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Articles on this Page
- 04/20/16--10:41: _Trump And The Mob?
- 04/24/16--03:20: _The Roundup
- 04/29/16--08:23: _The Roundup
- 04/29/16--15:13: _The Mob's Theme Son...
- 05/03/16--08:49: _Norcross Comes Out ...
- 05/07/16--07:28: _The Roundup
- 05/11/16--10:29: _Chaka Fattah Heads ...
- 05/13/16--05:28: _The Roundup
- 05/13/16--18:59: _Larry Mendte Claims...
- 05/16/16--14:27: _Defense: Crimes Wer...
- 05/17/16--17:08: _CBS Seeks To Sever ...
- 05/17/16--18:11: _A $1 Million Loan A...
- 05/18/16--13:25: _Battaglini Continue...
- 05/18/16--17:26: _Chaka's Spin Doctor...
- 05/19/16--18:25: _Cool Hand Lindenfeld
- 05/21/16--08:54: _The Roundup
- 05/22/16--15:11: _Doctor's Office Ser...
- 05/23/16--14:28: _Pill Doctor Regrets...
- 05/24/16--15:34: _Pagan Leader Rants ...
- 05/25/16--17:17: _Pill Doctor Pecks A...
- 04/20/16--10:41: Trump And The Mob?
- 04/24/16--03:20: The Roundup
- 04/29/16--08:23: The Roundup
- 04/29/16--15:13: The Mob's Theme Song -- "Money, Money, Money"
- 05/03/16--08:49: Norcross Comes Out Of The Shadows To Dispute "Hatchet Job"
- 05/07/16--07:28: The Roundup
- 05/11/16--10:29: Chaka Fattah Heads To Court
- 05/13/16--05:28: The Roundup
- 05/13/16--18:59: Larry Mendte Claims He Helped Alycia Lane Land A New TV Gig
- 05/16/16--14:27: Defense: Crimes Were Committed, But Not By Defendants
- 05/17/16--17:08: CBS Seeks To Sever Larry Mendte Esquire
- 05/17/16--18:11: A $1 Million Loan At The Center Of The Fattah Investigation
- 05/18/16--13:25: Battaglini Continues To Fight His Conviction
- 05/18/16--17:26: Chaka's Spin Doctor Sells Him Out
- 05/19/16--18:25: Cool Hand Lindenfeld
- 05/21/16--08:54: The Roundup
- 05/22/16--15:11: Doctor's Office Served Pagans, Pills And Prostitutes
- 05/24/16--15:34: Pagan Leader Rants About PIll Mill
- 05/25/16--17:17: Pill Doctor Pecks Away At FBI Agent
I Don't Think So!
By George Anastasia
The article in Jersey Man about Donald Trump's alleged mob connections can be read here.
A weekly tab of what's
going on in the courts.
By Shealyn Kilroy
Philadelphia District Attorney:
Another Philadelphia police detective is facing charges. Philadelphia police detective Adam O’Donnell was scheduled, 43, for a preliminary hearing on April 22 after allegedly assaulting a man and breaking his leg while he was on-duty on Feb. 3, 2015, according to the District Attorney’s office. O’Donnell was escorting Theodore Life Jr., 45, outside of the Special Victims Unit headquarters building at 300 E. Hunting Park Ave and allegedly kicked him once in the knee. Life fell to the ground, and O’Donnell allegedly forced him into an unmarked police car and took him to a random location. The nine-year veteran of the force is charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and official oppression.
Fitzpatrick shot Tiffany Gillespie, 24, after announcing she was five months pregnant with his child in 2012. Gilespie’s body was discovered by her mother in the basement of their home on the 2300 block of South Mildred Street. "I didn't want to argue with her, so I shot her in the head and left," Fitzpatrick's statement reads, according to Philly.com. The jury found Fitzpatrick guilty of first degree murder, third-degree murder of the unborn fetus, and related gun charges.
Gloucester County Courthouse:
|Sr. Kimberly Miller|
New Jersey Attorney General:
Renaissance Properties Inc., bought the developing rights for the 104 acre farm in 2005 from Durr to build homes, apartments, and small commercial uses at the location.By the end of the scheme, Durr’s farmland ended up with a value of $500,000 plus the $372,500 profit. Durr was scheduled for a trial on this charge in two months. Under the plea deal, Durr will face four years of probation. If Durr acts up, he’s going to spend 364 days in the Burlington County jail.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:
Martha Stanley was charged with stealing her dead grandmother’s benefits on April 19, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Stanley, 47, of Philadelphia had been receiving her grandmother’s retirement benefits from the time of her death in June 2005 to March 2014. During that time, Stanley stole approximately $102,126 in Social Security payments. If found guilty, Stanley could see 75 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, restitution to the government of $102,126, another possible fine, and a $500 special assessment.
Shealyn can be reached at email@example.com
A weekly tab of what's
going on in the courts.
By Shealyn Kilroy
Philadelphia District Attorney's Office:
What's going on with Philadelphia cops?
A Philadelphia Police Officer turned himself in after an investigation of a domestic incident, police announced April 28.
On March 6 around 4:10 a.m., Alex McAdams, 28, allegedly removed a screen from a side window of his girlfriend’s first floor apartment, broke the window, entered, and took a personal item before chasing her outside. McAdams has been arrested, and a District Attorney approved affidavit contains the following charges: burglary, criminal trespass, theft and criminal mischief. McAdams is a four year veteran of the force.
A man who allegedly beat his girlfriend to death with a hammer was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on April 26, according to the District Attorney’s office. Zetic Porter allegedly got into an argument with girlfriend Izesha Gateward, 32, on March 6. Police responded to 2500 block of North 17th Street around where they found Gateward “bleeding from her head and body,” according to Philly Mag. Gateward was pronounced dead at the scene around 5:25 p.m.
Rudolph Churchill, 54, allegedly killed prostitutes Ruby Ellis and Cheryl Hanible, a case that had been unsolved until 2013. Philadelphia police had been testing for DNA in cold case homicides under a federal grant, came up with a match for Churchill in an FBI database. Churchill, who at the time of the slayings lived in the 1300 block of Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia, a few blocks from where both bodies were found, had not been a suspect until authorities found a match. The prosecution alleges that Churchill's DNA is on two pieces of evidence: a bloody paper towel found in the car near Ellis' body, and on Hanible's sneaker, according to Philly.com.
According to Joseph A. Slobodzian's reports of the trial thus far, testimony from DNA experts has sparked debate in the courtroom. Churchill, under his Constitutional rights, is declining to testify. The trial began April 18, and the jury has not yet reached a verdict.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:
|South Philadelphia Tap Room|
Photo by Philly Drink Nation
A Bucks County man was indicted on April 27 with child porn related charges, an obstruction of justice charge and destruction of evidence charge. Norman Ridgeway, 26, of Croydon, Pa., was being pursued by police for child porn when he allegedly restored his cell phone back to factory settings, erasing all child porn. Ridgeway allegedly made a phone call to another person instructing them to find and destroy an SD memory card he kept in his wallet, which contained child porn. If found guilty, Ridgeway may spend a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, with a maximum possible sentence of 100 years in prison, a possible fine, three years of supervised release, and a $700 special assessment.
Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office:
Shealyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By George Anastasia
It was the underworld's version of a full service financial operation.
It featured bookmaking, loansharking and money laundering. Most of the wheeling and dealing took place in a Newark check cashing business.
The numbers, detailed in an indictment unsealed this week by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, were staggering. The loansharking business, according to the AG, generated $4.7 million in interest payments. The illegal check cashing business took in $9 million in fees while allowing customers to launder money and avoid federal tax reporting requirements. The sports betting operation, with an offshore wire room in Costa Rica, generated millions more.
"This case is a smorgasbord of mob schemes," said acting New Jersey Attorney General Robert Lougy in a news release that detailed the indictment of 10 alleged members and associates of the powerful Genovese crime family.
The charges stem from an investigation dubbed "Operation Fistful" that began in 2007. The probe was spearheaded by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Waterfront Commission. Among other crimes, the indictment alleges that several defendants took control of a trucking company that transported cars from the Port of Newark to dealerships throughout New Jersey. Authorities allege the trucking firm was a front for a series of mob scams, including forgery and tax evasion.
"The more the Mafia changes, the more it stays the same," said Elie Honig, head of the Division of Criminal Justice, pointing out that while those charged "adopted sophisticated financial systems to hide their profits, those profits came from traditional street crimes such as loansharking and illegal gambling."
Threats of violence and extortion were part of the package, he added.
of Bayside, NY, and mob soldier Vito Alberti, 57, of Morristown. A key player in the schemes, authority said, was mob associate Domenick Pucillo, 58, of Florham Park.
Pucillo owned Tri-State Check Cashing in Newark and later set up another check cashing business in Hialeah, FL. Both companies were cited in the indictment. In addition, Pucillo was accused to setting up a scheme in which a Portuguese restaurant in Newark ran a check cashing operation through which customers laundered money and avoided taxes.
Authorities allege that during one four-year period over $400 million in checks were cashed through the restaurant-based check cashing operation.
The quasi-legitimate nature of the front businesses are part of the ever changing face of organized crime, said authorities, who point to case after case in which traditional mob gambits are given the veneer of legitimacy. But behind-the-scenes, they say, it's business as usual.
Federal and state authorities in the Philadelphia area are currently monitoring the businesses of several organized crime figures who recently returned from prison and are actively involved in construction, mortgage refinancing and other building services. No one has been charged with any crime and those involved have insisted the businesses are legitimate.
In Operation Fistful authorities alleged that legitimate businesses were used to "front" mob activities. Pucillo, for example, is accused of using his check-cashing business to hide a major loansharking operation in which millions of dollars were put "on the street" at interest rates of 52, 104 and 156 percent annual interest.
In street jargon, the loans were placed at from one to three points. A point is one percent interest due each week.
The indictment contends that Pucillo and Genovese crime family associate Robert "Bobby Spags" Spagnola, 68, of Morganville, NJ, partnered in the loansharking business with Spagnola receiving one point on each loan he brought to the operation. Pucillo was also charged with kicking up some of his profits to Tuzzo and Alberti.
"Victims were required to pay interest on a weekly basis," according to the news release announcing the indictment. "The scheme was designed so that, when the victims made loan payments by check, it appeared that they were cashing checks in the ordinary course of Pucillo's check-cashing business. When they took out loans, victims were required to sign partially completed checks, which Pucillo and his co-defendants could complete and cash through the check-cashing business to collect weekly interest or payment of principal."
Customers also had the option of paying "in cash," the AG noted.
The gambling operation, with offshore Costa Rica connections, was similar to one uncovered in another investigation launched by the Attorney General's Office called "Operation Heat." In that case, members of the Luchese crime family were charged with running a $2.2 billion sports book through Costa Rica. Most of the lead defendants in that case have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.
Earlier this month, Joseph Napoli, 80, a one-time member of a three-man ruling commission for the Luchese organization, was sentenced to three years in prison. Matthew Madonna, 80, another member of that ruling body, was sentenced to five years in September. Several other key defendants, including mob capo Ralph Perna and his sons, Joseph and John, were also jailed after pleading guilty in the Operation Heat case.
Nicdemo S. Scarfo, the son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss "Little Nicky" Scarfo, is also a defendant in that case. Scarfo is currently serving a 30-year federal sentence on racketeering and fraud charges.
The sports betting case outlined in the latest indictment echoes the charges that the Luchese group faced. Authorities allege that in one year a group of bookmakers headed by mob associate Vincent P. Coppola, 38, of Union, NJ, handled $1.7 million in bets and pocketed $400,000 in profits.
Coppola is the son of jailed Genovese crime family capo Michael Coppola.
In all, 14 defendants, including 10 alleged mob members and associates, were charged. The government also filed forfeiture actions against real estate holdings and bank accountants linked to many of the defendants. The indictment formalized charges first outlined when eight of the defendants were arrested back in October. Most are free on $400,000 bail.
Attorney General Lougy said organized crime "remains a corrosive presence wherever it can turn a big profit" and that behind the crimes were "victims whose lives were ruined because of their debts or because of their drug or gambling problems."
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
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.
Philly mag Editor Kerkstra came out strong with a full-throated defense of his reporter.
"We stand by Holly's reporting 100 percent," Kerkstra wrote in an email. "I'm damn proud of this piece and the reporter who wrote it. Reporting and writing a story like this about George Norcross takes smarts and tenacity, but also guts," Kerstra said, considering Norcross's past tussles with reporters.
"It's great that George Norcross spoke to you for an hour," Kerkstra said. "He declined our request for an interview. His spokesman declined to be interviewed, on the record or off. Many of Norcross's associates and allies declined to be interviewed as well."
Norcross similarly came out firing
"I'm not going to speak to a writer who has demonstrated an unprofessional, incompetent nature in their reporting," Norcross said about Otterbein. "She clearly showed a bias from her initial conversation" with Norcross spokesman Dan Fee. "The lady who wrote this article had reached a conclusion before she wrote her first sentence," Norcross said. "She did very little research."
FIRST DEBATE TOPIC -- As far as Norcross is concerned, the troubles start with the illustration Philly mag used for the story.
The magazine depicts Norcross as George Washington crossing the Delaware. In the boat, Old Glory is flying, and Norcross and his daughter, Lexie, are being rowed across the river by U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, and Mayor Kenney. Along for the ride are former Gov. Rendell and union boss "Johnny Doc" Dougherty. Meanwhile, seen splashing along helplessly in the waves beside the boat is Ed Coryell, the boss of the Philadelphia carpenters local, until his international threw him overboard.
In the Philly mag story, Norcross is depicted as crossing the Delaware, presumably to begin his invasion of Philadelphia. But as Norcross explained, "any sixth-grade history student" knows that when Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Day, 1776, he was on his way to Trenton, to ambush the Hessians, not to invade Philadelphia.
In the view of Philly mag editor Kerkstra, Norcross is being too literal.
"Did he [Norcross] actually take issue with the fact that Jim Kenney is not really an oarsman?"Kerksra asked.
Big Trial Scorecard: In terms of history and geography, Norcross may be right. But it's a nice illustration, so Big Trial is calling this one a tie.
NEXT DEBATE TOPIC -- In the opening of the story, Philly mag explains how Norcross "slipped in through the back door" of Vie, a North Philadelphia restaurant, and had a brief conversation with Jim Kenney on the night he won the Democratic mayoral primary. The conversation lasted only three minutes, according to Philly mag, but it created a buzz among Philadelphia's power elite. Did the brief meeting signal that Norcross, the man who spent "30 years methodically taking over the state of New Jersey, was setting his sights on Philadelphia?" Yes, says Philly mag, because, just a year later, Norcross is now "well entrenched" on this side of the Delaware in both Philly government and politics.
Norcross's story is that when he stopped by to see Kenney, it was on an impulse, not to launch an invasion. "I've known Jimmy for 20 years," Norcross said about the mayor. He explained that he and Hilferty, the CEO of Independence Blue Cross, were in town that night and "just decided to stop by and congratulate him [Kenney] and then we left."
"The story uses the anecdote of that three-minute meeting as an example of Norcross's stature and asserts that it got people talking about his role in Philly," Kerkstra explained. Norcross didn't have an appointment to see Kenney the night he won the primary, but it didn't matter. "The story makes a broad case that Norcross is flexing his muscle in the city," Kerkstra said.
Norcross is executive chairman of Conner, Strong and Buckelew, an insurance firm that opened a new office at Two Liberty Square in 2012. In recent years, the magazine reported, the insurance firm has "secured millions of dollars worth of contracts from government agencies in Philadelphia."
According to the magazine, those insurance contracts, which "have helped make him [Norcross] a millionaire many times over," include: a $300,000 contract with the city's Redevelopment Authority in 2011, extended to $310,000 in 2012; a $630,000 contract with the Philadelphia School district in 2012, extended to $500,000 in 2014; a $660,000 contract in 2014 with the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
All told, the contracts cited by Philly mag amount to $2.4 million.
"He's right," Kerkstra said. "And the story is crystal clear on the fact that Norcross had dealings in the city before that meeting," Kerkstra said. "The actual years those contracts were awarded are included in the story. There's a line in the story that explicitly says when we think he made his big move into Philly: 'That moment came in 2012,'" when Norcross was part of a group of owners that bought The Philadelphia Inquirer. [More about that later.]
Norcross claimed the dollar amounts on the contracts quoted by Philadelphia magazine are incorrect, because they include money paid to minority contractors involved in the bids, a share that typically ranges between 25 and 30 percent. That means that rather than than reaping $2.4 million from the contracts, the insurance firm would have netted, at most, about $1.8 million over four years.
Norcross cites another factual discrepancy. The magazine talks about the 2012 opening of a new office at Two Liberty Square in 2012 for Norcross's insurance agency. But, "Conner, Strong & Buckelew has been entrenched in Philadelphia and eastern Pennsylvania for well over a decade," Norcross said. "We've had a presence in the city since the late 1990s."
Today, "We have 150 people hiding at Two Liberty Square," Norcross said. The firm previously maintained an office at Commerce Square.
Counters Kerstra: "The firm itself considers the November 2012 opening of its 'dual headquarters' in Philadelphia to be a milestone moment." The editor was referring to a publicity brochure issued by the firm that celebrated more than 50 years in business.
"We're a national firm doing business all over the country" in nearly all 50 states, Norcross said. "We're among the largest insurance brokerage firms in America. We do business in almost every one of the 50 states." The Philadelphia contracts the magazine cited amount to just a small part of the firm's business, Norcross said.
"No one from Philadelphia magazine bothered to fact check a single thing," Norcross complained.
But Kerkstra said, "Since George Norcross did not speak to us, we got no facts from him to check. Our information was carefully reported and checked from other authoritative sources."
Big Trial Scorecard: Philly mag could have run the numbers for the insurance contracts past Norcross's representatives, and included the explanation about the decreased dollar amounts due to the minority subcontractors. But most readers won't care about the discrepancy. If Conner, Strong & Buckelew have been in Philadelphia since the late 1990s, as Norcross claims, that could have been noted in the story as well. Most readers won't care about that either, but this kind of stuff makes an old reporter nervous about sloppy work habits.
NEW DEBATE TOPIC -- The magazine claims that Norcross, a former owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, "lost control of the newspaper in 2014, after a nasty, deeply personal feud between the owners involving lovers, lawyers and daughters."
Norcross concedes he wanted to keep the papers, and was disappointed by the result of court-ordered auction. But he doesn't know how he could accurately be portrayed "as the loser in that transaction."
"I was a pretty substantial winner," Norcross said. He pointed to the dollar figures in the transaction, that a newspaper bought for $55 million in 2012 was sold for $88 million in 2014.
To be more specific, at the June 2014 auction, Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest bought out Norcross and his two partners, William P. Hankowsky and Joseph E. Buckelew.
Norcross and his two partners had previously invested $35 million in 2012; they sold out two years later for $41.7 million. So they made $6.7 million. Not many people make money selling newspapers.
At the time, Katz believed that Norcross was committed to keeping the newspaper at any cost. But when the bidding hit $88 million, Norcross surprised Katz and Lenfest by dropping out, leaving his adversaries to overpay.
To prove that point, the day after the auction, when Katz was asked about his plans for the newspapers, he responded, "I can't tell you what our plans are, because my plan yesterday was to go home with a big check."
Katz was subsequently killed in a plane crash. Since then, "Lenfest has plowed $120 million into that enterprise and donated it to a non profit," Norcross said. So how exactly did he lose that auction?
"He does not control the newspapers," Kerkstra said. "He wanted to continue to own them. 'Lost control' sits OK with me."
Big Trial Scorecard: It would have been easy to explain that although Norcross may have won on the bottom line, he did lose control of the newspaper.
"I've been interviewed frequently and regularly over the last 15 years," Norcross said. "It's another example of blatant incompetence; the editors were asleep at the wheel."
A Google search using the words "Norcross" and "interview" turns up: a 2012 interview with Marty Moss-Coane of WHYY about the merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University; a four hour interview with the Inquirer for a 2012 story headlined, Powerful medicine: How George Norcross used his political muscle to pump up once-ailing Cooper Hospital; and, most embarrassingly for Philly mag, two interviews with Steve Volk of Philly mag for a 2013 story headlined, "George Norcross: The Man Who Destroyed Democracy."
"Yep," Kerkstra replied, "The statement that he had granted 'not a single on-the-record interview with a reporter' is a clear factual error, one that I mistakenly made while editing as I cut to fit the article to length. We will run a correction in the next issue of the magazine and clarify the language for the online version of the story when it goes up."
Big Trial Scorecard: Philly Mag shoots itself in the foot on this one. How do you overlook two interviews with your own magazine? When you're going after a target as big as Norcross, you have to pitch a shutout. In the story, Philly mag also states that Norcross's daughter, Lexie, launched a new news website, phillyvoice.com, in 2014, when the website was launched in 2015. Again, no big deal but a mistake a fact-checker should have caught.
NEW DEBATE TOPIC -- In the Norcross piece, Philly Mag recounts "the story of how Norcross built himself into the most powerful man in New Jersey." It's a story that according to magazine, "begins with revenge."
"To make a long F-bomb filled-story short," the magazine recounts how Norcross asked former New Jersey state Senator Lee Laskin, a Republican, for a personal favor: to put Norcross's dad, an old union boss who loved to play the ponies, on the New Jersey Racing Commission.
Philly mag's account: "The answer was no. No way. The slight infuriated Norcross," who then, according to Philly mag, launched his long and successful 30-year campaign to wrest control of Camden County from the GOP.
But Philly mag left out the punch line of that story; what Laskin said that supposedly infuriated Norcross, and prompted him to seek revenge. According to a long New Yorker story about 2014 Chris Christie and politics in New Jersey, what Laskin said, as recounted by Norcross, was, "Fuck you and your father," and "all you corrupt Democrats."
"This is a point that Norcross could have made before publication, if he'd agreed to an interview," Kerkstra said. "And really, that's the larger point here. Norcross declined an interview and now he laments that his perspective is not included to the extent he would like it to have been. That's on him, not us."
Big Trial Scorecard: When did Philly mag ever care about dropping too many F-bombs in a story? Especially when the punchline to the Laskin story has been previously printed. Also, in another section of the Philly mag story, Otterbein colorfully recounts how Norcross was caught on tape years ago by a Palmyra councilman saying things like, "Herb, don't fuck with me on this one," because, "You're gonna get your fucking balls cut off."
Sorry, Patrick, but this one's on you. You should have printed that punchline that set Norcross off, especially if you're going to print other old stories that have Norcross cursing like a sailor.
FINAL DEBATE TOPIC -- Now we come to the crux of the Philly mag story: that Norcross has become "everyone's worst nightmare about super PACs" because he allegedly masterminded the funneling of $725,000 in New Jersey union money to Mayor Jim Kenney. So that Kenney could win his primary election with nifty TV ads designed by, as Philly mag put it, "Norcross's longtime adman Neil Oxman, who produced the pro-Kenney TV commercials funded with all that Super PAC cash."
According to Philly mag, the PAC money originated with the Carpenters Fund for Growth and Progress in Jersey. Then it was passed on to another PAC called the Turnout Project, which apparently skimmed $25,000 of the top. Then, the Turnout Project wrote a $725,000 check to a super PAC known as "Building a Better Pa. That's the "Johnny Doc" PAC led by Dougherty, the head of Electricians Local 98, which was also supporting Kenney for mayor.
"Norcross's fingerprints were all over the money," Philadelphia magazine declares, "He played the role of matchmaker." Since the demise of Ed Coryell, who was backing state Senator Anthony Hardy Williams for mayor, "Norcross' allies are now in charge of the city's carpenters," the magazine declared.
The magazine offers as proof of the plot, that Norcross has a friend who's a VP at the national carpenters union, another friend who's a honcho with the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, and a third friend who's the treasurer of the Carpenters Fund for Growth and Progress. That's in addition to Oxman, the longtime Norcross adman who got paid to produce the TV spots that helped Kenney win.
He may have a lot of friends, Norcross said, but there is "absolutely no proof" that he lined up the donations. To think "the carpenters did something because George Norcross orchestrated it" is "absurd," Norcross said.
Norcross said he met Coryell once in his life, at a Liberty Medal presentation ceremony. But he 's known Michelle Coryell, Ed's daughter, for the past 15 years, because she is chief of staff to Steve Sweeney, the president of the New Jersey state senate, and Norcross's longtime political ally.
Norcross said he had no advance word on the unceremonial dumping of Coryell, who, in February, suffered the indignity of having his local closed underneath him. Coryell led the Philadelphia carpenters local for 25 years. Until Douglas McCarron, general president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters in Washington D.C., decided to close the Philly local and divide its members and assets among three regional councils in Pittsburgh, Edison, N.J., and Framingham, Mass.
If Coryell was a Teamster and it was the 1970s, they might have found his body stuffed in the trunk of a car. Instead, he's now a "consultant" who still gets paid by his union while he continues to avoid reporters.
The Philly carpenters responded by demonstrating at the Convention Center, and causing more problems there, which prompted the Convention Center to file a racketeering lawsuit against the carpenters. Local Democrats were also concerned about whether the carpenters local would picket the Democratic National Convention this July in Philadelphia.
Norcross said he doesn't tell the carpenters what to do. The decision to replace Coryell came down from the union's headquarters in Washington, D.C.
It's not uncommon for an international union to step in and take "corrective action" for the "well-being of their members" when there is "adverse publicity" over an issue as big as the Convention Center, Norcross said. Especially, an issue that has become "the focal point of attention in a very negative way," Norcross said.
Norcross said he's spent his life helping to get Democrats elected to office. He thought Jim Kenney would make a good mayor. But like everybody else, Norcross said he heard about Coryell's demise from the media, and got no advance notice. He added that he wouldn't have done anything intentionally to hurt the father of Sweeney's top aide.
"We stand by our reporting," Kerkstra said. "The story explicitly says 'the carpenters likely had their own motives for donating so much cash to the elect-Kenney effort,' and then goes on to detail two possible motives. We stand by the assertion that Norcross played the role of deal-broker -- or at least, as we said in the piece, that was the assumption of 'the heavies in Philadelphia's political class.'"
But that's an assumption that may or not be true And none of those heavies are quoted in the Philly mag story as saying that Norcross arranged the deal.
What do the other participants in the alleged conspiracy have to say?
Johnny Doc didn't put much stock in the Philly mag story. "I didn't even bother reading it," he said, through his spokesperson, Frank Keel.
Neil Oxman said that the reporter, whom he respects, "was trying to connect dots in a way that were not connectable."
"We do a lot of elections a year," Oxman said. But he said he doesn't worry about "exactly where the money is coming from until the finance reports are filed."
Oxman said after a lifetime in politics, he knows that "No one from outside the union is going to tell the union what to do ever." Unions usually know who they want in office, Oxman said, and they're not going to let any "candidate or political operative" tell them what to do.
"They would tell you to go screw yourselves, especially with the building trades," Oxman said. "Those guys will punch you in the face."
The way Oxman remembers it, Norcross showed up in his office saying that some people had asked for his help in getting Anthony Hardy Williams elected mayor. This was early in the race when Lynne Abraham was leading the polls, and Kenney was a distant third.
Oxman said he told Norcross he didn't think Williams would make a good mayor. But that Kenney would. And then he explained to Norcross how to get Kenney elected, by getting out early in the campaign with ads that would define the candidate and his opponents first, before anybody else got a chance to do it.
"He didn't tell me about any of this union stuff," Oxman said. "I've never known George to get involved in the middle of a union fight. The union fights are in a separate world."
No spokesman on behalf of the carpenters could be reached for comment.
Big Trial Scorecard: Philly mag deserves credit for taking on a powerful and, some would add, elusive subject like George Norcross. But, as an old editor once told me, if you're going to take a shot at the king, make sure you don't miss.
The Philly mag story is marred by overblown rhetoric throughout, a few dumb mistakes, some close calls that could have been easily avoided, and a couple of instances where it looks like, through deliberate omission of known facts, that the magazine was out to sandbag the subject of the story.
By the time we get to the story's main point, the alleged plot to funnel out-of-state union PAC money to Kenney, we have doubts about the accuracy and objectivity of the reporting. It doesn't help that others allegedly involved in the plot are issuing denials, as is Norcross. And that none of those denials are reported in the Philly mag story.
The story wasn't labeled as analysis or opinion. Instead, Philly mag presents as fact a theory backed by an assumption.
Sorry, but it looks like a stretch.
A weekly tab of what's
going on in the courts.
By Shealyn Kilroy
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:
|The gold Ford Taurus is pictured in this surveillance video still|
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.
Prosecutors presented an ATF agent expert to testify about the defendants’ cell phone pings off of cellular towers. The agent claimed these pings off of cell phone towers matched Tuesta’s route. One of two vehicles that allegedly followed Tuesta’s route belonged to Wardlaw. According to Munden’s lawyer William J. Brennan, Wardlaw named Munden after Wardlaw was arrested and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
“Wardlaw is a career criminal, “ said Brennan.
Wardlaw knows the system and has also been charged in a string of home invasions in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Wardlaw pleaded guilty on charges relating to his role in the pharmaceutical carjacking.
Police learned early that Hartley shot Tuesta, but it was up to the jury if they would find Munden guilty. The jury was made up of 11 women and one man from nine counties of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The jury had more than 27 questions, the most Judge Timothy Savage has ever heard. The verdict came back around dinner time on May 5, acquitting Munden of attempted carjacking, attempted robbery, interference with interstate commerce, aiding and abetting, and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence aiding and abetting. The jury concluded that the identification of Munden by Wardlaw was suspect. Hartley was found guilty on all charges relating to the offense.
Brennan is pleased with the verdict, the hard-working jury and the prosecution.
“The prosecution did a marvelous job. The case was bitterly fought,” said Brennan.
But, Brennan is still not pleased with Wardlaw.
“Wardlaw was a polluted source,” said Brennan.
Also coming out of the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:
District Attorney of Philadelphia:
|Walter Sasse coming out of court this week.|
Photo by Philly.com
Yes, that former Philadelphia mounted police officer who was in a relationship with a 14-year-old he met at Courtesy Stables in Andorra that has appeared in multiple trial roundups.
Walter Sasse, 78, will serve 11 ½ to 23 months in prison followed by 10 years of probation. Sasse will be on house arrest until he files an appeal, where he then will be transported to prison. The sentencing guidelines for Sasse’s charges call for a minimum of four years.
According to Philly.com, Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Geroff struggled with determining Sasse’s sentence. Geroff strayed from the guidelines due to Sasse's previously upstanding behavior and public service. The two dozen letters the judge received from those who claimed they trusted Sasse around their own children may have had influence on a lighter sentence.
Shealyn can be reached at email@example.com
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.
Farnese, through his lawyers, has denied the allegation which, when compared to the other political corruption cases, appears penny-ante at best. Details are still emerging, but at first blush the case may be an example of what some defense attorneys charge is federal prosecutors going above and beyond in a crusade-like campaign to ferret out corruption. (More on that later.)
The Fattah case, on the other hand, is chock full of seemingly documented examples of money earmarked for legitimate public services being funneled to benefit the congressman and/or his financial needs.
Fattah will go on trial along with Herbert Vederman, a lobbyist who was the financial director for Fattah's mayoral campaign, Robert Brand, the husband of a former Fattah staff worker, Karen Nicholas, a former staffer and the CEO of a Fattah-funded non-profit that is central to one of the corruption charges, and Bonnie Bowser, one-time chief of staff of the congressman's Philadelphia office as well as treasurer for his mayoral and congressional campaigns.
The indictment alleges the five were part of "an enterprise" that used "fraudulent and corrupt means" to further the financial interests of Fattah and that conspired to hide those activities from Justice Department investigators and the media "through means that included the falsification of documents and obstruction of justice."
Two other alleged conspirators, high-powered Washington, D.C.,-based political consultant Thomas Lindenfeld, and longtime Fattah aide Gregory Naylor have pleaded guilty to related charges and are scheduled to appear as government witnesses at the trial.
Their testimony is expected to provide one of the linchpins around which the case is built.
The government says that the case involved five different schemes. These included:
- The allegation that Fattah and other defendants used charitable and federal grant funds earmarked for Fattah's non-profit Educational Advancement Alliance (EEA) to repay a $600,000 debt from Fattah's mayoral campaign. The $600,000 included $200,000 distributed as "street money" on election day, the government contends.
-- A charge that Fattah and his associates had Lindenfeld set up a phony non-profit known as Blue Guardian and then arranged to have federal funds earmarked for that non-profit. The payments were, in fact, made to pay down political consulting fees Fattah owed Lindenfeld, according to the feds.
- An allegation that campaign funds were illegally used to pay off the college tuition debts of Chaka Fattah Jr. The congressman's son was convicted last year in an unrelated case charging him with IRS and bank fraud.
- A bribery scheme in which Vederman is accused of providing "things of value" to Fattah in exchange for Fattah's promise to try to secure an ambassadorship for Vederman or an appointment to United States Trade Commission. The scheme also allegedly involved a job for Vederman's girlfriend. Among other things, the government charges that the phony sale of a 1989 Porsche 911 by Fattah's wife, TV news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah, to Vederman was part of the conspiracy.
- A scam in which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was duped into providing $50,000 to underwrite an EEA conference that never took place.
The trial is expected to last from six to eight weeks, although several observers predicted that it could end sooner because of Judge Bartle, a no-nonsense jurist with a reputation for fast-paced trials. Bartle is expected to address the jury at 9:30 Monday morning. The panel was selected earlier this month. Opening statements from the prosecution and defense will follow.
While much of the testimony and documented evidence will be focused on somewhat arcane matters like federal grants and campaign finance laws, the testimony of Lindenfeld, a self-made millionaire political consultant whose clients have included then U.S. Senate candidate Barrack Obama and Philadelphia mayoral candidate John Street, could provide an interesting account of what really goes on in a political campaign.
And the Vederman charges could provide more of the same.
The government alleges that the lobbyist was angling for an ambassadorship or a spot on the trade commission and funneled money to Fattah through his son. It also charges that the $18,000 he paid for the Porsche was designed so that Fattah and his wife would qualify for a mortgage on a vacation home in the Poconos.
The "car purchase" in 2012 was "a means to deceive the mortgage lender and evade...rules prohibiting gifts from lobbyists and requiring disclosure on Fattah's financial disclosure form." Instead, the government contends, "Fattah, Bowser, Vederman and Fattah's spouse falsely styled Vederman's $18,000 payment as having been made as part of a car sale."
The government alleges that "Vederman never took possession of the vehicle" and that "the Fattahs continued to possess, drive and insure the Porsche well after the purported `sale' to Vederman" The indictment noted that the car was still parked on the Fattah's property 26 months after the sale took place.
In July after the indictment was unsealed, Chenault-Fattah wrote a letter to her employer, news station NBC10, in which she said the sale of the Porsche was not, as the government charged, a sham. Instead, she said she continued to house and insure the car because Vederman did not have a place to keep it. Chenault-Fattah took a leave leave from the station when the indictment was made public. She is no longer employed by NBC10.
The misdirection of funds, albeit on a much smaller scale, appears to be at the heart of the case against Larry Farnese as well.
The indictment announced on Tuesday alleges that in 2011 he made a $6,000 donation to Bard College to help fund a study abroad semester for the daughter of a Democrat committeewoman whose vote he needed to insure his election as ward leader
The quid pro quo, however, is questionable. In a statement released by Mark Sheppard, Farnese's lawyer, that appeared in Wednesday's Inquirer, Sheppard noted that "The government makes these charges despite the fact that the donation was properly reported almost five years ago, was given some five months before a unanimous ward vote in which the committeewoman did not even participate; and no other committeeperson has claimed to have been offered anything of value by Sen. Farnese."
So, taking Sheppard at his word, the government has indicted Farnese for making a college donation to a school attended by the daughter of a committeewoman who did not cast a ballot in a ward election in which Farnese was unanimously elected.
Seems like a bit of a stretch on the government's part. But maybe the feds have a distorted view when it comes to the State Senate's First District. This is the same district once represented by Vincent J. Fumo and before Fumo by Henry J. "Buddy" Cianfrani. Both were convicted of serious corruption charges.
Now Farnese holds that seat. Maybe an indictment comes with the territory.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
going on in the courts.
By Shealyn Kilroy
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.
“This was a savage, selfish, and cowardly murder,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in the press release. The defendant did not hesitate to kill his girlfriend. But he flinched when it came to killing himself. Now, the victim is dead, the defendant is alive, and three kids have been badly traumatized.”
Smith told police that he shot Webb and attempted to kill himself. Smith is charged with first degree murder, third degree murder, possessing an instrument of crime, and endangering the welfare of children. Smith is ineligible for bail and will be transported to prison once he’s cleared to leave the hospital.
Pennsylvania Attorney General:
A judge in Berks County has been charged for stealing over $100,000, the Attorney General’s office announced on May 12th.
District judge Timothy M. Dougherty, 56, who had the authority over the court’s finances, allegedly stole $15,251 from his court in Wyomissing. Investigators executed a search warrant on Dougherty’s court in October, and 20 days after he told investigators he didn’t have the money, he made a single deposit to the court for $15,251. Dougherty was also subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury about the missing money the day after the deposit was made.
In addition to being charged with stealing from his court, Dougherty allegedly stole $97,780 over a period of seven years while serving as treasurer for the Wyomissing Volunteer Fire Company. A forensic accountant reviewed Dougherty’s finances and found that Dougherty’s accounts were overdrawn, that he failed to pay his monthly bills, and that he could not pay his mortgage.
Dougherty is charged with five counts of theft by deception, two counts each of theft by unlawful taking and theft by receiving stolen property and one count each of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and conflict of interest.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:
|Real or fake SEPTA pass?|
Photo by BillyPenn
Between August 2013 and June 2014, Mark Cooper, 35, bought a $91 legitimate pass and then copied the magnetic stripe onto cards using equipment bought on the internet, according to CBS.
Co-conspirator Kimberly Adams sold the passes for $50 to customers around City Hall. Most of the customers were City of Philadelphia employees.
Adams pleaded guilty in August 2015 and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month. Cooper faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $500,000, four years of supervised release, and a $200 special assessment. Cooper is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 4th
Philadelphia District Attorney:
During the spring of 2013, Brown, 25, raped four teenage girls in separate incidences at gunpoint in the Germantown section of Philadelphia during the spring of 2013. Brown will face to up to 196 years for these attacks, which he entered a no-contest guilty plea for in October.
In the first attack in March 2013, Brown, wearing a mask, approached a 12-year-old victim while she was waiting for the bus. Brown dragged her into an alley, where he raped and sodomized her. Brown threatened the girl that if she called the police, he’d kill her family.
All four attacks happened a block from Brown’s home.
Shealyn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ralph Cipriano
Former Philly anchorman Larry Mendte, representing himself in court today, told Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson that he helped his old colleague Alycia Lane land a new broadcasting gig at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.
In 2008, Lane got fired from her 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.
There was arguments about Mendte's role in leaking stories to the news media about Lane getting chummy with Prince Albert of Monaco aboard his yacht; and Lane sending pictures of herself in a bikini to ESPN reporter Rich Eisen, photos that were intercepted by Eisen's wife, Suzy Shuster.
Meanwhile, Judge Massiah-Jackson, who took over the case on April 12, was doing her best to referee a long-standing grudge match between lawyers who've been scrapping for years. Lane is represented by Paul R. Rosen and Andrew DeFalco; CBS is represented by John M. Elliott and Mark J. Schwemler. Mendte, of course, is representing himself.
"It's not my fault that this case has been going on for 10 years," the judge told the lawyers at both tables. "I just got here a few weeks ago."
But the rivalry between the two former co-anchors is no longer front-page news, as evidenced by the lack of reporters in the courtroom.
Mendte is now a 59-year-old grandfather who works as a radio talk show host in New York City and is also public affairs director at Me-TV in Delaware. Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Lane, who has apparently retired, is "living the good life in Hollywood Hills," where she's expecting her second child, Mendte told the judge.
The judge pointed out that Mendte had a nice home too on Gulph Mills Road.
I bought that house a long time ago, Mendte said, adding that he couldn't afford it today.
Mendte was fired from CBS, and pleaded guilty to one felony count of violating the federal wiretap statute. He served six months of home confinement.
In papers filed in court on May 3rd, Mendte, representing himself, details his argument that his demise led to the public rehabilitation of Lane.
"After the NYC arrest & incident, Lane and her team went after me and were able to use my case to rehabilitate Lane's public image," Mendte wrote. "Lane then landed a job as a weekday anchor at WNBC in Los Angeles, America's second largest TV market [a much larger TV market than Philadelphia.]"
When the civil case was originally filed back in 2008, Lane's lawyers alleged defamation against CBS, and portraying Lane in a false light, among a total of 18 charges. But 17 of those charges got tossed by judges in the case, and Lane is now down to a single charge of negligent supervision against CBS, for failing to figure out in a more timely fashion that Mendte was hacking into her computer.
Lane, however, accuses Mendte, of six different charges, including unlawful interception of communications, "intrusion into seclusion," invading her privacy, and tortious interference with prospective contractual relations. The last charge was filed by Lane's lawyers because Mendte allegedly interfered with Lane's plea bargain negotiations in New York by writing to the D.A.
Today's hearing was supposed to be an argument over whether an expert witness on Lane's behalf would be allowed to testify about computer technology at CBS, and whether the network did a sufficient job of investigating Lane's complaints about being hacked. The hearing was ordered by Judge Mark Bernstein, whom Judge Massiah-Jackson identified as the "team leader" among Common Court Pleas judges.
Before the change in judges, CBS's lawyers seemed hopeful of knocking the last charge out of the case by disqualifying the plaintiff's expert as a witness. But Judge Massiah-Jackson delayed any hearing on that expert witness, who was in the courtroom today, until the trial. That seemed to dash CBS's hopes for a quick knockout, and it looks like the trial is on for October.
Judge Massiah-Jackson told the lawyers that if Lane's case was narrowed down any further, there would be nothing left to it.
The expert witness in question is Kevin Brennan. On Jan. 3, 2011, Brennan, deputy director of L3 Communications of Horsham, wrote that a review of the case "confirms that CBS management was aware of Ms. Lane's complaints" about being repeatedly hacked.
"Over the course of two years, Ms. Lane requested on multiple occasions that an investigation be conducted into determining the source of unauthorized access into her email communications, yet CBS produced little or no electronic records," Brennan wrote. "A thorough investigation into this matter would have detected unauthorized access to Ms. Lane's email accounts as early as 2006," Brennan wrote.
In response, CBS's lawyers argued on May 6, 2011 that Brennan's opinions "seek to usurp the role of the Court and jury by improperly offering the legal conclusion that CBS ignored its 'duty to its employee.'" The defense lawyers argued that Brennan's conclusions were "speculative and unreliable" and that his report "does not even identify what industry standards apply in such a context."
In documents filed on the court docket, Mendte described how he went about doing his crimes. In his deposition on Jan. 27, 2011, Mendte testified that after he hacked into Lane's computer, "I emailed the photographs to myself and then erased, in the file, the send."
He presumably was talking about the emails regarding the bikini pictures that Lane sent to Eisen, a story that wound up in the New York Post. According to Mendte's deposition, after he got the emails, he went to the Union League and sent the pictures off to Page 6 of the Post.
In court files, Lane's reaction to her public embarrassment was described in contemporaneous emails. "I was crying my eyes out," Lane wrote to a friend on Oct. 31, 2007. "I got so royally screwed."
"Suzy is supposedly a total psycho," Lane wrote about Eisen's wife. "And Rich is a total wimp who let me get slaughtered to save his own ass."
"Meanwhile, people are high-fiving him," Lane wrote about Eisen, "and calling me a home wrecking whore. Little do they know I puke at the thought of trying to 'entice' him. Yikes. Gross."
Eisen, she said, was "funny, smart, but [there was] no physical chemistry EVER. I never wanted to say that because it sounds so bitchy," she wrote, "but he simply is not attractive to me . . . AT ALL. What a complete wuss he was/is not to just set the record straight!"
Her friend, however, was not sympathetic to Lane's plight.
"You were emailing a married man," the friend wrote back. "Forget the bikini photos. You were carrying on a friendship with a married man without befriending his wife. And for that, you crossed a line."
"You were wrong Alycia. You did something wrong," the friend wrote. "You need to accept that. THIS is NOT about bikini shots. It is about YOU crossing a line in someone else's marriage."
The friend concluded, "I love you girl," and, "I know you're not a bad person or a home wrecker."
In court today, Lane's lawyers told the judge they were seeking $15 million in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. But CBS's lawyers countered that those damage figures were based on a faulty assumption -- that Lane would go on collecting her CBS salary of some $700,000 to $800,000 a year for 20 years. Her annual salary in Los Angeles was considerably less, the lawyers said, about $250,000.
In response, Judge Massiah-Jackson asked if the defense had an expert ready to testify that broadcast careers are short, sometimes over by age 35. Schwemler replied that they didn't have such an expert. The judge told Schwemler in order to be fully prepared for trial, maybe he should consider retaining one.
There was more legal skirmishing today over motions to separate CBS and Mendte as defendants. Trying the two defendants together hamstrings CBS because Mendte has already pleaded guilty, Schwemler said. All Lane's lawyers were trying to do was use Mendte to taint CBS, the defendant with the "deep pockets," Schwemler said.
Rosen countered that all of the harmful actions that CBS is on trial for were caused by Mendte, but
were enabled by CBS's negligent supervision of the computer-hacking anchorman. The behaviors of the two defendants are hopelessly intermingled, Rosen argued. And it would be a hardship to have Lane go through two trials concerning the same crimes.
CBS's lawyers argued that it took the FBI to catch Mendte and his use of the KeyCatcher. CBS, Schwemler said, was under no legal obligation to conduct a forensic investigation of the network's computers, something the lawyer said was worthy of the FBI or CIA.
CBS's lawyers told the judge they would seek permission to depose officials at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles to find out why Lane was fired in 2013.
Rosen, Lane's lawyer, countered that discovery in the case was over five years ago. The lawyers also sparred over whether the incident between Lane and the New York City police woman she allegedly called a "fucking dyke" would be described to the jury.
The judge cautioned that she didn't see any way to keep the New York City incident completely out of the case.
The lawyers weren't the only ones fighting today in court. Mendte also got in his licks.
At one point, Mendte asked the judge if he hadn't already confessed to enough sins in the case, and then he stated that he didn't appreciate Lane's lawyers making up any new lies about him.
Contrary to what Lane's lawyers were saying, Mendte told the judge, he never named any names when he and Lane were talking about who might be leaking her private emails to the tabloids. This, of course, was before Mendte's confession in the case.
When he and Lane did talk, Mendte said, it was Lane who suggested several possible culprits. That's why she emailed Prince Albert, Mendte said. Because Lane suspected the prince might have leaked those photos to the New York Daily News that showed the prince holding hands and dancing with the Philadelphia anchor gal on the prince's royal yacht.
Mendte also said that contrary to assertions by Lane's lawyers, he did not have access to text messages on her phone. And that it was an email he spied where Lane wrote to former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo, seeking a phone number for former Gov. Ed Rendell. This happened the day Lame got arrested for her altercation with the New York City cop.
Ralph Cipriano can be reached at email@example.com.
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.
The defendants "left a trail of false documents" while taking part in a conspiracy that included bribery, fraud and money-laundering, the prosecutor said, adding that Fattah "cheated his way out of paying campaign debts" and used Vederman, a wealthy lobbyist and long-time friend, "as a human ATM machine."
Gray, in a one-hour presentation, told the jury the government's case is built around a documented trail of misappropriated and misapplied funds. "Omissions" and "falsifications," he said, were the hallmarks of the conspiracy.
"This case is about theft, fraud and corruption," he told the jury.
The case, developed by the FBI and IRS, focuses on what the government alleges was an illegal flow of funds that began with an unreported $1 million loan to Fattah's failed 2007 Philadelphia mayoral campaign. The illegal flow included bribes and illegal payments to bolster a mortgage application for a vacation home in the Poconos that Fattah and his wife purchased; payments to cover tuition bills owed by his son, Chaka Fattah Jr.; and the misapplication of funds earmarked for non-profit educational program diverted to cover Fattah's personal and political needs.
In fact, Gray said, Fattah used some of money to pay taxes he owed to the city of Philadelphia.
The prosecutor told the jury that testimony and evidence would offer an "inside view" of a political organization that engaged in a racketeering conspiracy. But the convoluted schemes and money trails that form the basis for the case even gave Gray some problems. The prosecutor paused and restarted one explanation after apparently confusing companies and earmarks in one of the alleged scams.
The first witness called to testify was one of the FBI agents who headed the investigation. The prosecution opened by introducing dozens of documents that established a paper trail of cash flowing into and out of accounts as part of fraudulent schemes alleged in a 29-count indictment handed up in July.
Fattah, who was defeated in a primary election in April, appeared calm and relaxed as he sat at the defense table with the lawyers and other defendants. The 16th floor courtroom of Judge Harvey Bartle 3d was packed for the morning session. The crowd thinned slightly for the afternoon proceedings. The trial will resume Tuesday morning.
Fattah is being tried along with Vederman, a lobbyist who was the financial director for Fattah's mayoral campaign; Robert Brand, who headed a company linked to what the government alleges was the illegal flow of cash; Karen Nicholas, a former staffer and the CEO of Educational Advancement Alliance (EEA), a Fattah-funded non-profit that is central to one of the corruption charges; and Bonnie Bowser, one-time chief of staff of the congressman's Philadelphia office as well as treasurer for his mayoral and congressional campaigns.
The indictment alleges the five were part of "an enterprise" that used "fraudulent and corrupt means" to further the financial interests of Fattah and conspired to hide those activities from Justice Department investigators and the media "through means that included the falsification of documents and obstruction of justice."
Gray outlined five different schemes that the prosecution contends were at the heart of the conspiracy. These included:
-- The use of charitable and federal grant funds earmarked for Fattah's non-profit Educational Advancement Alliance to repay a $600,000 debt from Fattah's mayoral campaign. The debt was what remained from the illegal and unreported $1 million loan Lindenfeld had arranged after being hired by Fattah to work on that campaign. .
-- A charge that Fattah and his associates had Lindenfeld set up a phony non-profit known as Blue Guardian and then arranged to have federal funds earmarked for that non-profit. The payments were, in fact, made to pay down political consulting fees Fattah owed Lindenfeld, according to the feds.
-- An allegation that campaign funds were illegally used to pay off the college tuition debts of Chaka Fattah Jr. The congressman's son was convicted last year in an unrelated case charging him with IRS and bank fraud.
-- A bribery scheme in which Vederman is accused of providing "things of value" to Fattah in exchange for Fattah's promise to try to secure an ambassadorship for Vederman or an appointment to United States Trade Commission. The scheme also allegedly involved a job for Vederman's girlfriend. Among other things, the government charges that the phony sale of a 1989 Porsche 911 by Fattah's wife, TV news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah, to Vederman was part of the conspiracy. The $18,000 Vederman paid for the car was used to bolster the Fattahs' mortgage application for their vacation home. Vederman never took possession of the Porsche, the government contends.
-- A scam in which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was duped into providing $50,000 to underwrite an EAA conference that never took place.
Gray called an ambassadorship "Vederman's dream job" and said that Fattah had lobbied President Obama and other members of his administration on Vederman's behalf. Meanwhile, he said, Vederman was writing checks to Fattah's son and daughter and providing "things of value" to Fattah as part of what the feds say was a quid-pro-quo bribery scheme.
Vederman "showered Fattah with money and things of value," Gray said.
Two other alleged conspirators, Lindenfeld and Naylor, have pleaded guilty to related charges and are scheduled to appear as government witnesses at the trial. Both were described by defense attorneys as less than credible.
The case, Lee told the jury, is based on speculation, innuendo and the testimony of "two men who have now cut deals to keep them out of federal prison." Lindenfeld is expected to take the stand sometime this week. Naylor will likely to be called later in the trial.
Lee urged the jury to stay focused on the issues. This is not, he said, a case about "Fattah's lifestyle." Nor is it a case about Philadelphia politics, he said, or "Mrs. Fattah's choice of automobile."
Welsh, Vederman's attorney, told the jury that Fattah and Vederman, whose fortune came from his family's ownership of the Charming Shoppes women clothing chain, were "best friends." He said the government was misinterpreting "friends helping friends" and turning Vederman's assistance into something nefarious.
Nicholas' lawyer Ann Flannery hit on the same theme, telling the jury the case against her client was built on "miscommunication" and "misunderstanding" by government bureaucracies.
She said her client worked tirelessly at EAA to develop programs to help students in need obtain educational opportunities.
"The only conspiracy between Karen Nicholas and Chaka Fattah was to help underprivileged young people" get a higher education, she said.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
Larry Mendte's former employer, CBS Broadcasting Inc., apparently has seen enough of his act as an amateur lawyer.
In the long-running civil case where 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 asked Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson to try Lane's case separately against Mendte first. Then, if needed, CBS's lawyers would prefer that the judge 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 strange that in eight years of litigation in the Lane case, CBS never suggested separating Mendte as a defendant, until he became his own lawyer. If the defendants are tried separately, Mendte 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.
|For the defense|
Mendte pleaded guilty to one felony count for hacking into Lane's personal email account. He was sentenced to six months of home confinement, three years probation, and community service.
In their motion to sever, CBS's lawyers argue that Lane "will introduce the details of Mendte's conviction at trial," and those details "are obviously extraordinarily prejudicial to CBS's defense."
"The details of Mendte's conviction are not relevant to determining whether CBS, as Lane's employer, had an affirmative duty, or even the ability to detect and prevent any of Mendte's admittedly secret conduct, which allegedly occurred on CBS property," wrote lawyers John M. Elliott, Mark J. Schwemler, John P. Elliott, and Gregory S. Voshell in a motion filed April 12th in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
In response, Mendte the novice lawyer wrote, "It is curious that CBS and Colleran are motioning for separate trials now after co-defending the case against Plaintiff Lane for over eight years in several different courts and before several different judges."
"It would seem CBS and Colleran are more concerned about me representing myself than the arguments they presented in the motion, as the alleged prejudice and inconvenience would have existed before now," Mendte wrote. "But since there is no legal basis for severing because I am Pro Se, they present arguments that are suspect at best."
But, CBS's lawyers argue, they may not be able to successfully defend themselves against Lane's suit, if Larry Mendte Esquire is allowed to sit at the defense table.
Allowing Lane to "focus her case on Mendte's criminality creates a substantial risk that jury confusion will taint CBS with Mendte's misconduct," CBS's lawyers wrote. "By focusing the jury on the details of Mendte's conviction of a felony offense and violation of state criminal statutes, [Lane] may mislead the jury into believing that CBS is associated with criminal activity, when it has committed no crime and is accused of none."
Lane has alleged that Mendte "illegally accessed her personal email on at least 7,000 different occasions," CBS's lawyers wrote. "However, under the theory of negligence" defined by a previous judge in the case, Lane's case against CBS is "based only on those few occasions when Mendte, on CBS property, used CBS equipment," CBS's lawyers wrote. "Mendte has testified that he rarely did so, especially before CBS terminated Lane."
"However, if these claims are tried together, the jury will inevitably be confused in determining which of those 7,000 incidents occurred on CBS property and using CBS equipment, and which did not," CBS's lawyers wrote. "And, which of those incidents caused any harm, and which did not."
CBS fears that when the jury hears about "all those incidents of Mende's misconduct -- coupled with his guilty plea" that the jury will "be led to believe that CBS is liable for all of Mendte's activities, just based on the sheer volume of evidence against Mendte," CBS's lawyers wrote.
But that argument is bunk, says Larry Mendte Esquire.
"There would be no jury confusion in a single trial as the claim against CBS is intrinsically tied to the claims against me," Mendte argued. "One must be explained to understand the other. CBS attorneys are skilled and knowledgable about the case. They have had no problem over 8 years explaining the claims. They should have no problem now."
"There is no rational argument that having two separate trials would promote judicial economy when the majority of witnesses, testimony and relevant facts for the defense would be the same in both trials," Mendte argued. "It is, in fact, the opposite of judicial economy. It is judicial redundancy."
"If you consider that two separate juries must be chosen and then sit through much of the same testimony, then how can CBS and Colleran possibly argue that the expense and juror inconvenience associated with a single proceeding would be more than two trials," Mendte wrote.
As Mendte continued to argue in his response brief, it became more obvious why CBS does not want him at the defense table on Oct. 21st, when the Lane civil case is scheduled to go to trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
"CBS forgets that the claim against them is that they should have put precautions in place to prevent and/or detect such access," Mendte wrote. "It will be part of the plaintiff's case against both CBS and me to present the access as criminal."
In their brief, CBS proposes that the judge hold a trial where Lane will be suing just Mendte. That case will allow the jury "to hear all of the evidence relating to the alleged thousands of occasions on which Mendte allegedly accessed [Lane's] email, and determine whether [Lane] has proven her claims, and whether she has suffered any damages at all," the CBS lawyers wrote.
If the jury finds that Lane suffered no damages, then "there will be no need to hold a trial on her claim against CBS, thus saving the Court's, the jury's, and the parties' time and resources," CBS's lawyers argued.
If the jury finds in favor of Lane, then a "second, limited, focused and judicially economical trial can be held on the limited incidents where there is evidence that Mendte secretly accessed [Lane's] email at CBS, and while using CBS equipment," the CBS lawyers wrote.
"Either result will avoid the significant prejudice involved with holding a combined trial, and in fact may eliminate the need for any trial at all against CBS," the CBS lawyers wrote.
Foul, cried Larry Mendte Esquire. The CBS lawyers are using false facts against him.
"I did not access [Lane's] email account 7,000 times," Mendte wrote. But, he added, Lane "is certain to argue that I was able to ascertain passwords and the ability to access accounts without permission through a CBS computer. Therefore, all future accesses of [Lane's] computer would be the result of CBS not preventing the initial breach."
Ouch. With arguments like that, it's easy to see why CBS doesn't want Mendte around.
Lane's "claims against CBS and me are connected," Mendte wrote. "I am accused of wrongdoing. CBS is accused of giving me the opportunity through neglect. The facts, witnesses and testimony will be the same in both trials."
"CBS's strategy here is clear," Mendte wrote. "They hope I succeed so they can file a motion to drop the case against them. And if they don't succeed, they want to use the first trial to learn what they can about the Plaintiff's strategy and case."
|The alleged victim|
But, argued Mendte, "A glaring omission in the CBS and Michael Colleran motion to sever is that we all share the same defense."
The reason Alycia Lane was fired in 2008 from CBS "had nothing to do with me or access to her emails," Mendte wrote. "Lane was fired for striking a New York City police officer in the face and calling the officer a homophobic slur in Manhattan in December of 2007. Lane never returned to the Philadelphia airwaves after that night."
A New York Judge under a first offenders program "agreed to expunge Lane's felony charges if Lane stayed out of trouble for six months," Mendte wrote.
"After the NYC arrest & incident, Lane and her team went after me and were able to use my case to rehabilitate Lane's public image," Mendte wrote. "Lane then landed a job as a weekday anchor at WNBC in Los Angeles, America's second largest TV market [a much larger TV market than in Phialdelphia.]"
"Lane has since been fired from WNBC, but, again, that had nothing to do with CBS, Colleran, or me," Mendte wrote.
Mendte concluded his brief, filed May 1st, by saying, "Again, CBS never brought up severing the case until I started representing myself. All of the alleged prejudices, benefits and confusion CBS argued was apparently non-existent until I was without counsel."
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.
The loan repayment is one of five "schemes" outlined in a 29-count indictment charging Fattah and four co-defendants with racketeering conspiracy, fraud, bribery and money-laundering.
Lord, the retired CEO of Sallie Mae, the for-profit student loan corporation, was testifying under an immunity agreement. Silver-haired and sporting a tan, the former Montgomery County resident said he earlier had contributed $100,000 to Fattah's mayoral campaign, adding, "I thought Chaka Fattah was going to win."
He described his relationship with Fattah as "professional," but said they had played golf together a half dozen times and that Fattah and his wife were his guests at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, FL, in 2005. The Fattahs flew down to Florida with Lord on a private jet.
(The Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21.)
Lord's testimony appears to pave the way for the appearance of Thomas Lindenfeld, a key government witness in the trial which will resume on Wednesday. Lord said that Fattah referred him to Lindenfeld, a Washington political consultant who was working on the mayoral campaign for the congressman.
At a subsequent meeting in McLean, VA, Lord said he and Lindenfeld discussed the financial situation and that Lord agreed to lend Lindenfeld $1 million to cover the cost of media in the waning days of the race.
The government alleges that $200,000 of that loan were used as "street money" on election day. Fattah and fellow Philadelphia congressman Bob Brady finished well behind Nutter and businessman Tom Knox in the Democractic primary on May 15 that year. Nutter, who captured 35 percent of the vote, went on as expected to win the general election in November.
Fattah remained a popular congressman, but one with financial probems, including the $1 million loan that had to be repaid. Authorities say that Lindenfeld made a $400,000 payment in June of 2007 and that within the year Fattah had come up with the additional $600,000 by taking federal grand money from non-profit educational programs he controlled.
Among the dozens of documents introduced as evidence today was a letter from Lindenfeld to Lord that accompanied the $400,000 repayment. In the letter, Lindenfeld wrote that "the business opportunities were not as fruitful" as they had expected.
Lord said he had not other business dealings with Lindenfeld and that the money was lent to aid the Fattah campaign. He said he and Fattah never discussed the loan.
The government contends and Fattah, Lindenfeld and others tried to hide the nature of the loan which was never reported as required by campaign finance laws.
In cross-examination by Fattah's attorney, Lord said he considered the $1 million a loan to "a vendor" and not a campaign contribution.
Asked if he was concerned about being repaid, Lord said "I'm always concerned when someone else has my money." The comment drew laughter from the crowded courtroom at the end of a day of often boring and arcane testimony about federal grants, loan transactions and paper money trails.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
By George Anastasia
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.
From the witness stand Battaglini, 55, said he had little contact with O'Connor after he and three co-defendants were convicted following a lengthy and convoluted trial that ended in February 2013. In fact, he said, O'Connor did not take his phone calls and came to visit him only after Battaglini wrote to the judge complaining that he could not reach his lawyer.
Mob boss Joseph Ligambi was the lead defendant in the racketeeing case. Ligambi and two other defendants were eventually acquitted.
Battaglini said O'Connor told him there were no issues that could be appealed -- a contention that O'Connor disputed. Battaglini said, "I never was on trial before so I was confused." But he insisted he never told his lawyer not to file an appeal.
He also disputed a prosecution contention that he did not want to appeal the conviction because he preferred to serve time in a federal prison rather than a state prison. Battaglini was facing a cocaine-dealing charge in Common Pleas Court at the time. He eventually was sentenced to a five-year to 10-year term after pleading guilty in November 2013. That sentence, under the terms of a plea deal, was to run concurrently with the federal sentence and would end before or at the same time at his federal jail time.
"I didn't care either way," Battaglini said. "My time is my time. A prison's a prison."
But O'Connor testified that Battaglini told him serving his term in a federal facility was an important issue. The veteran defense attorney, a former assistant district attorney, also said he would never advise a client that there were no appealable issues.
"I would never do that," he said. "I'm of the opinion you could always find some issues to appeal."
Indeed, he said a motion he filed with Robreno for a post-trial reversal of the conviction contained the same issues that would be filed in an appeal. Robreno rejected those arguments which included charges that the government had improperly introduced evidence and witness testimony.
O'Connor said he had notified Battaglini's wife that the 14-day period for filing a notice of appeal was running out a few days after sentencing was imposed on July 12, 2013.
The government then introduced a series of emails between O'Connor and Battaglini's wife, including a final email, two days before the deadline, in which she wrote, "Thanks, Larry, for everything, but we're not appealing."
Hope Lefeber, Battaglni's court-appointed lawyer for today's hearing, argued that O'Connor represented Battaglini, not his wife, and that only Battaglini could have authorized him not to file an appeal.
Robreno, who said he would take the arguments under advisement, said it appeared the issue on whether to file an appeal "was left open," but that the legal question was whether O'Connor should have done more to obtain a direct order from Battaglini or whether Battaglini, as the government argued, had the obligation to inform his lawyer.
The appeal question is the first prong of a two-pronged legal battle. If Battaglini is denied the right to file an appeal, Robreno will then decide whether to consider a motion Battaglini filed on his own from prison asking to have his conviction vacated and asking that he be given a new trial.
Among other things, Battaglini has argued that he was improperly tainted with mob associations. He said he was a bookmaker, but insisted that his gambling operation was not tied to the mob.
Battaglini's three convicted co-defendants, mobsters Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, Anthony Staino and Damien Canalichio, have had their appeals denied.
Ligambi and mobsters George Borgesi and Joseph "Scoops" Licata were found not guilty, although the government had two tries to convict Ligambi and Borgesi. The first trial ended with the jury acquitting the two of several charges, but hanging on several others. A second trial ended with Borgesi found not guilty on the one remaining count against him and the jury again split -- some acquittals and some no decisions -- on the charges against Ligambi. The government opted not to try the mob boss a third time.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
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 some 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 once was 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 witness as the Chaka trial end its third day. The courtroom was packed with print and TV reporters, many of whom were fighting to remain conscious.
But all that is expected to change tomorrow when Lindenfeld will have to run a gauntlet of defense lawyers on cross-examination. "Expect blood in the streets," a lawyer in the courtroom was overheard telling a TV reporter.
When he took the stand, Lindenfeld said he'd been a political consultant for 35 years, starting in New Jersey and winding up in Washington D.C. with his own firm, LSG Strategies Service Corp. His former partner is David Axelrod, Barack Obama's political guru.
Do you know Congressman Fattah, asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson.
"I do," Lindenfeld said.
Did you work for the congressman, the prosecutor asked.
"I did," Lindenfeld said.
Lindenfeld explained that when the former Arthur Davenport, AKA Chaka Fattah, wanted to run for mayor in 2007, Lindenfeld's big question was whether Fattah could raise enough money to be a viable candidate.
In an email that was a government exhibit, Lindenfeld told Fattah that he was one of the "least proficient fundraisers in Congress."
Sure enough, the Fattah for mayor campaign developed cash problems. Lindenfeld's story is that the congressman asked him to solve those problems. How? By agreeing to participate in a scheme to get around the new campaign finance laws for the mayor's race.
The scheme involved the congressman getting a wealthy donor, Alfred Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae, to make a $1 million "loan" to Lindenfeld's firm.
Lindenfeld testified he didn't even know who Lord was before he met him.
"I had to Google him to find out who he was," the witness testified.
But the catch was that it was Lindenfeld who was on the hook to repay the loan in monthly payments at 9.25 percent interest. For collateral, Lindenfeld told the jury, he had to put up virtually all his assets as well as his company.
When Lindenfeld got worried, he called up the congressman and told him he was counting on Fattah to come up with the cash to pay off the loan.
And what was the congressman's response, the prosecutor wanted to know.
"No problem," Lindenfeld quoted Fattah as saying.
Did you ever repay any of that interest, the prosecutor asked.
"No," Lindenfeld said.
Did you wind up putting your entire company in hock, the prosecutor asked.
"Yes," Lindenfeld said.
Would you have put up everything you own as collateral if you had to pay back the loan with your own money, the prosecutor wanted to know.
"No," Lindenfeld said.
Did you know the $1 million loan you were arranging to get around the campaign finance laws was illegal at the time you did it, the prosecutor asked.
"I did," Lindenfeld said.
Fattah came in fourth in the mayoral primary, behind Michael Nutter. But Fattah didn't spend all of Lord's money. Some $400,000 was left over, which Lindenfeld promptly shipped back to Lord.
In a letter to Lord, which was a government exhibit, Lindenfeld stated that "business was not as fruitful as previously expected."
Was that part of the deception, the prosecutor asked.
It was, Lindenfeld said.
But when Lord's son hit Lindenfeld up for the rest of the money, the political consultant went into a panic and called Fattah again. And what was the congressman's response?
According to Lindenfeld, Fattah told him, "I'll take care of it."
That's when Robert Brand called out of the blue and promptly hired Lindenfeld's company to do $600,000 worth of work for Brand's company, Solutions for Progress.
Did you do $600,000 worth of work for Brand?
"No," Lindenfeld said.
Did you do any work for $600,000?
"No," Lindenfeld said.
The day Brand wired him the money, Lindenfeld was sweating it out.
"Please do not drag this out," the political consultant emailed Brand. "I have a lot on the line."
Brand replied that the money would be wired to him the next morning.
"The earlier the better," Lindenfeld wrote back.
The next day when the money came in, Lindenfeld promptly sent it to Lord's son the same day.
When Brand subsequently had a meeting with Lindenfeld, they discussed a project involving a 12-month campaign in 13 states.
Lindenfeld bluntly asked Brand if he was going to pay for that campaign.
Somebody at the meeting brought up the fact that Brand's company had already paid Lindenfeld $600,000.
"That was for Congressman Fattah," Lindenfeld said he blurted out. He subsequently had a meeting in the hallway with an angry Brand, Lindenfeld testified.
In the hallway, Brand told Lindenfeld he had no business saying that.
Did Brand's colleagues know about the secret loan for Fattah, the prosecutor asked.
"The inference was they did not," Lindenfeld testified.
In 2014, Lindenfeld pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy.
When the trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow in Courtroom 16A, Lindenfeld's story will be put to the test as he is cross-examined by up to five defense lawyers.
By Ralph Cipriano
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 with a simple yes or no. Instead, the government's star witness relentlessly stayed 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. Which has to be bad news for Chaka Fattah.
Before the cross-examination got started, the prosecution took Lindenfeld through one last scam in the Fattah case known as the "Blue Guardians."
Lindenfeld told the jury how after Chaka Fattah's failed mayoral campaign of 2007, the political consultant was left with an unpaid $95,000 bill for his firm's campaign work.
Lindenfeld explained how he went to see Fattah in 2008 at his congressional office to try and collect on the debt. According to Lindenfeld, the congressman was blunt.
"He told me it really wasn't going to be possible" to repay the debt, Lindenfeld testified. Fattah had lost and his campaign committee was broke.
But according to Lindenfeld, Fattah suggested "another way he could be helpful."
Fattah explained that his wife, Renee Chenault, had just come back from a Caribbean vacation. And that prompted Fattah to come up with a new scheme to steal taxpayers' money. According to Lindenfeld, Fattah proposed that the political consultant create a nonprofit organization called the "Blue Guardians," so Fattah could fund that nonprofit by fraudulently procuring a federal grant for as much as $15 million.
The Blue Guardians were supposed to be a group that educated people in poor coastal communities along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, as well as the Caribbean, on environmental safety, such as how they shouldn't use jet skis or dump trash in the ocean.
As part of the scheme, Fattah's mayoral campaign committee began reducing Lindenfeld's campaign debt of $95,000 by $20,000 each year on their campaign finance reports. The Fattah team explained the debt reductions by stating on the campaign records that Lindenfeld was voluntarily forgiving the money Fattah owed him.
When it came time to fill out the grant application for the Blue Guardians, Lindenfeld said, the congressman "dictated it the way he thought it should be."
Were the Blue Guardians actually going into any poor coastal communities and educating people, the prosecutor asked.
"No," Lindenfeld said.
The scheme was foiled when a reporter called Lindenfeld to ask about the work of the Blue Guardians. That's when Lindenfeld said he and his colleagues at his firm decided they didn't want to be part of the scheme.
The call from the reporter was "the straw that broke the camel's back," Lindenfeld testified.
"I didn't want to tell" the feds about the "quid pro quo" between him and the congressman, Lindenfeld told the jury. He explained that the grant was the congressman's way of repaying the $95,000 campaign debt he owed to Lindenfeld.
When the Blue Guardians scheme went south, that prompted Lindenfeld to try again to collect the $95,000 that the congressman owed him for the work Lindenfeld's firm had done during Fattah's failed 2007 mayoral campaign. In a letter to campaign officials, Lindenfeld stated that he had repeatedly gone to Fattah to try and collect on the debt, but "so far that's been an unsatisfactory experience."
In his letter, Lindefeld stated that he ha thought he had done "everything I was asked to do, and then some" on behalf of the Fattah mayoral campaign.
The prosecutor asked what that was in reference to.
Lindenfeld stated that he was referring to his participation in a scheme orchestrated by Congressman Fattah to fund his mayoral campaign. The scheme called for Lindenfeld's firm to take out a phony $1 million "loan" from Albert Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae. The $1 million was then used to pay for the expenses of the Fattah mayoral campaign.
The first defense lawyer to cross examine Lindenfeld was Samuel W. Silver, on behalf of Congressman Fattah.
Silver asked Lindenfeld about his participation in the various schemes in the case, and whether he had lied about it to his colleagues [yes], his family [yes] and the feds [yes].
"Did I leave anyone out that you weren't truthful to," Silver asked.
Lindenfeld just sat there and said nothing.
"Would you say that winning is pretty important in your business," Silver asked.
"I could say the same about yours," Lindenfeld replied.
Silver wanted to know why Lindenfeld, supposedly such a smart guy, had been dumb enough to pledge his firm as collateral to Lord for the $1 million loan.
Again, Lindenfeld didn't answer the question.
"I'll come to you next time," the witness told the lawyer.
Silver pointed out that it was Lindenfeld who signed the loan repayment agreement, and that Fattah's name wasn't mentioned anywhere. Silver also pointed out that in the $1 million loan scheme, there was no email with Fattah's name on it.
"That's correct," Lindenfeld said. He also admitted that the Blue Guardian scheme was not spelled out in emails. That's not how Fattah did business, Lindenfeld explained.
"I had a conversation with him," Lindenfeld said about the congressman and the hatching of the Blue Guardian scheme.
Silver was back on the $1 million loan, once again asking again why Lindenfeld was dumb enough to pledge his company as collateral.
"You went to Princeton, right?" Silver asked. "You're a smart guy, right?"
Lindenfeld just stared at Silver, and said nothing.
Silver went back to all the alleged schemes in the case, and how Congressman Fattah's name wasn't on any emails or documents.
"You got anything in writing?" Silver asked.
"No, I don't," Lindenfeld admitted.
Next up was Barry Gross, representing Robert Brand, a Fattah associate who was the founder of a company called Solutions for Progress. When Lindefeld was scrambling to repay the $1 million loan from Lord, it was Brand's company that ultimately came up with $600,000 by "hiring" Lindenfeld's firm to basically do no work, according to Lindenfeld.
Gross tried to turn the tables on Lindenfeld by telling the witness it wasn't the congressman who masterminded the conspiracy involving the $1 million loan, it was Lindenfeld.
Lindenfeld, Gross said, told Brand he had to pay him $600,000 "and the price was non-negotiable."
"No, it's not," Lindenfeld said.
Gross then told Lindenfeld he was the one who was "freaking out" over the $1 million debt, and that's why he made demands on Brand.
"No," Lindenfeld calmly stated. "I informed the congressman and he said he'd take care of it."
In an attempt to show that the $600,000 payment wasn't a sham transaction, Gross pointed out some emails where Brand was trying to line up a meeting with Lindefeld, indicating that Brand actually wanted Lindenfeld to do some work for him.
"Did I read that correctly," Gross asked after he read one of Brand's emails to Lindenfeld requesting a meeting.
"You did very well," Lindenfeld said with a smile.
When Gross asked about that $600,000 payment that Lindenfeld had claimed was basically a sham, Lindenfeld replied that it was a "fig leaf" to cover a quid pro quo. It was the congressman's way of repaying the loan from Lord by using Brand's company to cover $600,000 of the $1 million loan.
The final defense lawyer to cross-examine Lindenfeld was Ronald H. Levine on behalf of Bonnie Bowser, Fattah's chief of staff, former campaign treasurer and co-defendant.
Levine asked if back in 2007, when Lindenfeld was hired to work on the Fattah mayoral campaign, if he had a good reputation as a political consultant.
"I'd like to say I still do," the witness said.
That gave Levine a chance to rip Lindenfeld for his 2014 guilty plea on one count of wire fraud.
"Will you be putting your fraud conviction on your resume?" Levine asked.
Lindenfeld didn't answer. Instead, he started laughing.
"Do you think this is funny?" Levine asked.
Lindenfeld responded that he didn't think Levine was asking a serious question.
"Is there something about being a polticial operative that prevents you from answering a question," Levine asked.
Objection, the prosecutor shouted.
So Levine rephrased his question. If you're a political operative, the lawyer asked, "Does it require you to lie?"
Once again, Lindenfeld said nothing.
Levine went over the many people Lindenfeld had lied to about the various scams in the case, including his colleagues, his wife, his friends, the feds, his CPA, and some bank officials.
"I have lied to avoid telling the truth," Lindenfeld finally said.
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.
In August 2015, Talafous had his license to practice law revoked by The Supreme Court of New Jersey, after his unlawful behavior was reported to the state Division of Criminal Justice by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics. This indictment supersedes a previous indictment from November 2015, claiming Talafous had stolen from merely one of his clients.
Alyssa Walsh of North Bergen will receive $7,900 as the result of a wrongful discharge settlement with her former employer because she revealed she was pregnant, according to acting Attorney General Robert Lougy. In 2014, Walsh was hired by Diamond Staffing, of West New York, as a packer on an assembly line. Walsh was at work when she was approached by a Diamond Staffing manager who asked if she was pregnant. Walsh disclosed that she was in fact pregnant, and was assigned to “light duty” for the remainder of that work day. Following this interaction, Walsh was supposedly told that there was no longer work for her at her current location (Secaucus) and that she would be given other jobs “more suitable to her condition,” which never came to fruition. Diamond Staffing claimed that Walsh refused to complete work tasks assigned to her because of her pregnancy, but a witness testified that Walsh had never neglected her tasks or requested special treatment for her pregnancy.
|John Paul Galloway|
By George Anastasia
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.
O'Brien, a LaSalle University graduate with a medical degree from Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine, has denied the charges. Held without bail since his arrest in January 2015, the doctor, who is also facing conspiracy and health care fraud charges in an unrelated federal case, intends to represent himself during what is expected to be a six-week trial.
In pre-trial motions that he filed on his own behalf, O'Brien has railed against the prosecution and U.S. District Court Judge Nitza Quinones Alejandro who will be presiding over the case.
"I've been locked up since Jan. 29, 2015, for alleged crimes that I am innocent of," O'Brien wrote in one legal brief.
In another, he requested for a second time that Judge Quinones recuse herself from the case, arguing that she was biased and allowing the prosecution to control the proceedings.
"As we approach trial, a trial that should never even occur, I am sure that a competent judge would stop these proceedings once the facts are evaluated," he wrote. "That would be an impartial, competent judge."
Among other things, O'Brien tried unsuccessfully to block the introduction of audio and video tapes made by a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent who visited his offices a total of 19 times and illegally obtained prescriptions for oxycodone and Xanax.
The tapes, authorities say, clearly demonstrate that O'Brien was routinely writing scripts without conducting medical exams and merely collecting cash -- $200 per visit which he and his office manager referred to as the "co-pay."
On one tape, O'Brien also offeed to write a script for a stronger dose of Xanax, a one millgram pill referred to as a "blue," if the undercover FBI agent would perform oral sex on him.
"A blue for a blow," the doctor said, according to a transcript of the conversation. The undercover FBI agent coyly declined, saying she had a friend waiting and needed to go. The doctor, ever persistent, said it wouldn't take long. Still, the undercover agent declined.
But several other female patients, brought to the office by members or associates of the Pagans, routinely engaged in sex for prescriptions. At least three dancers, identified only by their initials in court documents, are expected to testify for the prosecution.
"Several female patients will testify that they were addicted to narcotics and that O'Brien expected them to perform sexual favors for him in his office in exchange for controlled substances," according to a trial memo filed last week by Assistant U.S. Attorneys M. Beth Leahy and David Troyer, the prosecutors in the case.
The jury will also hear from at least eight other cooperating witnesses, most of whom were indicted with O'Brien and who have subsequently pleaded guilty to related charges. These will include Angela Rongione, his office manager, and Elizabeth Hibbs, his ex-wife/girlfriend.
O'Brien was living with Hibbs in the Phoenix Condominiums in Philadelphia at the time of his arrest. Authorities allege that their "divorce" was a sham in order to hide assets from a bankruptcy court and from O'Brien's first wife who was collecting about $3,000-a-month in alimony payments from the doctor, payments that O'Brien told a bankruptcy court left him nearly destitute. He claimed to be living in a small apartment above his office in Levittown and subsisting on "cheese sandwiches."
In addition to the drug and conspiracy charges, O'Brien has been charged with bankruptcy fraud and lying under oath in bankruptcy court. At the time he testified to being virtually penniless, authorities say the doctor was pulling in about $5,000-a-day from his pill mills and routinely receiving blow jobs in his office from patients who offered sex rather than cash for the illegal scripts.
In fact, investigators determined that O'Brien and Hibbs were "living secretly at various locations," including a home in Beach Haven. Armed with search warrants agents found evidence of a lavish lifestyle when they searched the shore home and the Philadelphia condo.
These included expensive clothes and leather goods with designer labels like Prada, Chanel and Hermes. There was also a $2,800 receipt for a purchase at Neiman Marcus and a $4,622.93 bill for repair work on a Mercedes Benz at a Manahawkin auto shop. Evidence indicated O'Brien had taken two trips to Aruba and had spent $15,000 on tickets to Eagles games in 2014.
At the time, authorities said, O'Brien's bank records indicated he had just $100 on deposit.
But authorities said that when he was arrested, they found $10,290 hidden in furniture, another $3,000 in cash in his car and $1,256 on his person. What's more, authorities said, Hibbs had $114,950 in two bank safety deposit boxes and $366,350 in five separate bank accounts.
Hibbs has pleaded guilty to money-laundering and bankruptcy fraud charges and is expected to testify for the prosecution.
The feds allege that in 2014 alone, O'Brien wrote 4,663 prescriptions for controlled substances. His activity was so great that "Rite Aid Pharmacy decided they would no longer fill prescriptions" that he wrote, the government said.
The government estimates that O'Brien wrote illegal scripts for 238,895 (30 milligram) oxycodone pills, 11,649 (15 mg) oxycodone tablets, 128,370 (10 mg) oxycodone pills and 160,492 (10 mg) methadone tablets in addition to prescriptions for Xanax, Percocet and other controlled substances. (At the time, authorities noted, the street sale value of a 30 mg oxycodone pill was $25.This would put the street sales of the 30 mg pills alone at nearly $6 million. )
Authorities allege that the pill mill scheme was orchestrated by Sam Nocille, identified as a leader of the Pagans. Nocille died in prison in 2014, but the scam continued. Patrick Treacy, identified as a Pagan, and Joseph Mehl, an associate of the biker gang, emerged as principal players, according to the investigation.
Both have pleaded guilty to drug related charges. Neither appears to be cooperating.
Treacy and Mehl were both charged with recruiting patients who made routine visits to O'Brien's office and who then either split the pills with them or kicked up some of the cash generated from their street sales.
Authorities said members of the Pagans received VIP treatment at the Levittown office, entering through a door in the rear of the building and never waiting for an appointment. The cavalier attitude that was part of the operation was underscored by a medical history record Treacy filled out during his first visit, the feds say.
"Treacy mockingly reported on his intake form for the initial visit with O'Brien that he had been pregnant `lots' of times, that he was menstruating and that recently he had had a `PAP' test which screens for cervical cancer," prosecutors noted in one court document.
Notwithstanding those comments, authorities said, Treacy got a prescription for 240 oxycodone tablets and 60 Xanax during his first visit. Over the course of the investigation, authorities determined that Treacy had received scripts for at least 49,852 oxycodone pills and 17,070 methadone tablets.
Mehl, a tow trucker operator identified by the feds as a "wreck chaser," admitted that he brought dancers from the Oasis gentleman's club to O'Brien as part of the scheme. He also admitted to "guarding" the door of O'Brien's office on at least two occasions when dancers performed sex acts on O'Brien.
O'Brien also used Treacy and Mehl in an attempt to collect an $11,000 debt from another patient. The two showed up at the target's home armed with brass knuckles and pipe but fled when a neighbor called police. Court records indicate the confrontation, in which the neighbor wielded a baseball bat, was picked up on a security camera.
Authorities also allege that O'Brien had "discussed plans to kill his (first) ex-wife" with members of the Pagans. In a deposition in bankruptcy court, O'Brien testified his first wife, Kathy, "took every penny and destroyed everything."
The evidence and testimony expected over the next three to four weeks of the trial will, authorities say, demonstrate the destruction wrought by the pill mill operation. One patient died of an overdose after taking what a medical expert who will be called as a witness said was "a deadly combination of oxycodone, methadone and cyclobenzaprine" prescribed by O'Brien.
Authorities also detailed the story of a dancer from the Fox Gentleman's Club in Bath, PA, who became an O'Brien patient. The club, about a two-hour drive from Philadelphia, was owned by O'Brien's cousin, authorities said, and dancers were referred to him.
The dancer, identified only as DL, had sex with O'Brien in his office, according to the feds. She was described as a "heroin and pill addict" who "crushed oxycodone pills obtained from O'Brien and injected the substance" into her veins "for a faster high."
The woman was six months pregnant and "her baby was delivered premature and addicted to opioids," according to one court document.
In addition to testimony from dancers like DL and other cooperating witnesses, the jury is expected to be played dozens of secretly recorded conversations, some of them prison phone call tapes in which Nocille or Treacy are heard discussing the pill mill scam. Others are tapes made by the cooperating witness and FBI agent who wore audio and video recording devices during their visits.
O'Brien was unsuccessful in his attempt to block the introduction those tapes, including the conversation in which he solicited sex from the female undercover FBI agent. That conversation, recorded on Oct. 2, 2014, included the following exchange:
In addition to motions to block evidence and have the judge recuse herself, O'Brien has also filed a series of requests that appear to have little to do with jurisprudence. One, rejected by prison authorities for security reasons, was a request by O'Brien to be permitted to wear cowboy boots rather than shoes in court.
Those will be provided. But in the same memo he said he needed "four copies of a hardback Dr. Seuss publication."
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.
"This is a case about drugs, money, fraud and greed," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer, who is prosecuting the case along with M. Beth Leahy. Troyer said O'Brien "abused his license" and used his office "as a supermarket for drug dealers and drug addicts in the Philadelphia area."
Before the day ended, the jury heard limited testimony from FBI Agent Diana Huffman who described surveillance operations, including video from a pole camera placed outside O'Brien's office in the 2500 block of South Broad Street. He also had offices on Bustleton Avenue and in Levittown and Trevose. Huffman will be back on the stand when the trial resumes Tuesday morning.
Troyer told the jury that not all the government witnesses would be "likeable," but he said they would "provide a unique, inside look at this conspiracy." Authorities allege that O'Brien pocketed $1.8 million through the pill mill scam, charging about $200 per visit for "patients" whom he seldom examined and who were merely paying cash for prescriptions.
Over a three-year period that began in 2012, prosecutors say members of the Pagans and other "patients" the bikers sent to the doctor, converted the scripts and then sold the drugs -- oxycodone, methadone, Xanax and Percocet -- on the streets.
Hundreds of thousands of pills were converted to cash, authorities allege, with some bikers generating as much as $10,000-a-week in sales.
Troyer also described the death of Joseph Ennis, a 38-year-old Bucks County resident who was referred to O'Brien after he was injured in a car accident. The prosecutor said O'Brien prescribed what became a toxic mix of drugs that led to Ennis's death in December 2013 when his heart stopped.
O'Brien is not charged with murder, but with contributing to Ennis' death.
A La Salle University graduate with a degree from Southeast College of Osteopathic Medicine in Miami, O'Brien portrayed himself as the target in a David and Goliath battle. He likened the government to the "bullies" who had picked on him as a boy and said he intended to fight back.
"You have to defend yourself," he said he once told his own young son. "You have to fight back. You might get your ass kicked but the bully's going to learn a lesson."
O"Brien said he has lost 165 pounds since being arrested and held without bail in January 2015. He mocked government investigators who referred to him as "the fat doctor" and members of the Pagans who are heard on taped phone conversations referring to him as the "fat jerkoff."
He told the jury Ennis' death was unfortunate, but insisted he had no more to do with it than the pharmacist who filled the prescriptions. He speculated that Ennis had taken more than what was prescribed as a daily dose of some of the medication to treat his pain.
He also told the jury that members of the biker gang were his patients, but not his partners in crime. He made no mention of the exotic dancers and the sex-for-scripts scheme other than his references to the undercover FBI agent.
That conversation was one of several that will be played for the jury. The undercover and a cooperating witness who also obtained scripts from O'Brien were wired for sound and secretly video recorded their visits.
On one tape, authorities said, O'Brien offered the undercover a stronger dose of Xanax -- one milligram rather than .5 milligrams. The pill containing the larger dosage was known as "a blue." On the tape, O'Brien asks for "a blow for a blue."
In outlining his defense, the doctor claimed the drug charges are a spinoff of another government investigation into his successful invention and operation of a hyperbarbic oxygen chamber.
In a somewhat convoluted argument, O'Brien seemed to be saying that when authorities and powers within the medical community couldn't control his use of the chamber, they launched a criminal investigation to stop him.
"If they can't find a crime, they create one," he said.
While the jury will not be told, O'Brien is facing conspiracy and health care fraud charges in a pending criminal case that alleges that his oxygen chamber was a fraud and that he engaged in "medically unnecessary" treatments that generated $4.2 million in payments.
O'Brien said his invention -- a cheaper version of a more expensive machine -- "saved lives."
"I can heal a broken arm in five days," he said of the machine's capabilities.
Returning to the charges he is facing, O'Brien told the jury, "I'm going to win. They can't beat me because I didn't do it."
George Anastasia can be reached at George@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.
The tapes were introduced as evidence as the prosecution tried to establish the connection between the Pagans and O'Brien, a connection O'Brien, who is representing himself, has denied. In his opening statement to the jury on Monday O'Brien said he had patients who were Pagans, but said he was not part of the drug conspiracy that is the basis for a 140-count criminal indictment against him.
Authorities have used the tapes of prison phone calls by Nocille and Patrick Treacy, another Pagan, in an attempt to establish the link between the biker gang and the doctor. Treacy, one of 10 co-defendants who have pleaded guilty, is heard on one tape talking with the girlfriend about the oxycodone and Valium prescriptions he has received from "our friend in Levittown."
Treacy is not cooperating in the case, according to court documents.
But Marradino and several other co-defendants, including O'Brien's office manager Angela Rongione, are listed as potential witnesses. All were named in a sweeping federal indictment that included drug dealing, conspiracy and money-laundering charges. O'Brien is also charged with bankruptcy fraud.
"I ain't being nice no more," Nocille said in one of his last phone calls in which he again complained about Marradino. "I'm done with these fuckin' guys...Making tons of money because of me. I opened the door for him real big."
Authorities allege that O'Brien -- who charged $200 cash per visit -- pocketed $1.8 million in the pill mill scheme while members of the Pagans and their associates made millions more by converting the scripts to pills and then selling those pills illegally.
Nocille never got to act on his threats, however, he died of a heart attack in prison shortly before he was to be released in January 2014. He was 47.
In an attempt to refute the government's claims, O'Brien spent more than two hours cross-examining FBI Agent Diana Huffman, the first witness called in the trial. Huffman, one of the agents who worked the case, will be back for more cross examination when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.
The doctor occasionally stumbled during his first extended examination of the witness, but overall remained on point in a detailed cross-examination that drew frequent objections for relevancy from Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Beth Leahy.
O'Brien came back again and again to a routine DEA monitoring report covering his prescriptions from January 2013 through March 2014. Huffman acknowledged that through "miscommunication" the report was not initially provided to O'Brien as he prepared his defense from prison. The 51-year-old osteopath has been held without bail since his arrest in January 2015.
The report indicated that O'Brien had written 9,890 prescriptions for narcotics during the 15-month period, prescriptions that amounted to more than one million pills. But O'Brien got Huffman to acknowledge that the report concluded with the remark "no violation noted."
This, O'Brien said through his questions, was part of the same time period covered by the FBI investigation that led to his arrest. That investigation began around July 2012.
O'Brien has tried through his opening statement and his questions to distinguish between the DEA and the FBI. The DEA, he contends, is the "expert" drug investigation unit and he seemed to be arguing that since the DEA report found no violation, he should not have been charged.
He also got Huffman to concede that several of the co-defendants in the case who had been prescribed oxycodone, methadone or Percocet had medical problems related to injuries from accidents or, in one case, a bullet wound to the head and in another a bullet that shattered a kneecap.
"If his patients were selling the medications they should be taking, how would a physician know that?" O'Brien asked at one point. A prosecution objection sustained by Judge Nitza Quinones made the question moot.
But the answer is fundamental to his defense.
What the prosecution will try to prove through a host of additional witnesses, including Marradino, several other Pagan associates and O'Brien's own office manager, is that the doctor knew when he wrote the scripts that his "patients," or the Pagans they were working for, intended to sell the pills rather than take them.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
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.
O'Brien went case by case through his patient files, pointing out how many patients he threw out of his office when he found out they were selling their prescriptions to others.
What O'Brien was trying to show the jury was how responsible he was, how much he really helped his patients, and how that 140-count indictment about him running a pill mill had to be a bunch of bull.
"I threw him out of my office several times," O'Brien said about one patient who was a member of the Pagans motorcycle gang.
O'Brien argued with FBI Agent Huffman about who was running the pill mill as they went over an organizational chart that listed 13 members of the alleged conspiracy.
"You were running the organization," Huffman finally told O'Brien.
O'Brien, however, got Huffman to acknowledge that early in the investigation, the pill doctor voluntarily gave the FBI the names of at least a half-dozen Pagans who were "pseudo-patients," outlaw bikers who were allegedly selling their prescriptions they received from Dr. O'Brien.
Did you arrest any of those bikers, the doctor wanted to know.
"We did not arrest pseudo-patients," the FBI agent said.
Why not, O'Brien asked.
"We chose not to," Huffman said. "We didn't have enough evidence to arrest them."
While going through his files, O'Brien pointed out the patients who had legitimate medical conditions. Such as one high-ranking Pagan known as "Fitter," whose real name was Patrick Collins.
Did you know Fitter had "severe diabetes," O'Brien asked the FBI agent. "Do you have a problem with me treating him for diabetes?"
"Objection," yelled the prosecutor. "He's badgering the witness."
"Sustained," the judge said.
O'Brien questioned Huffman about her relationship with an FBI agent who was her partner. Then, the doctor compared the two FBI agents who busted him to a couple of notorious outlaw bikers.
"Objection to that characterization," the prosecutor said.
"Sustained," said the judge.
While he was cross-examining the FBI agent, Dr. O'Brien frequently turned his back to the witness so he could scrawl messages for the jury to read on a giant pad resting on an easel.
"Objection," the prosecutor said.
"He's permitted to do so," the judge said about the notes the doctor was writing for the jury's benefit.
So the doctor wrote more notes. Is there one f or two in professional, he asked at one point. Then he apologized. At 51, he said, he still doesn't know how to spell.
But he does know how to talk. And while he was asking his questions he rambled on about the many things he had done for his patients, the secret illnesses he had discovered, and the teaching awards he had won at a medical college.
"I was the 1995-95 teacher of the year at Delaware Valley Medical College," he said.
The amateur lawyer scored a few points with the jury when he got FBI Agent Huffman to admit that the feds paid an undercover informant in his case $5,600 in cash.
"That's our procedure," Huffman told the jury. Undercover operatives are paid in cash and told they are obligated to report it to the IRS.
Doing the math, O'Brien figured out that the undercover operative posing as a patient in his offices was getting $300 a visit, $100 more than the doctor was charging to write prescriptions for pills.
"She's making more money than I do," O'Brien complained.
O'Brien told the FBI agent that if he was running a pill mill, he would have taken in more cash, and not deposited his money in banks.
"Do you think I"m an idiot," O'Brien asked the FBI agent.
"I think you're running a typical pill mill," she replied.
"You targeted me," the doctor said.
"You were the subject of our investigation," she corrected him.
When O'Brien was reading from records in the case, the FBI agent complained that he was reading too fast.
O'Brien apologized, saying he was excited.
"You have to take a couple of breaths as you read," the judge advised him.
O'Brien badgered FBI agent Huffman to tell him where in the indictment was he charged for asking an undercover FBI agent for a blow job.
"Conspiracy to distribute controlled substance," the agent replied.
Even though I didn't give her the pills, the doctor said. And she didn't give me the blow job?
During his cross-examination, Dr. O'Brien asked a lot of questions about that attractive undercover FBI agent that the doctor offered to trade blue Xanax pills with in exchange for a blow job.
O'Brien asked FBI Agent Huffman if the undercover agent was chosen for the assignment because she was young and attractive. He seemed to be implying entrapment.
We were looking for somebody who could play the role of the niece of another patient, the FBI agent explained. Being attractive wasn't necessary.
But, "She is pretty," FBI Agent Huffman conceded.
Jurors seemed alternately amused and fatigued as the cross-examination dragged on. One juror yawned, another bowed his head. A third juror was seen rubbing his eyes.
The judge decided it was time for an afternoon break. As the jury filed out, the prosecutor protested to the judge that Dr. O'Brien had used the break to convey to the jury in a "stage whisper" that "She lied," referring to FBI Agent Huffman.
The doctor apologized, but in his next breath, he told the judge it wasn't his fault that the FBI agent really was lying.