scared to talk about it."

That's kind of curious since the story goes on to quote former Governor Ed Rendell, Comcast senior executive VP David L. Cohen, Blue Cross CEO Dan Hilferty and Mayor Jim Kenney -- all certified members of the "city's power crowd" -- all talking on the record about George Norcross, who refused to talk to Philly mag.

But guess who's talking now? George Norcross. In an hour-long interview, the South Jersey boss had plenty to say to Big Trial about Philly mag's "hatchet job" that he claimed was filled with mistakes and inaccuracies.

As a public service during primary season, Big Trial will now moderate a debate between Patrick Kerkstra, the editor of Philly mag, and the all-powerful but previously silent George Norcross. Along the way, we'll be calling 'em as we see 'em, to provide instant analysis.