Scandal inside the Traffic Court
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At the opening of this week, the federal court of Philadelphia commences its hearing that involved six former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges and a prominent local businessman. It will include opening arguments and testimony from witnesses that alleged their long-time participation in a pervasive culture of ticket fixing.

Since the past, Philadelphia has always been suspected of traffic ticket fixing. It was not a well-hidden practice that a traffic violator with the right connections could have his ticket disappeared. This was the testimony of Tonya R. Hilton, a former personal assistant to one of the defendants’ ex- Judge Willie Singletary.

Last Thursday, Hilton painted for the court a clear picture of the traffic ticket fixing system. It was a two-prong system: one was the privilege given to family, friends, traffic court employees and those politically connected and the other for everyone else.

During the proceedings last Thursday, Hilton testified that staff of Bob Brady -U.S. Representative; Jannie Blackwell – City Councilwoman Jannie; and Kenyatta Johnson – City Councilman; they all called her boss former Judge Singletary requesting for traffic tickets to be fixed. Hilton served as PA of Singletary from 2009 to 2011 and for telling the truth was granted immunity by federal prosecutors. Facing the prosecutors were defendants: former Judges Mark Bruno, Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew, Willie Singletary, Michael Sullivan andThomasine Tynes; plus Robert Moy- a businessman. Prosecutors accused them of being active participants in what fed investigators named as a culture of traffic ticket fixing.

These judges, alleged federal prosecutors utilized their influence to manipulate cases disregarding judicial process. As a result, cases of traffic tickets are either dropped and the violator would be found not guilty, or the violator’s fines are reduced and points assigned to the holder’s driving record are avoided.

Defendants are charged with many counts of conspiracy to commit: (1) aiding; (2) abetting; (3) mail & wire frauds; (4) wire fraud; (5) mail fraud; (6) false statements to the FBI; and (7) perjury. A plea of not guilty was common to all defendants.

Way back in September 2011, FBI agents started raiding the offices and homes of the accused. Those raids resulted to the release of Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille’s commissioned investigative report that brought to light what had been hidden under the Traffic Court.

Chadwick Associates, Inc. conducted a study and discovered that the accused judges normally accepted, granted and made third-party requests for special consideration for individuals politically connected.

William G. Chadwick in the report’s overview said that in many cases judges gave special treatment to traffic violators who are influential or well- connections even if no request was made. This report was submitted to Gary S. Glazer who was Common Pleas Judge on November 19, 2012. Practices like these are in violation violated to any standard of conduct for the minor judiciary and establishes a court with two-prong system of justice: (1) for those who are politically connected; and (2) for the general public. These practices proliferate systems creating an ex parte link, not only among judges, but included the court’s administrative employees, their personal aides, court criers and even the politically influenced individuals outside the court.

Hilton received frequent requests for considerations from other Traffic Court judges. According to her, a consideration was a favor for a traffic violation case to be dismissed or the violator found not guilty. The consideration requests were written in a card 3-by-5 card with the defendant’s name, ticket number and court date. It would be placed on the left side of Singletary’s bench.

The cards were folded to keep the names confidential. Cases for consideration are delivered by a judge’s personal assistant; adding that she also took considerations to co-defendants Lowery, Mulgrew, Sullivan and Tynes.

Hilton stated that she received calls from a staff of Blackwell that she identified as John Fenton. Fenton served as director of constituent services for Blackwell whom she claimed called her at least two times a month.

Blackwell’s office did not answer ant call from the press.

Hilton related to the court that he recognized his voice and he would then say that there was someone that needs her attention.

However, Brady stood firm that nobody from his office ever requested from the defendants for any consideration.

He said that like he stated in his earlier statements, the only assistance his office did was to supply free attorneys for people with traffic violations. Their function was only to supply free lawyers not to fix tickets. As he recalled, he never received any call from the City Committee asking for special consideration.

Based on Hilton, the cases for special favors under Singletary were often dismissed and the defendant never appeared in court. Hilton remembered that she got a call from Johnson’s office two times when he was state Democratic representative.

The spokesperson of Johnson stated that he is seriously affected as his name is continuously mentioned in this case. He said that he has never requested for favorable consideration or special treatment from anyone at Traffic Court. He remembered that on one occasion one of his constituents asked for help on being ticketed unfairly and would cause him to lose his license. He called Traffic Court to inquire more about what happened, and that was the extent of my involvement. He never asked for special consideration. He is willing to testify as a witness if asked for this is his involvement to this case.

Source: Philly Trib Com 

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