Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

By Ralph Cipriano

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

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

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

Martin was elevated to acting D.A. after the current D.A., R. Seth Williams, was hit with a 23-count federal indictment alleging bribery, extortion, mail fraud and honest services fraud. The state Supreme Court has since suspended Williams' law license.

But Martin's problem is that back in 2013, she was a member of a law firm, Levant, Martin & Tauber. The firm included her husband, Robert J. Levant, who, at the time was representing Tyron Ali. He was a confidential informant who in a sting operation, allegedly bribed Brown with a total of $4,000 in cash.

In his motion, Casey pointed out that Martin's "husband and longtime law partner Robert J. Levant Esq, previously privately represented the Commonwealth's star and sole material witness Tyron Ali in this very same matter."

"The same Mr. Ali who in 2013 had more than 2,000 pending felony and misdemeanor charges dismissed by the Commonwealth based on his cooperation against Ms. Lowery Brown," Casey wrote. "The very same cooperation which was memorialized in a Cooperation Agreement negotiated by Ms. Martin's husband and then law partner -- Mr. Levant."

"The prosecution's conflict of interest violates the ethical canons governing the conduct of lawyers and thoroughly deprives Ms. Lowery Brown of her constitutional right to an impartial prosecutor," Casey wrote.

In a testimony to the current state of affairs at our local district attorney's office, Cameron Kline, the D.A.s spokesman, responded in an email that he is currently out of the office because he is serving on jury duty.

So, in his absence, Kline replied in an automatic email response that all questions from the media should be referred to First Assistant District Attorney Martin.

In an email, Martin wrote, "The Office is reviewing the Motion at this time and will respond if appropriate."

Meanwhile, Lowery Brown's lawyer is arguing that she can't get a fair trial with Martin as D.A.

"Ms. Lowery Brown has the 'right' to have [her] case reviewed by an administrator of justice with his mind on the public purpose, not by an advocate whose judgment may be blurred by subjective reasons," Casey wrote.

"This incurable conflict taints the prosecution, entitles Ms. Lowery Brown to dismal of the charges and requires the disqualification of the prosecutors," Casey wrote.

In a footnote, Casey wrote that public records revealed that Martin's husband "contributed over $5,000 to the political committees of R. Seth Williams."

Tyron Ali was a smooth-talking, 40-year old native of Trinidad who wore Brooks Brothers suits and spoke three different languages. He became a confidential informant after he was indicted by the attorney general's office in 2009 on more than 2,000 counts that included fraud, theft and document tampering.

The indictment that originated with a grand jury in Dauphin County accused Ali of diverting $430,000 in funds from a federal program that provided meals in Philadelphia for disadvantaged school kids.

After he was charged with more than 2,000 felony and misdemeanor counts, Ali hired the law firm of Levant, Martin & Tauber to defend him. The firm did a great job in court of downplaying accusations that Ali was a thief.

"Nearly all" of the $430,000 that was allegedly stolen was subsequently accounted for, according to a subsequent memorandum of law filed by Levant.

Levant's law firm also negotiated a cooperating agreement with the state attorney general's office, then represented by Frank Fina, Chief Deputy for Public Corruption.

"As part of his cooperative agreement with the OAG, Mr. Ali became a confidential informant and operative for the OAG's office investigating public corruption," Casey wrote. "From 2010 to 2012, Mr. Ali was in regular contact with Mr. Mr. Fina and other attorneys and investigators for the OAG."

In his role as an confidential informant, Ali's undercover work was "unprecedented and nothing short of extraordinary," Levant wrote.

"In what amounted to nearly full-time work with the OAG, Mr. Ali dispatched his responsibilities with a determination, professionalism and effectiveness that earned him not only the respect and gratitude of a staff of career prosecutors, but also a right to claim a consideration agreed to by the OAG -- a dismissal of all charges," Levant wrote in defense of Ali.

Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane declined to prosecute the cases brought by the sting operation. Then, Seth Williams stepped in.

"Later, in headline-grabbing and sanctimonious fashion, Mr. Williams challenged Attorney General Kane to transfer the investigation involving Lowery Brown to him," Casey wrote.

Four defendants targeted in the sting operation pleaded guilty. A fifth pleaded no contest. That left Lowery Brown as the only defendant still fighting the charges.

As part of her defense, Casey, Lowery Brown's lawyer, has argued that Ali was a "younger, attractive male leading on an older single woman." Ali, Casey wrote, flirted with Brown, called her "darling," and gave her chocolates and kisses while he was attempting to bribe her.

Casey has also continued to argue that the sting operation was racially motivated to target only black Democrats.

In a March 28, 2016 hearing, a judge asked Ali if this was true, and Ali denied it. However, Ali's account was contradicted by the FBI, Casey wrote. n a sworn declaration, Special Agent Richard J. Haag included an email exchange between the agent and Ali.

In the email exchange, Ali "indicated that he had several discussion[s] with at least two AG agents about specifically targeting Democrats in the state Legislature," the Haag declaration states.

Ali "had, on at least 2 occasions, contacted Republican lobbyists and public officials to include" in the sting operation, Haag wrote. Ali "was reprimanded for contacting the Republicans and told he was not to take any initiative in contacting Republicans in the future," according to FBI Agent Haag.

Ali "was encouraged to show iniative in contacting Democrats," Haag wrote. Ali "was not allowed to take cash or offer cash payments to Republicans . . . [the] AG's office did not want him to get involved with Republicans."

If the FBI agent is to believed, Casey wrote, Ali "made a false denial -- under oath."

"Mr. Levant and Ms. Martin represented Mr. Ali during his cooperation, which makes them witnesses and imposes upon them the obligation of candor to the tribunal," Casey wrote. "For Ms. Martin, further ethical conflicts exist because of her prior representation of Mr. Ali, her current representation of the Commonwealth, and her current obligations as Ms. Lowery Brown's prosecutor."

According to the cooperation agreement with the AG's office, the Commonwealth has the "sole discretion" to determine whether Ali "breached the cooperation agreement," Casey wrote. "The very cooperation agreement negotiated, executed and enforced by Mr. Levant while Ms. Martin was his law partner," Casey wrote.

"If Mr. Ali did breach the agreement -- and Ms. Lowery Brown posits that he did -- it will be left to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office to determine whether to prosecute Mr. Ali accordingly," Casey wrote. "This is a paradigmatic -- and disqualifying -- legal conflict."

At the end of his motion to dismiss, Casey asked that all electronic communication to be preserved between Ali and his lawyers, as well as Ali's communication with all current and former employees of the D.A.'s office.

Casey asks the judge in the case to schedule an evidentiary hearing, and he also asks for a stay of trial, which was scheduled to begin next week. But the judge in the case has decided to postpone a trial date until June 19th.



  2. Question: are there two different types of FBI agents, those that act with honesty, truthfulness and are reputable and forthright, who would report the facts accurately and impartially ?

    Like the good old fashioned G-men in Hollywood films, the type that we could put our faith in to guide us in decision making during a trial.

    Honorable people that deserve our respect, the pride of our country, those who represent what most Americans believe as a non-political, impartial entity of the justice department. Seekers of justice if you will.

    As well as the type of FBI agent that work for the prosecution, such as in the Traffic Court case, where is was quite evident to all that the agent on the case lied for the prosecution. As he was caught multiple times in lies by the defense, and his behavior was referenced by the defense attorneys closing arguments. It should have been national news.

    Are there two different sets of training schools for impartial agents and those that work for the prosecution ? Should the public be made aware of the difference in agents so we do not send innocent people to jail for the rest of their lives on the testimony of an agent that lies to advance the prosecutions case.

    Holding people accountable is the new motto of our paper of record is touting, but it seems like FBI agents must get a pass as the media was present at the Traffic Court case and obviously it was able to accept the fact the agent lied to aid the prosecution.

    It should have been national news," FBI AGENT GETS CAUGHT LYING AT TRIAL".

    Is the system so irreparably broken and so corrupt that its acceptable to our paper of record to allow these travesties to continue? Who holds reporters accountable ?

    I would love if someone could explain the difference in agents to me and to the region so we can make informed decisions if called to serve as a juror.

  3. 2000 cases dismissed against this "informant" in exchange for his cooperation in the sting..

    how very similar to the numerous drug dealing charges dismissed against Danny Gallagher aka Billy Doe in the "historic Archdiocesan abuse" case
    as declared by R. Seth Williams himself on more than one occasion...
    false testimony from a lying drug addict that put innocent men in jail...

    and what did all of those wrongful prosecutions get Williams, oh, I know no trips to Harrisburg for the higher office he aspired to
    but hopefully a trip to the Federal Lockup in Leavenworth, Kansas for selling his office to the highest bidder willing to lavish caribbean and Florida trips, free airfare, cash money, free home renovations, a free sports car, etc etc etc.....

    what a scumbag...those other DA's who cooperated in that Archdiocesan witchunt should be ashamed of themselves....

  4. Who represented Fina in his suit against AG office?

  5. I see where Attorney General Josh Sharpiro as well as six other State Attorney Generals and Vanguard are urging the President to sign legislation that would require investment sales people to put the financial interest of their clients above their own. Its their fiduciary duty to do right by their clients and would open up fee-hungry sales people to lawsuits.

    Too bad we don't have legislation that pertains to prosecutors putting the interest of their fellow citizens first instead their careers. Feeding on the public's hysteria for all things political as well as the clergy, it was somewhat easy to gain convictions. I would also include reporters in that legislation, ruining defendants reputations for a story should also qualify as grounds for a law suit. Character assassination is practiced regularly by both prosecutors and the press.

    How sickening and sad we have anyone that is allowed to operate as a prosecutor that puts personal gain above the law but it seems to be the American way. Having prosecutors be held accountable and to have the ability to sue the offending prosecutor is the legislation we need to see. No prosecutor is above the law and no prosecutor should have more rights than the average citizen.

  6. Who is making these asinine decisions at the DA's office ? What have we learned, that you can find someone to sell their soul to save their own skin to do dirty work for you. Give us a break, we are sick of this type of "justice". Stop wiring up "jailhouse" witnesses to incriminate others.


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