Thursday, March 31, 2022

Out Of 500,000 Traffic Tickets, The Feds' Case Boiled Down To 5

By Betsy Mulgrew

In January 2013, when the feds indicted nine judges in Philadelphia Traffic Court for fraud, my husband Bob Mulgrew was not listed in the original indictment.

But federal prosecutors had warned him that he would be added unless he cooperated, that is, give incriminating testimony against John Dougherty, then the business manager of the electricians’ union, and/or other politicians. 


My husband declined the offer, again. Three days later, his name was added to the indictment. This was just a year after we had been indicted for alleged theft of funds from the park. 


I have since learned that being indicted more than once is not such a rare occurrence, it’s a very real consequence for not cooperating.


It seems to me that the objective of federal prosecutors and FBI agents is punish their target by destroying their life and damaging all of their relationships with their family and community, draining their life savings, and reducing them to a shell of their former selves.


In our case, the feds succeeded.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office spent five years investigating Traffic Court. They reviewed over half a million traffic tickets. In the four years before the indictment, the six judges named in the indictment each adjudicated nearly one hundred thousand tickets. The indictment identified fifty tickets that the feds claimed were inappropriately handled.


The case should have been handled internally by the Judicial Conduct Review Board for possible ethical violations, but it turned into federal indictments for six judges and one citizen. In the indictment, he government alleged a ticket-fixing scheme along with mail and wire fraud.


The legal community was perplexed at the charges. Every professional organization has an ethical review board which handles matters concerning violations by its members.  A body exists that could have eliminated the federal trial and the media free-for-all. Having the situation handled by the proper channels would have saved some good people their liberty, reputation, life savings, pension and kept them from becoming a public disgrace.


For the accused, the stakes were high. One judge was threatened with 440 years in jail, another 275 years. The charges against my husband involved seven tickets. Two he had nothing to do with whatsoever, which FBI agent Jason Blake had to admit in court.


Of the remaining five tickets, two tickets were issued to one ticket holder, who appeared in truck court and made a plea bargain with the Truck Enforcement Officer, agreeing to plead guilty to one ticket guilty and the other, not guilty. 


The remaining three tickets were dismissed because of a material defect on the ticket that turned out to be fatal for the prosecution. All these decisions were reviewed, upon cross examination, with two government witnesses, both of whom were Senior Judges, who agreed with the outcome of those tickets. 


The trial lasted more than eight weeks. The government ultimately failed to prove mail or wire fraud.  The jury found that all of the defendants were not guilty of the supposed grand scheme to defraud the state.  


However, the defendants who agreed to testify before the grand jury and to describe (without fear of criminal liability) the day-to-day workings of Traffic Court, were all convicted of perjury. 


They were convicted of lying when they each denied committing the crime the jury found them not guilty of. What’s more, the prosecution successfully fought to keep out remaining portions of grand jury testimony that would have eliminated the possibility of a perjury conviction.     


In my opinion, the government’s case was pathetic and dishonest. One set of tickets involved a company called Camden Irons. The prosecution alleged that after phone calls were made these tickets were mysteriously dismissed.  The key to their case was FBI Agent Jason Blake’s sworn testimony.


Under oath, Agent Blake claimed that no one from Camden Irons showed up to contest the tickets, yet they were dismissed anyway. To support Agent Blake’s side of the story, the government called the truck driver to the stand.  The truck driver stated that he did not show up to Traffic Court to dispute the ticket. 


However, it was not his responsibility to dispute the ticket. Camden Irons, like many other companies, designated a representative to dispute tickets on behalf of the company. In this case, Camden Irons sent Andy Maybaum to dispute tickets. 


The government was told that Maybaum routinely handled traffic citations for Camden Irons, before he had left the company. Agent Blake, in no uncertain terms, assured the jury that the combined might of the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office were unable to find Maybaum, a witness crucial to the defense’s case.


The defense, using Facebook, was able to find him in a matter of minutes.


Maybaum told the judge and jury that he was at Traffic Court the day the tickets were disputed.  He had checked in with court’s staff and presented all of the documentation necessary to show that the ticketed truck was now in compliance. 


He handed those documents to a police liaison officer. When the case was called in Traffic Court, Maybaum testified that he stood up to defend the tickets. He explained the documentation to the court and the police liaison officer indicated that the documentation was in order.


The truck had been properly registered, meaning the tickets were improperly issued. According to Mr. Maybaum, the court then dismissed all three of the tickets.  This is like not having your driving license on you at the time of a traffic stop. You would be issued a ticket, but in court. if you prove that you are a licensed driver, the ticket is dismissed.


These tickets were adjudicated properly. The government’s own expert witness acknowledged this on cross-examination.


What’s more, the prosecutions own evidence demonstrated that Agent Blake lied. An FBI recording established that a Camden Irons employee and Maybaum were at Traffic Court the day of the hearing. They were recorded talking to a Traffic Court employee asking about a parking spot. On the recording, the Camden Irons employee told the Traffic Court employee that Maybaum was there to participate in the hearing. 


During the trial. we watched in horror as FBI agent Jason Blake was caught lying like this several times. In my opinion, he lied to a grand jury the same way to secure an indictment and again at trial in hopes of a conviction.


Every defense attorney except one mentioned Blake’s behavior in their closing arguments. I cannot describe how upset I was when realized an FBI agent had lied in court. And, on top of that, the media refused to report his lies.


The rest of the trial was just as farcical. Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf was questioning an elderly gentleman who had taught new judges how to adjudicate traffic tickets.  She was trying to show that the Traffic Court Judges had erred in their judgment when ruling on a ticket.


She handed the man a jacket containing what she claimed was the same file relied on by the Traffic Court Judge.  The man could not make sense of the file.  Ms. Wolf kept pressing him to say the judge had improperly ruled on the ticket -- so forcefully the trial judge told her to stop.


Still the witness couldn’t make sense of it. 


My husband and the defense, however, realized from the disposition code on the overhead projector that something was missing from the file. A ticket had been removed.  Defense counsel asked Ms. Wolf if the file was complete.  


There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when she pulled the missing ticket from under papers on her desk. With the clarity of the complete file, the witness testified that the Traffic Court Judges had ruled correctly.


During the trial, the government tried to incriminate a ticketholder. Richard Holmes had left the scene of a minor accident and was issued a citation. The government alleged that phone calls were made and that Mr. Holmes did not appear for his ticket.


Same story. FBI Agent Jason Blake told a grand jury that Holmes did not appear at the hearing over his ticket, and it was just dismissed. Mr. Holmes, however, told a grand jury that he did go to court to appear for his ticket. 


When the trial was finally over, all of the traffic judges were all acquitted of the alleged ticket-fixing scheme, but those who testified  to the grand jury  were convicted of perjury.


The prosecution presented portions of grand testimony in court in which the defendant-judges, none of whom were attorneys, denied granting “consideration” to ticketholders. My husband testified to the grand jury that he gave consideration to everyone who appeared in this courtroom. He denied giving any one preferential treatment.  This portion of his grand jury testimony was not allowed to be presented to the jury at trial.


Within Traffic Court, the practice of granting a ticketholder “consideration” was well known.  Under this practice, if a ticketholder agreed to pay the the ticket’s fine, the judge would reduce the “points” against the license associated with each ticket.


As a result, the state got its money, and the ticketholder did not lose his license and/or see his insurance rates increased.  Ticketholders asked the judges to show them consideration, much as a defense attorney would ask a jury to show his client some leniency. An imperfect system to be sure, but this is the way it operated for decades in Traffic Court.


However, in a portion of the grand jury testimony excluded from the trial, the prosecutors used the term “consideration” in a different way.  The prosecutors used the term as it was understood in the legal field, meaning a plea bargain for the benefit of the ticketholder, like a quid pro quo.


Each Traffic Court judges denied that they had given any ticket holder this sort of consideration.   They all said they did not engage in the practice of “consideration” as a quid pro quo. 


But the jury, which wasn’t allowed to see the complete testimony.  The grand jury testimony is technically hearsay.  The prosecution is, however, allowed to rely on a defendant’s grand jury testimony.  But the defendant is not allowed to rely on his own grand jury testimony.  

As a result, the prosecution can cherry pick portions of the grand juror testimony which, considered in isolation, make the defendant look guilty.  There are only two ways for a defendant to present the whole story to the jury.  This first way is to ask the judge to admit the complete testimony for completeness’ sake.  The second is to take the stand and testify in his own defense.


The trial court judge, inexplicably and over strenuous arguments advanced by defense counsel, determined that the jury did not need to see the entire testimony to understand the usage of the term “consideration” in context.  This left the defendants with only one option -- to testify. 


Defense attorneys do not want their clients to testify.  With so much on the line, a criminal trial is incredibly stressful. Under these circumstances, many witnesses appear nervous, irritable, and agitated.  

Prosecutors aggressively question witness on cross-examination.Many witnesses become more nervous, flustered, or confused and appear dishonest or evasive. Jurors can place unfounded emphasis on these factors, often wrongfully perceiving them as signs of guilt. 

Moreover, because my husband “voluntarily” pled guilty in the FDS case, he now had a criminal record.  A witness’ criminal record can be used to impeach him, or to call into question his honesty, during testimony.  

Jurors (who are carefully selected because they have no understanding of the criminal justice system) also tend to be believe that everyone with a criminal record is a liar.

For these reasons, most defense attorneys consider allowing their clients to testify only in the most desperate situations.  In this case, all of the defense attorney representing judges who volunteered to testified before the grand jury strongly opposed the idea of testifying at the trial. 

Throughout the trial, many witnessed testified about the practice of “consideration,” as it was understood in Traffic Court.  The prosecutors then presented the cherry picked portions of the grand jury testimonies where the judges denied engaging in consideration, as the prosecutors defined it during the grand jury testimony and how it is understood in the legal profession.  All of the judges listened to their attorneys and did not testify.  The jury did not get to see the complete grand jury testimony.  


They were all convicted of perjury.  My husband was later sentenced to 18 months in prison for telling the truth about a crime that he did not commit. 


I have to ask, who posed a greater threat to society? High school graduates in judicial robes, with weeks of instructions, adjudicating tickets, who were found not guilty of fixing tickets?


Or the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office who plotted, planned, and schemed to trap and jail good people doing the best job they could working within an imperfect system?


None of the defendants in the Traffic Court trial should have been threatened with decades in prison in exchange for the offenses they were charged with. The punishment was disproportionate to the ethical violations that the defendants were charged with, which should have not amounted to criminal violations.


The Traffic Court violations could have been remedied with one day or one week’s worth of work by Former Chief Justice Ronald Castile, working as an arbitrator. But that was not the desired outcome. 

Jailing and bankrupting the defendants for the prosecution’s personal gain was the aim.


Instead, the aim of the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI was to win at all costs. With the help of the media singing their tune.


The ordeal that my husband and I went through has cost me all faith that I once had in our judicial system, as well as the media. Especially when they’re working in tandem to condemn, and sensationalizing was the name of the game. 

Stoking fear and mistrust in elected official should never be the government's or the media's directive. We have seen how harmful this type of reporting can be to a democracy.  

As well as to our own lives.


  1. These Postings by Mrs. Mulgrew are poignant and would be far more instructive within the context of a Fiction for Readers who aren't privy to the Pattern of Bribes and Corruption generated by Politicians and their Surrogates for Decades in the Traffic Court and Parking Authority Systems.

    Being familiar with the Machination of 1st Ward Politics and how money and tickets were bundled through the Office of the Senator at his HQ at 1208 Tasker, where money was divided between Elected and Non Elected Parties.

    Mayor Kenney when He assumed the Position of Chief of Staff for the Senator chopped up the Money.

    Didn't this Practice continue when Johnny Doc replaced Joe Hoffman as 1st Ward Leader, who's Son, Jr., did Federal Time for following the Practice when Head of the Parking Authority Board of Adjudication.

    That Reality is missing from the Mulgrew Sob Story.

    1. Please. This among hundreds of example of corruption, for which Philadelphia and its machine are known for.

      -Jim Kenney, while in council, helped Meryl Levitz cover up fraud at the VisitPhilly Tourist Bureaur.
      -Judge of Elections pled guilty to fixing elections.
      -Jim Kenney gassed protesters on -76, lied about it, threw a police officer under the bus, and paid hush money to the victims to silence their voices. We await the investigations into Outlaw and to get the tapes from that day.
      -Jim Kenney making almost $400K a year doing Heanon-like side jobs.

      Philly is so corrupt.
      The only difference is if you are favored and thus avoid accountability.

    2. Fiction is what Jim Kenney and Danielle Outlaw say about all the violence, and what the Inquirer broadcasts and amplifies it.
      Fiction is election integrity in Philadelphia.
      Fiction is Krasner paying his real estate taxes.
      Fiction is Comcast investigating itself over rapes and sex assaults.

    3. The reality of the Mulgrew story was missed by the writer above. His other allegations should be taken to the U.S. Attorney. Invite us to hear your presentation to them. - Joe Shay

  2. Does it matter to you that the case presented in court was so pathetic? You seem to be missing the point that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Trying a defendant over 5 traffic tickets seems pretty ridiculous to me.

    If the system was so outrageously corrupt, the prosecution ought to be able to prove it in court, right?

  3. I've personally sat in a lot of courtrooms where the feds made sweeping allegations of corruption, and then didn't prove their case.

    The narcotics cops trial comes to mind, as do the failed cases against Dom Verdi and Larry Farnese. The Chaka Fattah case could have been another one, but the pro-prosecution judge tossed the lone holdout on the jury, to ensure a conviction.

    You've got to prove your case in court. The way the system works now, prosecutors are completely unaccountable, as Larry Krasner proves every day.

  4. You're telling us you've got some inside knowledge that most other people don't possess, so you know everybody's guilty.

    Your alleged inside dope is worthless.

    1. 5 Tickets is Bullshit and You know it.

      Ward Leaders used to carry bundles to Vince' Office.

      The Inquirer and the Feds planted Laura Foreman in senile Cianfrani's Bed in order to make a Case.

      Just like You ignore Henon and Johnson Prosecutions.

    2. I wasn't in the courtroom. If 5 tickets was BS I ran that story by the feds, to get their comment. They could have said that.

      Your Foreman story is pretty silly since that turned out to be a major embarrassment for the paper.

      Regarding Henon and Johnson, you're not dealing with the Inquirer here. I would have loved to cover both trials but we don't have the staff.

      Since 2016, this blog has been a volunteer endeavor. We've lost our sponsor, our other ace reporter, and several interns that we used to have. I've thought about shutting this operation every year for the past five years, but since nobody else is doing what we do, I'm hanging in.

      Write me a big check, and I'll hire some staff to cover all those trials.

    3. No one could ever accuse You of following the Model of Famed Inquirer Reporters like Karafin or Marimow who shaped Stories to fit a Narrative or attempted to shake down a University.

      Rassias or Bochetto have deep pockets and should be grateful for Your Indominable PURSUIT OF THE TRUTH.

  5. But let's look at the bright side. You were able to make your points while coming off as a smug, condescending and arrogant know-it-all. Not easy to pull off.

  6. In Response to Your Argument, Ralph, perhaps the Government had other plans for the Senator and Future Mayor.

    Certainly, when it came to Corruption and Ticket Fixing, there were Judges and Administrators who were aware that their Offices were bugged by the FBI and retired before Prosecution.

    If Mulgrew had the Benefit of great Counsel like the late Jim Beasley, He may have skated like so many of his fortunate Clients, and retired to pursue hobbies and vendettas.

  7. Yeah, Ok, always trust the government. That's a winning strategy.

    BTW, Beasley was a civil lawyer. He didn't represent criminal defendants.

  8. Breaking news, yesterday a black man was acquitted of murdering the son of a PPD Captain at FDR Park.

    Only writer called this a clusterfuck due to the incompetence of two ADAs.

    Nothing in today's Inky about the acquittal and the black man was released last night. Ralph should look this up.


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