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Giving readers an unvarnished, uncensored, insider's view of the biggest courtroom dramas.

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    By George Anastasia

    Mob Boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino was arrested at his home in Florida this morning as the feds dropped the hammer in a multi-state, multi-defendant organized crime case.

    Merlino, 54, was part of a massive roundup in which more than 40 members and associates were taken into custody. Indictments brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York offered a shopping list of crimes ranging from gambling, loan-sharking and extortion to medical insurance fraud and untaxed cigarettes.

    Rest of story can be read here.

    Fox 29's report featuring George Anastasia.


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  • 08/06/16--06:00: The Roundup
  • A weekly tab of what’s going 
    on in the courts.


    By Logan Beck
    For BigTrial.net




    They say you shouldn’t put your cell phone number on social media, and that advice probably applies to credit card numbers too.


    Aaron Dashawn Caple, 23, of Philadelphia, used Facebook and Twitter to solicit people to provide him with their ATM bank cards and pin numbers.


    From there, Caple used the accounts to deposit bad checks, and then withdrew the money quickly before he was found out. Once he devised the plan, Caple visited multiple ATMs in Philadelphia to deposit and withdraw funds, and also visited various stores to make purchases and get cash back.
    In total, Caple was able to gather more than $47,000.


    As a result, Caple was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison, in addition to a restitution of $47,000.25 and a five year supervised release period.




    A drug investigation in Philadelphia led to the arrest of six individuals, and the seizure of 238 kilograms of cocaine: valued at $23.2 million.


    The U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST),U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the Nether Providence Township Police Department were all a part of the ongoing investigation.


    Photo credit: The Pennsylvania Attorney General 
    According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the group arrested for the drug trafficking smuggled large amounts of cocaine from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to Philadelphia and other locations.


    Francisco Severino-Ortega, 54, Argenis Dioscoris Grullon, 37, Jose Morales, 53, Michael Perez, 24, Juan Rojas, 32, and John Olmedo, 48, worked together to transport and package the paraphernalia.


    Severino-Ortega, Rojas and Grullon were all arrested after their vehicles were stopped, resulting in the seizure of about 40 kilograms of cocaine.
    Perez, Morales and Olmedo were arrested shortly after the seizure of 192 kilograms of cocaine from an industrial warehouse.


    Each defendant has been charged with manufacturing, delivery or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and possession of a controlled substance.




    A former teacher and summer camp employee was arrested on Aug. 4 on child pornography charges.


    Colin M. Skeele, 30, of Florham Park, New Jersey, is a former counselor at a summer camp for boys in Hardwick, New Jersey, as well as a former teacher at two parochial schools. According to the court documents, back in 2011 Skeele became Facebook friends with a former camper. Skeele used Facebook messenger to ask the boy to send him sexual photos in exchange for money.


    In 2012, Skeele also communicated with individuals in the Philippines about purchasing live, sexual child abuse shows via online video chat. It was later discovered that Skeele was able to use an online transfer fund to purchase those videos, one of which included the abuse of a child as young as 1 year old.


    Skeele faces a variety of charges, including two counts of producing child pornography, enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity, and distributing child pornography.

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    By George Anastasia

    It looks like a tale of the tapes in the feds' latest battle with mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

    Federal authorities, in arguing Merlino should not be released on bail, have pointed to "explicit recordings in which Merlino discussed the crimes he was committing and exhibited his role as a leader" of the mob family.

    A bail hearing for Merlino, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been moved to Friday after Merlino's Florida attorney, David L. Roth, asked for an extension.

    The rest of the story can be read here.

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  • 08/13/16--06:00: The Roundup
  • A weekly tab of what’s going 
    on in the courts.


    By Logan Beck
    For BigTrial.net




    A New Jersey woman pleaded guilty on Aug. 9 to conspiring with her former boyfriend to produce sexually explicit images of two children, according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.


    Janine Kelley, 35, of Audubon, N.J., a registered nurse, became sexually involved with her co-conspirator, Alexander Capasso, 42, of Collingswood, New Jersey, back in 2011. During this time, Capasso revealed to Kelley that he fantasized about engaging in sexual acts with children.


    Kelley readily complied.

    Over the period of a year, Kelley allowed Capasso to take photos of her engaged in sexual activities with two children. Capasso also allowed Kelley to take photos of him sexually engaged with two children as well.


    Capasso was indicted on July 6, 2016 for possession and distribution of images of child sex abuse, as well as conspiring to sexually exploit two minors.


    Kelley has pleaded guilty, and will be sentenced on Nov. 18, 2016. Her charges carry a minimum of 15 years in prison, a maximum 30 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.




    Technology and social media can often have a dark side.


    A 16-year-old girl was forced to strip naked on a webcam after being blackmailed by a New Jersey man.


    Michael Van Culin, 32, of Monroeville, N.J., began communicating with the 16-year-old girl through online chats, in which he asked her personal information about her family. From there, he used a password decoding software in order to determine her passwords based on the information she provided him, including pet names, favorite sports, family birthdays, and more.


    He successfully hacked into her email account.


    Once he did, he threatened to reveal personal information about the girl to her family--that is if she refused to strip down in front of him.


    When Van Culin’s computer was seized, investigators found a video of the teenage girl undressing, visibly shaken.


    According to officials, Van Culin came in contact with all of his victims in a similar manner. First, he befriended the girls on popular social media sites, often posing as a teenage boy. Then, he would attempt to obtain explicit photos of them through social networks, or by hacking into their email accounts. The photos would be used for blackmail.


    Van Culin also allegedly obtained sexually explicit photos and videos of four underage girls, and attempted to blackmail a fifth girl into sending him more explicit photos.


    As a result, Van Culin was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and 8 ½ years of parole ineligibility.




    Christopher Terraciano, 20, of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, has been arrested after making arrangements to have sex with a 12-year-old girl.


    Terraciano began contacting the child online, and eventually sent the child a sexually explicit image. He then began arranging a meeting with a child, with full intention to have sex with her.


    According to Attorney General Kane, an adult who knew the child reported the correspondence to authorities, prompting an investigation by the Child Predator Section. Once the investigation began, Terraciano continued sending the child sexually explicit messages.


    While plans were finalized and a meeting location was determined, Terraciano arrived at the location expecting to see the 12-year-old girl.


    Instead, he was met by authorities and taken into custody.


    He is currently being held in prison, and will have his preliminary hearing on Aug. 16.


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  • 08/13/16--06:31: Big Trial On Big Talker

  • Ralph Cipriano will appear on Christine Flowers' Radio Show at 9 p.m. Sunday night on WPHT, The Big Talker, 1210 AM.

    The subject of the conversation will be the upcoming retrial of the Msgr. Lynn case.

    Flowers recently weighed in with a  column on the D.A.'s decision to retry the Lynn case, "When justice is blind, but ambition isn't."

    That column can be read here.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    For the past five years, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has been given two complimentary all-access sideline passes to Philadelphia Eagles games.

    This is the same District Attorney who last month decided that Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor wouldn't be prosecuted for the alleged sexual assault of a dancer at the Cheerleaders Gentlemen's Club.

    Anyone see a problem?

    For the past six years, D.A. Williams has accepted $160,000 in unreported gifts, including $45,000 in free roof repairs, and more than $20,000 in free airfare and lodging for vacations in Key West, Las Vegas and the Dominican Republic.

    This is the same District Attorney who prosecuted Thomasine Tynes, a 71-year-old former Traffic Court judge, on a bribery charge for accepting the unreported gift of a Tiffany bracelet from a lobbyist worth $2,000. [She got up to 23 months in prison.]

    Anyone see a problem?

    It's great that a federal grand jury and The Philadelphia Inquirer are investigating the finances of Seth Williams. As bad as how the D.A. has flouted campaign finance laws, however, what he has done to Lady Justice is far worse.

    As a grand jury report in this town once said, it's like comparing inappropriate touching with rape. And the rapist, a large bald man who wears bow ties, is still at large.

    While the federal grand jury and the Inquirer are hot on the trail of Seth, it's a great time to look into his prosecution of the Catholic Church.

    This is a district attorney who decided back in 2011 to prosecute Msgr. William J. Lynn for endangering the welfare of a child. Even though Williams knew that his predecessor, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a 2005 grand jury, had already decided -- and put it in writing -- that the state's original 1972 child endangerment law didn't apply to the monsignor.

    The original child endangerment law, D.A. Abraham and the 2005 grand jury stipulated, only applied to people who had direct contact with children -- parents, teachers and guardians -- and not supervisors like Lynn, who had no direct contact with children.

    And then Abraham led a successful state-wide campaign to get the state Legislature in 2007 to amend that child endangerment law so it did apply to supervisors like Lynn.

    So why did D.A. Williams, with no public explanation, go after Msgr. Lynn under the original 1972 state law that a previous D.A. and a previous grand jury had already decided didn't apply to him? As did the state legislature, which went ahead and amended the law retroactively so that it would apply to supervisors?

    Pure politics.

    Seth Williams was planning to stage a state-sponsored witch hunt aimed at putting Catholic priests in jail, because he knew it would be raw meat for the media, so-called victims advocates, and the rest of the Catholic-hating rabble.

    A grand jury and the city's paper of record should investigate how Seth Williams went about staging his state-sponsored witch hunt. By rounding up two drug addicted criminals who were transparent, non-credible liars and frauds, and passing them off as victims solely because their fables fell under the statute of limitations.

    Star Witness No. 1 was Danny Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," alias the "lying, scheming altar boy," as described by Newsweek.

    Gallagher was a drug addict who'd been in and out of 28 different hospitals, clinics and drug rehabs, and had been arrested six times, including one bust for possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin.

    This is the guy who told doctors and numerous drug counselors that he was a paramedic and a professional surfer. And that he'd been sexually assaulted five times between the ages of 6 and 9 by suspects that included a couple of friends, a neighbor, a teacher, and an older boy.

    And then he admitted all of it was lies.

    This is the same guy who told one set of fantastic rape stories to a couple of archdiocese social workers. And then he told a completely different set of fantastic rape stories to the police and a grand jury. And when questioned in a civil deposition about all the staggering factual discrepancies in his twisted tales, he solved the problem by stating that he didn't remember MORE THAN 130 times.

    Star Witness No. 2, Mark Bukowski, was another drug-addicted criminal who went AWOL as a Marine, and who had pleaded guilty to charges that included filing a false report, furnishing authorities with false information, forgery, identity theft, two counts of filing a false statement, and possession of a controlled substance.

    His own mother accused of him stealing from her and her husband, and she told police she was suspicious of her son's claim to authorities that he had been the victim of a violent home invasion.

    How did Seth Williams pass off these two drug-addicted criminal frauds as victims? By rewriting sworn grand jury testimony so it would conform with story lines the D.A. cooked up in his fraudulent 2011 grand jury report.

    Danny Gallagher's mother, Sheila Gallagher, a registered nurse, told a grand jury she noticed a behavior change in her son's personality at age 14, when he entered high school as a freshman, and got busted for having pot and brass knuckles.

    But that didn't fit the official story line. So the D.A. rewrote the mother's testimony to say she noticed a "dramatic change in her son's personality that coincided with the abuse," back when he was a 10 and a 11-year-old parochial school student and altar boy at St. Jerome's parish.

    Mark Bukowski told the grand jury that he had his boxer shorts on when he was 14-years-old and got into bed with Father James J. Brennan. And then he felt the priest's erect penis pressed between his buttocks.

    But as bad as that incident was, it didn't fit the D.A.'s even more outrageous story line. So the D.A. wrote in the 2011 grand jury report 11 times that the priest anally raped Bukowski.

    To pour more gasoline on the situation, the grand jury report stated that Bukowski cried himself to sleep that night asking himself over and over again, 'Why is this happening?' as Father Brennan anally raped him."

    Even though at Father Brennan's first trial, which ended in a hung jury, Bukowski admitted on the stand that there was no anal rape, and that he and the priest were wearing T-shirts and boxer shorts the night they shared a bed.

    While the grand jury is still hearing testimony, why not call in Lynne Abraham's former top prosecutors? Then ask if Danny Gallagher was actually raped in separate savage attacks by two priests and a Catholic school teacher, as he had claimed, why did they let that spectacular victim's report of alleged sexual abuse sit for a year and do absolutely nothing about it?

    Was it because they knew Gallagher's claims were transparently ridiculous and that he had no credibility?

    While we've got a grand jury investigation going, why not bring in Detective Joseph Walsh? He's the retired detective who led the D.A.'s investigation into Danny Gallagher's claims.

    In a civil deposition, Walsh testified that he repeatedly questioned Gallagher about nine different factual discrepancies in his testimony. And that Gallagher's response was to either sit there and say nothing, say he was high on drugs, or tell a different story.

    Why did Detective Walsh keep questioning Danny Gallagher years after the D.A. had already run with Gallagher's lies in that 2011 grand jury report?

    Was it because Detective Walsh knew that Gallagher's story didn't check out with every witness he had interviewed?  Was it because Detective Walsh came to believe that Danny Gallagher was a complete liar? And that the D.A.'s office shouldn't be in the business of putting innocent men in jail?

    Another big question: Why didn't the D.A.'s office turn the record of Detective Walsh's continued questioning of Danny Gallagher over to defense lawyers in two previous criminal trials? As they were required to, according to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland?

    But hey, we're just getting started here.

    While the grand jury is in session, why not dredge Danny Gallagher out of the sewer and ask him who in the D.A.'s office hooked him up with a civil lawyer, as Gallagher has previously stated in court. This is the same civil lawyer who was able to procure a $5 million civil settlement from the Catholic Church, a subject the archbishop of Philadelphia, "Checkbook Charlie" Chaput, refuses to talk about.

    None of these subjects are dead topics. The D.A. has already announced that he will retry the Father Brennan case, starring Mark Bukowski, on Oct. 1st, as well as the Msgr. Lynn case, starring Danny Gallagher, on May 1st.

    How many more taxpayer dollars have to be wasted on these two fraudulent cases? Four men innocent of an imaginary crime spree have already been sent to jail, one of whom died there. Isn't it finally time to call off the witch hunt? And put the witch hunter out of business?

    By the way, if the grand jury does investigate these topics, wouldn't it be great if somebody leaked all that information to the Inquirer? So they can pursue it as relentlessly as they've pursued Seth Williams' undisclosed campaign gifts?

    0 0

    By George Anastasia


    They called him "Boston Bob."

    In the late 1990s, he was the Philadelphia mob's point man in Beantown, generating tens of thousands of dollars through bookmaking, loansharking, extortion and drug dealing.

    Today, the former Robert Luisi goes by the name Alonso Eposito. And he's traded in his membership in Cosa Nostra for an affiliation with an organization that has an even more storied history.

    Boston Bob is now Pastor Al, a Christian minister based in Tennessee with a television show, speaking engagements and Bible-study classes.

    Rest of the story can be read here.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The bloodhounds at our city's intrepid paper of record are hot on the trail of D.A. Seth Williams.

    But what those bloodhounds really need is a seeing eye dog to lead the way. Because the bloodhounds are blind, and have been for a long time.

    In case you missed it, the Inky's hounds are sniffing a trail of blood left behind by Seth's self-inflicted wounds. It began with $160,000 in undeclared "gifts" that came from donors that included the Philadelphia Eagles, a roofing contractor, and some friendly defense lawyers. Also on the trail is the FBI and a federal grand jury.

    The latest blood that was spilled resulted from a confession by the D.A.'s girlfriend, Stacey Cummings, that she had slashed tires on two official city vehicles parked outside Seth's house.

    As in the $160,000 in gifts that went unreported for up to six years, Seth waited a while before doing the right thing. Twelve days went by before Seth's security officer finally got around to reporting the crime. Can you say cover-up?

    Why would Seth's girlfriend want to slash his tires?

    Well, Seth's personal life is known to be something of a mess.

    There were so many stories swirling around the bald Lothario that he famously defended himself by telling Philadelphia magazine in 2012, "You've got me fucking all the women in the office."

    Another puddle of blood on the trail stems from a recent  decision by the board of directors at a charity that Seth set up, the Second Chance Foundation. The board of directors, after recently receiving a federal subpoena for their records, voted to disband that charity and give away its assets.

    If somebody showed up from Mars yesterday, they would have to conclude that Seth Williams is corrupt from head to toe.

    Seth knows he's in deep shit. A local politician who recently saw Seth at a party said, "The fear is all over him."

    Seth has to know that the feds are all over his list of "donors." He probably lies awake at night wondering how many of those "donors" will roll over and tell the feds that those "gifts" weren't voluntary, and maybe they were even quid pro quos.

    Wouldn't that be shocking? Our corrupt D.A. possibly on his way to the slammer?

    With the smell of blood in the air, no wonder there's so much excitement down on Market Street, at the headquarters of the new nonprofit Inky.

    "While his office smolders, Seth Williams tweets," Inky columnist Mike Newall wrote on Aug. 30th. Newall was recounting the D.A.'s recent musings on social media about such important topics as the block parties he's been attending.

    Kind of like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Newall was pointing out all the hard questions Seth is ducking about the many allegations of corruption that surround our pathetic and embarrassing D.A.

    There is one place, however, where the Inky bloodhounds will never go in their relentless quest to expose Seth.

    That would be the grandest alleged accomplishment of Seth's corrupt regime as D.A., namely his self-described "historic" prosecution of the local Catholic Church.

    Because, as bad as the Inky wants Seth, there is one big sacred cow standing in their way: The sainted alleged victims of sexual abuse, and the beloved media story line about Catholic pedophile priests preying on helpless youngsters.

    As bad as the Inky wants Seth, this is one door they refuse to open.

    So, according to the Inky's non-logical story line, we are left to assume that a D.A. who takes in $160,000 worth of unreported free gifts, who may be facing penalties for his screwed-up campaign finances, and has a screwed-up private life, suddenly turned into Mr. Clean when he staged his witch hunt against the Catholic Church?

    This is a corrupt D.A. who accepted free sideline passes from the Eagles for five years, and then pardoned an Eagle wide receiver for allegedly sexually assaulting a dancer at Cheerleaders.

     A corrupt D.A. who had a roofer install a new roof worth $45,000 for free and didn't see a problem until he found out a federal grand jury was after him.

     A corrupt D.A. who took free vacations paid for by defense lawyers.

    A corrupt D.A. who prosecuted a 71-year-old former traffic court judge for accepting as a gift a $2,000 bracelet, but didn't see a problem while he was taking in $160,000 worth of free gifts.

    This D.A. is going to do everything on the up and up when he stages a state-sponsored witch hunt?

    Well, the evidence is piled high that when he staged his witch hunt, Seth cheated there too.

    As previously outlined on this blog, Seth began his witch hunt by charging Msgr. William J. Lynn under a 1972 state child endangerment law. It was a law that a previous D.A., a previous grand jury, and a previous amendment by the state legislature, all had clearly stated in writing didn't apply to Lynn.

    Then, Seth rounded up two drug addicted-criminals to pose as sex abuse victims, even though the record showed both were transparent frauds.

    And when the facts as gathered by a grand jury didn't match the story line in Seth's 2011 bogus grand jury report, his office brazenly rewrote those facts.

    No, Inky bloodhounds, the more logical conclusion is that Seth Williams is corrupt to the core, and that everything he touched is tainted.

    Especially his grand crusade against the church.

    Because a man without principles, without any regard for the truth, will stop at nothing to get ahead. Even if it involves putting innocent men in jail to promote his political career.

    In the Inky's defense, there is one journalist employed at that newspaper who is on to Seth's corruption regarding the Catholic prosecution.

    Christine Flowers is a lawyer and a columnist at the Daily News, before Philadelphia Media Network consolidated the Inky, the Daily News, and philly.com into one unified newsroom.

    On August 6th, Flowers wrote a column, under the headline, "When justice is blind, but ambition isn't."

    In the column, Flowers compared Seth Williams to Mike Nilfong, the disbarred lead prosecutor in the infamous Duke lacrosse rape case. And Marilyn Mosby, the state attorney general of Maryland, who lost three cases in a row attempting to prosecute Baltimore cops for the death of Freddie Gray, who died of injuries received after he took a ride in a police van.

    "Beware of ambitious prosecutors with a righteous cause." Flowers began her column for the one unified newsroom. "People who get in their way end up as road kill on the justice highway."

    Seth, Flowers wrote, "was hailed as a hero, and set out to get his pound of ecclesiastical flesh by putting [Msgr. Lynn], a man who never touched a child, in jail."

    Even though when his conviction was overturned, Msgr. Lynn has served 33 months out of his 36-month sentence, plus 18 months of house arrest, Williams announced he was going to retry the case May 1.

    Why?

    Because "while justice may be blind," Flowers wrote, "ambition has 20/20 vision."

    So we have one journalist at the Inky who gets it.

    But wait, you say, you don't remember reading that column?

    That's because over at the one unified newsroom, the editors decided they didn't want that column.

    So it ran in the Delaware County Times.

    Why?

    Because in this town, justice is blind.

    And so is the paper of record.


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    By George Anastasia
    For BigTrial.net

    Ron Galati decided this afternoon to fold his cards rather than fight murder-for-hire and insurance fraud charges in Commons Pleas Court

    Already serving a 22-year federal sentence for a conviction in a different murder conspiracy case, the 65-year-old South Philadelphia auto body shop owner pleaded no contest to a series of charges tied to two separate indictments pending against him.

    Galati implied that he was not guilty, but said he opted to take a deal offered by the District Attorney's Office in order to "put this away and move on."

    "This is the best decision," he told Judge Daniel Anders during a protracted hearing that began shortly before 10 a.m. and did not conclude until 12:45.

    Under the terms of the plea deal, Galati's sentence in the two Common Pleas Court cases will run concurrently with the federal sentence he is currently serving. In addition, the District Attorney's Office agreed to drop insurance fraud charges against Galati's wife, Vicki.

    Galati's son, Ron Jr., entered a guilty plea at a separate hearing to bid rigging and fraud charges tied to what authorities said was a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scam run out of Galati's American Collision body shop in South Philadelphia.

    Both Galatis are to be sentenced on Dec. 9.

    Assistant District Attorney Dawn Holtz laid out the cases against Galati during today's hearing. The plea deals were announced as jury selection was about to begin in the murder-for-hire case. But it took nearly two hours, including a closed door meeting between Galati and his attorney Trevan Borum, to finalize the agreement.

    Galati was accused to hiring two hitmen, Ronald Walker and Alvin Matthews, to murder a rival auto body shop owner and his son. Authorities said Galati believed -- correctly as it turned out -- that Joseph Rao and his son Joseph Jr. were testifying before a grand jury in an insurance fraud probe that had targeted Galati.

    Holtz said today that testimony would indicate that Galati agreed to pay Walker and Matthews $20,000 each to carry out the murders and that he wanted the two men "shot in the head."

    Galati interrupted the presentation and told Anders he had never offered to pay $20,000 to have the Raos killed, adding that Joseph Rao Sr. "was the best friend you could ever have." Nevertheless, after some questioning by Anders and consultation with his lawyer, Galati agreed to the no contest plea.

    He had originally offered to plead guilty, but backed away from that during the hearing.

    Walker, Matthews, another Galati associate, Jerome Johnson, and the Raos were all expected to testify for the prosecution had the case gone to trial. The would have offered the story that Holtz described in her presentation, the assistant DA said.

    The two hitmen and Johnson had all testified for the government in the federal prosecution of Galati in Camden two years ago. In that case, he was convicted of hiring the same hitmen to kill his then estranged daughter Tiffany's boyfriend, Andrew Tuono.

    Tuono survived a shooting outside his Atlantic City home in November 2013.

    At that point, authorities said, the hit on the Raos had been put on hold because their auto body shop had been closed.

    Tiffany Galati, who testified for the government in the Tuono case, sat with her mother and brother during today's hearing. The young South Philadelphia row house princess has apparently reconciled with her family. She ended her relationship with Tuono shortly after the shooting. 

    The insurance fraud case involved more than two million dollars in what authorities said were reimbursements paid by insurance companies in a scheme devised by Galati that included fake or staged accidents and false or inflated repair bills.

    The case also involved bid rigging and doctoring repair costs for city vehicles.

    In all, the District Attorney's Office said, insurance companies "issued $2.3 million in connection with fraudulent claims" and Galati's company also received "over $1.8 million from the city of Philadelphia" for vehicle repair work for which his shop was not qualified.

    The insurance fraud scam included staged photos taken by Galati designed to demonstrate that vehicles had been damaged.

    "Galati favored deer hits, vandalism and vehicular damage from trajectory objects because each could be categorized as a non-fault accident for which the insured would not be held liable," authorities said in announcement the indictment against Galati and dozens of others in May 2014.

    Many of his co-defendants were customers who went along with the scheme. Most have pleaded guilty to related charges. Among other things, authorities said witnesses told them that
    Galati "stored deer blood, hair and carcasses in the back of his shop" and would stage fake photos using those items to support insurance claims.

    "I live my life to cheat insurance companies," witness said Galati would exclaim, calling that his "mantra."

    The fraud and murder-for-hire cases were investigated by Det. Robert DiFrancesco of the DA's Office and Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Romano of the Organized Crime Division of Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

    Galati has long been identified as an associate of South Philadelphia mob leaders Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, George Borgesi and Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi. Authorities believe, but have never been able to prove, that Galati's autobody shop was used in 1993 to outfit a stolen van used in a notorious attempted hit on the Schuykill Expressway. Then mob boss John Stanfa was targeted in that rush hour ambush in which two men fired on Stanfa's car from portholes that had been cut into the side of a van that pulled up alongside Stanfa's vehicle.

    Stanfa's son Joseph was wounded in that shooting which escalated a bloody war between factions headed by Stanfa and Merlino.

    Galati has a prior insurance fraud conviction for which he served about 38 months. He was convicted of federal murder-for-hire charges in the fall of 2014.

    George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net

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    Hey Seth, where's the beef?
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    On Dec. 3, 2012, District Attorney R. Seth Williams wrote a two-paragraph letter to then Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

    In the letter, Williams announced that in "an exercise of prosecutorial discretion," his office would no longer prosecute any drug case that involved five Philadelphia narcotics officers, as well as their supervisor.

    The letter, which the D.A.'s office allegedly leaked two days later to Fox 29, effectively put out of business, "the most accomplished and effective narcotics unit in the history of the Philadelphia Police Department," according to court papers filed by a lawyer for the five narcotics officers and their supervisor.

    The D.A's letter also prompted the city to eventually throw out about 800 drug cases involving arrests made by those narcotics officers. Of the 800 cases, about 175 accused drug dealers have turned around and filed civil rights lawsuits against the former narcs as well as the city of Philadelphia, seeking damages.

    During litigation over one of those criminal cases that was subsequently dismissed, the public defender's office, representing one of the accused drug dealers, repeatedly asked Seth Williams to provide the "information and documents" that led the D.A. to write that letter that put the narcs out of business.

    The public defender's office was expecting to discover the files, information and documents that backed up the D.A.'s letter that led to the dismissal of 800 drug cases. The disturbing answer to the public defender's repeated requests for discovery, however, was that there were no files, no information, no documents.

    The bottom line, as revealed in five years of past criminal and civil litigation: Seth Williams wrote a letter that destroyed the careers of six police officers and freed 800 drug dealers without one shred of demonstrable proof to back up his words.

    The losers in these ongoing legal battles are the taxpayers.

    To defend itself in 175 civil rights lawsuits, the city is expected to spend millions of dollars to hire five lawyers from the King of Prussia law firm of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin.

    The city's apparent legal defense strategy in the civil lawsuits: the narcs did everything by the book, the D.A.'s office signed off on every drug arrest by approving probable cause affidavits and search warrants, and Seth Williams had no basis to write that letter to the police commissioner.

    It's not a stretch to believe that Williams went off half cocked against the narcs. There is already plenty of evidence on the record to question the judgment of R. Seth Williams

    This is a district attorney who has already admitted that he improperly accepted $160,000 in unreported gifts from campaign donors.

    A district attorney who has already admitted that he waited 12 days before reporting that his girlfriend had slashed his tires.

    A district attorney who has a charitable organization, The Second Chance Foundation, where the board of directors, after receiving a federal subpoena for financial records, has already voted to disband the charity and give away its remaining assets.

    The FBI and a grand jury are currently probing the D.A.'s campaign finances. Maybe somebody should also be investigating the D.A.'s use of prosecutorial discretion.

    Here is the text of the D.A.'s 2012 letter to Commissioner Ramsey:

    "Dear Commissioner Ramsay:

    [By the way, it's Commissioner Ramsey; Seth couldn't even spell the former police commissioner's name right.]

    "I am writing to inform you that in an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will no longer be using the following officers as witnesses in narcotics cases," the district attorney wrote. Then, the D.A. listed the names of Police Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, John Speiser, Michael Spicer and Perry Betts, as well as their supervisor, Lt. Robert Otto.

    "Also the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will no longer accept any narcotics cases for charging when any of these police officers is a necessary witness," Williams wrote. "Finally, we will no longer approve any search or arrest warrants on narcotics cases when any of these officers is the affiant, nor if the probable cause portion of the warrant contains any averments from any of these officers."

    "Very truly yours,

    R. Seth Williams, District Attorney."

    For the narcs, the D.A.'s letter was just the start of their problems.

    In a subsequent 26-count RICO indictment, the U.S. Attorney's office charged six former members of the narcotics field unit with  routinely robbing and beating the drug dealers they had arrested. In the indictment, the feds charged that the narcs stole at least $500,000 from the drug dealers in cash and drugs, and that the cops tried to cover their tracks by falsifying police reports.

    But the feds had no sting video or financial records to back up their charges. Instead, they relied on a former member of the narcotics unit who became a cooperating witness after he was busted red-handed in a sting operation, and the uncorroborated tales of 20 drug dealers with all kinds of credibility problems.

    The result in court was a disaster for the government.

    On May 14, 2015, after a trial that lasted nearly six weeks, a federal jury unanimously acquitted all six officers on all 47 charges. It was a complete repudiation of the government's racketeering case.

    On July 10, 2015, an arbitrator ruled that all six officers would get their jobs back, plus a year's worth of back pay. [One of the officers, Perry Betts, was subsequently dismissed after he failed a drug test.]

    So the former narcs survived their legal ordeal.

    Meanwhile, the Defender's Association of Philadelphia, represented by Bradley S. Bridge, was asking a judge to order the D.A.'s office to turn over any files that backed up D.A. Williams's letter.

    In a motion for a new trial and post-conviction relief filed Feb. 4, 20l3, public defenders 

    Bradley S. Bridge and Lori Mach asked Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Sheila Skipper-Woods to order the D.A.'s office to turn over any so-called "Brady material."

    The public defenders were referring to a landmark 1963 case, Brady v. Maryland, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was a violation of due process for the prosecution to withhold any information or "exculpatory evidence" that could benefit a defendant.

    The public defenders were seeking a new trial in the case of the Commonwealth v. Juan Vargas, who pleaded guilty on May 13, 2010 on drug charges and was sentenced to a prison term of 3 to 23 months.

    "On Dec. 6, 20l2, Bradley S. Bridge, an attorney from the Defender’s Association of Philadelphia, wrote First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann, Esquire, and formally requested, pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, material regarding the six officers contained in District Attorney Williams’ Dec. 3, l2 letter," the public defenders wrote in their motion for a new trial.

    "First Assistant McCann verbally told Mr. Bridge that they were dismissing the cases because of prosecutorial discretion and that there was no Brady information," the public defenders wrote. "Attorney Bridge subsequently requested Brady material again and on Jan. 8, 20l3, First Assistant District Attorney McCann again denied being in possession of Brady material."

    The public defenders were incredulous over McCann's response, so they asked the judge to order the D.A.'s office to turn over any Brady material. "Moreover, the failure of the D.A.’s office to provide Brady material, whether or not it had been requested," constituted a violation of Brady v. Maryland, the public defenders wrote to the judge.


     "

    There is obviously a substantial reason for the D.A.'s office to dismiss over 250 cases," the public defenders wrote. [The number of dismissed drug cases would subsequently grow to more than 800.]

    In their motion for a new trial, the public defenders argued that the 2012 letter that Seth Williams sent to the police commissioner "was obviously the result of an examination of information and documents by District Attorney Williams and others," the public defenders wrote. "The information and documents leading D.A. Williams to the conclusion that the officers were not trustworthy was unavailable to defense counsel at the time this case went to court."


    In seeking Brady material, the public defenders continued to assert to the judge that the district attorney's office was stonewalling when it repeatedly said there was no Brady material. 

    "It is also particularly significant that the District Attorney's Office, though in possession of information demonstrating the officers were corrupt, suppressed this information and still has not disclosed it to defense counsel, though mandated to do so," the public defenders wrote.



    The court record does not state what happened with the public defender's request to the judge to order the D.A.'s office to turn over any Brady material.

    In a interview, Public Defender Bradley Bridge explained that he was ultimately able to work out a satisfactory resolution with the D.A.'s office, namely throwing out 800 drug arrests.

    "If the cases are going to be thrown out, that satisfied my concerns," Bridge said. "I got more than I wanted so I'm not going to be greedy about it."

    About the Brady material, Bridge said, "I don't recall off the top of my head any Brady material that was turned over. It was not even needed."

    The legal battle over whether the D.A. had any information or files to back up his letter to the police commissioner was repeated this year in federal court, where U.S. District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond is overseeing the civil rights cases filed by the accused drug dealers against the city and the former narcotics officers.

    On July 28th, in the case of McIntyre v. Liciardello et al., Judge Diamond  held a status conference  on all outstanding discovery. No court reporter was present and no minutes were recorded. The judge, however, according to sources familiar with the proceeding, asked about the existence of any files to back up the district attorney's 2012 letter to the police commissioner.

    The city's lawyers, who declined to comment, informed the judge that there were no such files.

    The judge, according to sources, seemed incredulous, and asked for an explanation.

    A spokesman for the district attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment.

    The D.A.'s 2012 letter to former Police Commissioner Ramsey was the subject of a  defamation and false light suit filed in federal court on behalf of the six officers named in the letter, against D.A. Williams, former Police Commissioner Ramsey, and former Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

    The defamation suit was subsequently dismissed on June 6th by Judge Diamond. But on July 6th, a lawyer for the officers filed a notice of appeal.

    In the defamation suit, attorney Christopher D. Mannix described the D.A.'s letter as "entirely misbegotten and irresponsible." It unleashed a "a gigantic, destructive avalanche of severe and permanent wrongs, damages and injustices" Mannix wrote, not only upon the narcs, "but upon all Philadelphia citizens who count on the fundamental purpose of government -- public safety and order through the criminal justice system."

    When D.A. Williams sent his 2012 letter to Ramsey, "Plaintiff Otto was an extremely effective, skilled, dedicated, hard-working, honest and experienced Police Lieutenant," Mannix wrote. When D.A. Williams wrote his letter, according to Mannix, Officers Spicer, Reynolds, Betts, Speiser and Liciardello "were all extremely effective, skilled, dedicated, hard-working, experienced police officers."

    "There was no legitimate reason" for D.A. Williams to write a "utterly reckless and irresponsible" letter to Ramsey, Mannix wrote.

    According to Mannix, when the D.A.'s letter was delivered to Rasmey, "both the Commissioner and the District Attorney knew there was no legitimate evidence against the Plaintiffs' honesty and credibility."

    The D.A.'s office, according to the defamation suit, was also responsible for leaking the D.A.'s letter to the media.

    On Dec. 2, 2012, according to the complaint filed by Mannix, First Assistant District Attorney McCann, the second-highest ranking official in the D.A's office, "instructed Director of Communications/Spokesperson [Tasha] Jamerson on how to handle media inquiries about the letter."

    At the time, Jamerson's husband, according to the defamation suit, was the managing editor of Fox 29.

    According to the lawsuit, McCann "instructed Jamerson that she had authority to communicate to the press that the D.A.'s office would no longer be using the six Plaintiffs in narcotics cases because of prosecutorial discretion." 

    The decision to publicize the D.A.'s letter to Ramsey was "explicitly authorized" by superiors in her office Mannix wrote, and was "made and carried out in bad faith and with deliberate indifference to, and reckless disregard for, the liberty, interests and the reputational interests of the Plaintiffs."

    The Williams letter to Ramsey, publicized by the media, "stigmatized and humiliated the Plaintiffs," Mannix wrote, as well as "impugned, blackened and utterly disparaged their professional and personal reputations."

    "Criminals began to walk free, " Mannix wrote. Meanwhile, the narcs became the criminal targets of "very public scorn," Mannix wrote, even though there was "never a scintilla of evidence" for D.A. Williams to attack "the credibility and honesty" of the cops.

    "D.A. Williams," Mannix wrote, "was not exercising legitimate prosecutorial discretion in the writing of the letter."'

    Why did the D.A. want to put the narcs and their supervisor out of business? Seth Williams has never spoken publicly about the reasons behind his feud with the narcs. The defamation complaint, however, filed by the officers provides an explanation: a "petty and childish" feud between the narcs and the district attorney's office.

    "The Plaintiffs, mainly [Lt. Robert] Otto and [Officer Thomas] Liciardello, had been battling with the District Attorney's Office for more than a year over the issue of the proper handling of confidential informants, and, the system of proffers," Mannix wrote. "The District Attorney's Office's positions on these aspects was unprofessional and often petty and childish."

    Less than a week before the letter was sent, Mannix wrote, "First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann said, with regard to the Plaintiffs, approximate words or approximate words to the strong effect: 'I'm tired of their shit. Enough is enough."

    So Seth Williams decide to end the feud, without any due process, by writing his letter to the police commissioner that put the narcs out of business.

    Through a spokesperson, McCann, who now works as the first assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, declined comment. Lawyers defending the city declined comment. The lawyers defending the police officers in the civil suits did not respond to a request for comment.

    Jimmy Binns, a criminal lawyer who successfully defended Police Officer Michael Spicer against the federal RICO charges, said it was no surprise to hear that Seth Williams had nothing to back up that letter he wrote to the police commissioner.

    "We knew that all along," Binns said. "That's why I was able to predict accurately to a federal judge at Mike Spicer's bail hearing that he would acquitted of all the charges."

    "It just verifies what all of the defendants said to their lawyers all along," Binns said. "It was not that the prosecutors lacked proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It was that there did not exist a scintilla of credible evidence against the defendants."


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    By George Anastasia

    Paul D'Amato sat in the living room of his Ventnor home dressed in pajamas, slippers and a bathrobe.

    It was about 3 o'clock on a spring afternoon in 1978. D'Amato said he had gotten up a few hours earlier. His body, after years of running one of the most popular joints in the city, was still on nightclub time.

    The 500 Club, an Atlantic City landmark on Missouri Avenue, had burned down five years earlier, but "Skinny" D'Amato was used to getting up late.

    It didn't take much to get him going. Within minutes, D'Amato was waxing nostalgically about what was and optimistically about what would be.

    Resorts International was poised to open the first casino-hotel on the Boardwalk, the start of the grand experiment to rebuild the struggling resort. Caesars World and Bally's were waiting in the wings.

    "It's gonna be a gold rush," D'Amato predicted, then corrected himself. "No, not gold. Platinum. That's better than gold."

    Read the rest if the story here.



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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    On Jan. 17, 2012, the Philadelphia Police Department's Narcotics Field Unit South tailed a suspected drug dealer to a garage, where they confiscated 53 pounds of hydroponic marijuana with a street value of $481,240.

    When the cops interviewed the suspect, Mohammed Samhan, 26, of Los Angeles, he decided to cooperate and give up another marijuana dealer. The cops subsequently raided the home of Kit "Fatboy" Poon, 41, of Northeast Philadelphia. This time, they confiscated 172 pounds of hydroponic marijuana with a street value of $1,565,420.

    Faced with serious jail time, Poon decided that he too wanted to cooperate. He told the cops he knew about an even bigger future marijuana shipment due to arrive by tractor-trailer.

    With the two accused drug dealers in custody, Lt. Robert Otto, supervisor of the narcs, called Chief Jan McDermott of the District Attorney's Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit, and requested that McDermott conduct "proffers" with both suspects. [A proffer is an interview where, in exchange for information about criminal activity, a prosecutor agrees not to use that information against the suspect.]

    That's when the system broke down. Two confidential police memorandums obtained by Big Trial lay out the details of what's been described in court papers as a "petty and childish feud" between the narcs and the Philly D.A.'s office. It was an old fashioned turf battle over who sat in on proffers, which law enforcement agency would collect drug forfeiture money, and who got credit for major drug busts.

    Seth Williams put an end to the feud when he announced, via a letter leaked to the media -- without a shred of evidence to back him up -- that the district attorney's office would no longer prosecute any drug cases involving Lt. Otto or five of his officers.  The narcs and their supervisor were subsequently transferred out of the narcotics unit.

    Meanwhile, what happened to the two accused drug dealers who got caught red-handed with 225 pounds of marijuana worth more than $2 million? They were set free by the district attorney, along with 800 other suspects previously arrested by the narcs, in what amounted to a holiday for drug dealers.

    In a confidential Feb. 15, 2012 memo to William Blackburn, Philadelphia's deputy police commissioner, Lt. Otto laid out the "unprofessional conduct" of top officials in District Attorney Seth Williams's office.

    Otto wrote that after he called Chief McDermott in the D.A.'s office and asked her to schedule a proffer with Mohammed Samhan, Otto found out that the proffer had already been been conducted by the D.A.'s office without the participation of any of his officers.

    Present at the proffer session, according to Otto's memorandum, were McDermott, First Assistant District Attorney Brian Grady, FBI agents, and members of the D.A.'s Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit.

    But the narcotics unit was cut out of the proffer that resulted from their own arrest. Lt. Otto set out to find out why, since in the past, the D.A.'s office had usually cooperated with his narcotics officers on many phases of drug investigations, including proffers.

    "I contacted Chief McDermott via phone and inquired as to if this had actually taken place given our previous agreement that we would participate in any proffers we initiated," Lt. Otto wrote Deputy Police Commissioner Blackburn.

    McDermott, according to Otto, "stated to me that she was 'not at liberty to discuss'" whether the suspected drug dealer had been proffered by her office. McDermott, according to Otto, then stated, "We have a  new policy and we are not to discuss who we proffer and who is to be present for these proffers.'"

    According to Otto, McDermott told him, "I may not necessarily agree with this new policy, however it is above my pay grade."

    Otto said he "reminded her [McDermott] of our previous agreement involving proffers and our professional agreement involving the ongoing, cooperative effort between the Police Department and the District Attorney's Office as it pertains to information sharing. She [McDermott] said there was nothing more to say and the conversation ended."

    "I have brought this situation to your attention as I know you have an interest in this investigation and how it proceeds," Lt. Otto wrote Deputy Commissioner Blackburn. "This situation is one of frustration, not simply because it involves this one investigation, but rather this seems to be a continuing pattern of unprofessional behavior on the part of some in the District Attorney's Office."

    "I have always had a solid working relationship with many attorneys in the District Attorney's Office and have only in the past two years seen this relationship often strained by some who are not willing to work side by side with us here in the department," Otto wrote the deputy police commissioner.

    "Early on, I met with Chief McDermott and expressed my complete desire to be open and forthcoming in the area of information sharing in pursuit of offenders who prey on the citizens of this city," Otto wrote.

    Otto explained to the deputy police commissioner that for the past two years he had forwarded all "white papers," reports on significant criminal activity, from his squad to McDermott "for her consideration as to how to proceed with many of the offenders we investigate and arrest."

    But, Otto wrote, he found that this "feeling [of cooperation] is not shared by those I have come to deal with in the District Attorney's Office."

    "All that I have ever asked is that we all act in a professional manner and work together in pursuit of what should be the ultimate goal," Otto wrote. "That is to serve the citizens of this city to the best of our abilities without having a personal agenda."

    "I respectfully thank you for your attention in this matter."

    The Narcotics Field Unit South had quite a track record for making high-profile drug busts. In 2011 alone, according the unit's records, they seized 357 guns, $7 million worth of drugs, and $1.8 million in cash.

    But the unit's success ended on Dec. 3, 2012, when District Attorney Seth Williams wrote a two-
    paragraph letter to former Police Commissioner Ramsey, saying that the district attorney's office would no longer prosecute any drug cases involving Lt. Otto and five of his narcotics officers.

    When he wrote this letter, as was subsequently revealed in criminal proceedings initiated by the public defender's office, as previously reported on this blog, Seth Williams was not in possession of any files or investigative reports that would back up his letter.

    The D.A.'s letter was the subject of a meeting the narcs subsequently had with Ramsey and his chief deputies. At the meeting, according to a knowledgable source, Police Commissioner Ramsey told Otto and his officers that he was transferring them out of the narcotics unit.

    At the meeting, according to the source, deputy Police Commissioner Blackburn spoke out against the transfer. Blackburn predicted the fallout would be disastrous because of the high-profile investigations, arrests and seizures that the unit had been making. Blackburn, according to the source, told Ramsey that no one had proper cause to move the officers out of narcotics, and that the district attorney's offensive amounted to a personal attack.

    Ramsey, according to the source, responded by dismissing Blackburn from the meeting. The deputy police commissioner was subsequently reassigned.

    Otto, when contacted by Big Trial, declined comment.

    Former Police Commissioner Ramsey, now a distinguished visiting fellow at Drexel University's Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, did not respond to an email requesting comment.

    A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department did not respond to a request for comment; or a request to speak with McDermott, who now works in the Southwest Division, as well as a request to talk to Blackburn, who has retired.

    A spokesman for District Attorney Williams did not respond to requests for comment.

    Former ADA Grady declined comment, saying he didn't know anything about the memorandums.

    Former First Assistant District Attorney McCann could not be reached for comment. In the past, he has, through a spokesperson, declined comment on his feud with the narcs.

    After the district attorney's office cut the narcs out of proffers, Kit Poon, the guy caught with 172 pounds of marijuana, decided against cooperating. So his tip to the narcs about a tractor-trailer loaded with marijuana and headed to Philadelphia was not pursued.

    Lt. Otto's first memorandum to Deputy Police Commissioner Blackburn was written on Feb. 15, 2012. The feud between the Narcotics Field Unit and the D.A.'s office would continue for the remainder of that year.

    On Dec. 9, 2012, Lt. Otto wrote a second memo to Deputy Police Commissioner Blackburn, documenting further problems with the D.A.'s office that led to the transfers of Otto and his officers.

    Otto wrote Blackburn that on Nov. 29, 2012, he had received several phone calls and text messages from Officer Thomas Liciardello, one of his narcs, telling Otto that a suspected drug dealer arrested by Liciardello was going to be proffered the next day by Assistant District Attorney Kalli Bartorillo.

    A lawyer for the suspected drug dealer told Liciadrello "that he was told by members of the District Attorney's Office that Officer Liciardello would not be present" at the proffer.

    On Nov. 29, 2012, according to his memorandum, Otto called Bartorillo on her cell phone and asked about the proffer. Otto explained "who I was and what our previous agreement had been with the District Attorney's Office regarding proffers. I also briefly explained to ADA Bartorillo that there had been a previous collapse in this cooperative effort between the Police Department and her office due to the actions of her predecessor."

    Bartorillo, according to Otto, informed him that the proffer "would go forward as scheduled, but that she would speak to her boss, and would talk to Otto after that. In a text message, Otto asked "in the interest of our future cooperation" if Liciardello could sit in on the proffer.

    But the ADA never responded, Otto wrote. The next day, Otto called the ADA at her office but she again didn't respond. Bartorillo could not be reached for comment.

    On Dec. 1, 2012, Liciardelo, who was off duty, spoke directly with Chief McDermott "as she was walking past his private residence," Otto wrote. McDermott told Liciardello that ADA Bartorillo had held the proffer "with a male that he had arrested and refused to allow members of the Narcotics Field Unit to sit in as was agreed upon previously."

    Liciardello informed McDermott that since he already had information from the drug dealer, he would move forward with his own investigation.

    Three days later, Otto and five of his offers were told by two supervisors that they was being moved from the Narcotics Bureau due to the letter sent by District Attorney Seth Williams to Police Commissioner Ramsey. In the letter, Williams announced that in an exercise of "prosecutorial discretion" that the district attorney's office would "no longer prosecute any narcotics case that my name appeared on," Otto wrote. The supervisors told the narcotics officers that they were being transferred out of the narcotics unit by order of Police Commissioner Ramsey.

    Otto was given approximately five minutes to choose one of three possible assignments. The next day, he went to work at South Detectives Division.

    "It is my belief that his action by Seth Williams and members of the District Attorney's Office was retaliatory due to a previous memorandum that I was requested to prepare by Deputy Commissioner Blackburn," Otto wrote the deputy police commissioner, referring to his first memorandum of Feb. 15, 2012.

    "This memorandum was critical of the unprofessional conduct of members of the District Attorney's Office, namely Chief Brian Grady (who has since been removed from the District Attorney's Office) and Chief Jan McDermott," Otto wrote. "In addition, I believe this more recent event involving ADA Kalli Bartorillo was also a motivating factor in requesting my removal from the Narocitics Bureau."

    "The previous memorandum was later brought to the attention of Seth Williams and Edward McCann," Otto wrote. "At that time, I called into question the actions of Chief Brian Grady and Chief Jan McDermott regarding these same issues of proffering and the treatment of cooperating offenders."

    "When I spoke to Deputy Commissioner Blackburn about these concerns and the refusal of Chief Grady and Chief McDermott to adhere to our professional agreement of agency cooperation, he requested that I prepare this memorandum so that he may present it to Commissioner Ramsey."

    "This memorandum was prepared by me on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, and hand-delivered by me to Deputy Commissioner Blackburn on this same date," Otto wrote.

    For Lt. Otto and his narcotics officers, the troubles were just beginning.

    In a  26-count RICO indictment, the U.S. Attorney's office charged six former members of Otto's narcotics field unit with  routinely robbing and beating the drug dealers they had arrested. The feds also alleged that the narcs stole at least $500,000 from the drug dealers in cash and drugs, and tried to cover their tracks by falsifying police reports.

    But the feds had no records or sting videos to back up their charges. Instead, they relied on the accusations of a former member of the narcotics unit who got caught red-handed in a sting operation. And the uncorroborated stories of 19 accused drug dealers.

    The result was a complete disaster for the feds.

    On May 14, 2015, after a trial that lasted nearly six weeks, a federal jury unanimously acquitted all six officers on all 47 charges. Two months later, an arbitrator ruled that all six officers would get their jobs back, plus a year's worth of back pay.

    In March 2012, Grady and D.A. Williams said that Grady had resigned amid reports that Grady had been fired by D.A. Williams.

    McDermott was reassigned to police department's Southwest Bureau. DiBartollio left the D.A's office. So did McCann.

    As for the two suspected drug dealers, they were freed, along with some 800 other accused drug dealers, in the D.A.'s voluntary decision to overturn 800 arrests previously made by members of the Narcotics Field Unit South.

    Some 175 of these formerly accused drug dealers have subsequently filed civil rights lawsuits against the city. The city is now paying millions of dollars for seven lawyers from two law firms to defend the former narcs as well as the city in the civil suits.

    But the two marijuana dealers arrested by the cops, Mohammed Samhan and Kit "Fat Boy" Poon, were not among the civil plaintiffs. In Poon's case, it may have been because he had more legal problems to worry about.

    On March 19, 2013, Poon, then of Baldwin Park, CA., was among 37 defendants charged in a federal indictment unsealed in New York targeting a Southeast Asian marijuana and counterfeit cigarette trafficking operation that operated throughout the United States.

    The arrest came just three months after Poon's case in Philadelphia was dismissed by D.A. Williams on Dec. 12, 2012.

    Prosecutors alleged that the members of the ring conspired to produce and distribute more than $45 million worth of marijuana, as well as illegally distribute nearly 44 million cigarettes, resulting in more than $7 million in lost tax revenues.

    Poon was among the defendants arrested by special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

    "Today's arrest deals a blow to an organization that allegedly conspired to manufacture multimillion-dollar quantities of marijuana that they would then distribute, along with millions of contraband cigarettes nationwide," said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in announcing the indictment.

    "Thanks to the coordinated efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement around the country, this alleged supply chain has been effectively broken."

    The ring used a Los Angeles-based transportation company, Super Quality Logistics, to ship homegrown pot and black market cigarettes around the country, the U.S. Attorney said.

    The group allegedly used financial institutions to launder its proceeds. During the investigation, authorities seized more than 25 bank accounts, along with a number of vehicles that included several tractor-trailers owned by Super Quality Logistics.

    So Poon may have been telling the truth a year earlier when he told the narcs about an upcoming delivery of a tractor-trailer load of marijuana.

    The district attorney's office, under Seth Williams, would try and fail to turn Poon into a cooperator. The D.A.'s office subsequently decided to turn Poon loose along with 800 other accused drug dealers.

    It fell to the feds to arrest Poon a year later.

    This is the abysmal record of our district attorney, who remains unaccountable for his reckless and irresponsible actions.





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    The D.A. Who Legalized Drug Dealing
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The District Attorney's Office, which has stonewalled this blog for four years, is suddenly talking about their decision to free a couple of accused drug dealers -- Mohammed and the Fatboy -- who got caught red-handed with 225 pounds of marijuana worth more than $2 million.

    Here's what the D.A. had to say about dropping the charges against Mohammed and the Fatboy, along with some 800 other accused drug dealers previously arrested by former members of the Narcotics Field Unit South:

    The DA's office is expected to seek justice, not just convictions. On occasion, that means we may be unable to pursue a case because of concerns about the trustworthiness of a particular witness. When that witness is a police witness, multiple cases may be affected. That is an unfortunate but essential element of our professional responsibility as prosecutors. Decisions of this sort are in no way unique to this office; federal officials have made similar determinations.

    We waited four years for that? "Self-serving" and "disingenuous" was how one prominent criminal defense lawyer characterized it.

    "The foundation in the D.A.'s office seems to be crumbling," said FOP President John McNesby. After he read the D.A.'s statement, McNesby expressed hope that Williams would lose his bid for reelection next year.

    "Quite frankly, it's going to be a breath of fresh air" when Seth Williams is gone from the D.A.'s office, McNesby said. "Hopefully, we'll be dealing with someone with a clearer mind."

    Jack McMahon is a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney who's a criminal defense lawyer. Last year, he successfully defended Officer Brian Reynolds, a former member of the Narcotics Field Unit South, against federal RICO charges.

    "This self serving and disingenuous comment of 'seeking justice, not just convictions' is nothing more than their inability to admit an extraordinary rush to judgment and monumental mistake," McMahon said about the D.A.'s office.

     McMahon says the D.A.'s office bet the house on a hunch.

    "What I believe happened was they [the D.A.'s office] knew there was a federal investigation and they tried to be way out ahead of it to show how 'responsible' and on top of things they were," McMahon said.

    He was talking about how, back in 2012, D.A. Williams wrote a two-paragraph letter to the police commissioner, announcing that his office would no longer prosecute any drug arrests made by Lt. Robert Otto, and five members of the Narcotics Field Unit South.

    "Seth figured the feds were going to do something sometime and didn't want to look like he was in the dark," McMahon said. "Problem is he did it on rumor and supposition and not on real evidence and simply figured that if the feds are involved, it 'must' be true."

    "They were one of the best outfits in the city," FOP President McNesby said about the former members of the Narcotics Field Unit South.

    "There were just so many holes" in the RICO case against the narcs, McNesby said, "And it all started with Seth . . . I think the D.A.'s office sold the feds a line of shit and none of it was true."

    "Now, the city is paying out their ass for this," he said. McNesby was referring to the millions of dollars that taxpayers will have to fork over to pay for seven lawyers. They were hired to defend the city against 175 civil rights cases filed by the formerly accused drug dealers that Seth Williams set free.

    "You've got a lot of drug dealers getting their records scrubbed clean," McNesby said. "They [the narcs] were taking a lot of drugs and money off the street; they were the go-to squad."

    "What you've got is Seth Williams pointing the fingers at a lot of people who are out doing the job," McNesby said, at a time when the D.A. should have been more concerned about setting his own house in order.

    McNesby was talking about recent disclosures that Williams accepted $160,000 worth of gifts, such as a new $45,000 roof, as well as sideline passes to Eagles games.

    While the D.A. was trashing police officers, McNesby said, inside the D.A.'s office, "There was no kind of integrity." Williams, McNesby said, was the kind of guy who, "You could throw a fifty in his top pocket at the Union League and he'd keep walking and smoking his cigar."

    Relations between the police force and the D.A.'s office are so bad these days, McNesby said, "You have to have an act of Congress to get someone arrested." Every day, McNesby says, he hears complaints from detectives that "They're not approving arrest warrants" at the D.A.'s office unless you have an "airtight, 100 percent case."

    To underscore what McNesby is talking about, this weekend, according to a knowledgable law enforcement source, a couple of cops caught a suspect red-handed inside a Bank of America branch at 23rd and Oregon after the suspect had broken in. The bank had surveillance photos of the guy trying to open the vault.

    But the district attorney's office declined to prosecute the case because there was no video of the break-in and the officers were the only witnesses.

    That's how bad things are in Philadelphia, under the administration of D.A. Seth Williams. Maybe drug dealing isn't the only crime legalized by the district attorney's office. Bank robbery could be next.

    Meanwhile, McNesby says about the D.A.'s office's recent holiday for drug dealers, "You just let 800 people hit the lottery."

    According to McNesby, people in law enforcement have responded to Seth's anti-cop bias by tuning out the D.A.

    "Now, when he [Williams] is screaming and yelling it's like pointing an unloaded gun at somebody," McNesby said.

    "Nobody cares. They know it's just a matter of time before he's out."

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    By George Anastasia
    For BigTrial.net

    Calling him a "kingpin" who was motivated by "unbridled and amoral greed," federal prosecutors have asked for a life sentence for pill mill doctor William O'Brien who is to be sentenced tomorrow before U.S. District Court Judge Nitza Quinones.

    O'Brien was convicted in June of running a multi-million dollar pill mill operation with members of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang. Among other things, he was also charged with sometimes foregoing the fee he would charge for writing a script in exchange for oral sex from female "patients."

    "The depth and breadth of his criminality was astounding," Assistant U.S. Attorneys M. Beth Leahy and David Troyer wrote in a 28-page sentencing memo. O'Brien, who had medical offices in Philadelphia, Levittown and Bristol, represented himself during a six-week trial before Quinones that ended with his conviction on 123 of the 127 counts he faced, including causing the death of a patient by prescribing a lethal combination of drugs.

    O'Brien has steadfastly denied the charges and claimed during the trial that he had been targeted for prosecution by unscrupulous investigators and prosecutors.

    In the memo today, those prosecutors wrote that he had forsaken "his duty as a physician to satisfy his greed."

    Calling him nothing less than a kingpin, the prosecutors wrote that "the defendant should not be underestimated because of his innocuous appearance and advanced level of education. He is a dangerous criminal with a propensity for violence."

    O'Brien, 53, was convicted of conspiring with members of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang to set up a pill mill operation that generated millions in cash and that poured thousands of doses of oxycodone, methadone, Xanax and Percocet on the streets.

    Authorities alleged that O'Brien pocked $1.8 million during a three-year period when the scheme was operational. They also contend that members of the Pagans were generating $10,00-a-week from the illegal street sale of the drugs obtained through prescriptions O'Brien wrote for dozens of "patients" sent to him by the bikers or their associates.

    O'Brien was also convicted of money-laundering and lying in a bankruptcy proceeding. Authorities allege that O'Brien hid his wealth by claiming to be financially bankrupt. In fact, they said, he had tens of thousands of dollars stashed in his residence and in bank accounts controlled by his girlfriend.

    More than a dozen co-defendants pleaded guilty in the case rather than go to trial, including two members of the Pagans who were described as "enforcers" for O'Brien. Authorities are continuing to investigate the murder of Anthony Rongione, a patient who owed O'Brien money and who, authorities said, was targeted on his orders by members of the Pagans.

    George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net

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  • 10/05/16--09:24: The Mob Goes Green
  • By George Anastasia

    Not for nothing was Tony Soprano a "solid waste management consultant."

    The mob, especially the mob in New Jersey, has always had a hand in the trash disposal/landfill business. But a recent examination by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation has
    uncovered a new twist in the old game.

    The mob has gone "green" -- as in recycling.

    At the forefront of the latest foray, state investigators say, is a Florida-based businessman with ties to Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and to members of the Lucchese and Bonanno crime families in New York.

    The rest of the story can be read here.

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  • 10/05/16--16:45: Pill Mill Doc Gets 30 Years
  • By George Anastasia
    For BigTrial.net

    A federal judge sentenced pill mill doctor William J. O'Brien 3d to 30 years in prison today for running a multi-million dollar drug trafficking operation with the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang and for contributing to the death of a patient by prescribing what authorities said was a "lethal' combination of pain medications.

    O'Brien, jailed since his arrest in January 2015, showed little remorse during the two-hour hearing before Judge Nitza Quinones. On the contrary, the 51-year-old doctor, who had represented himself during a six-week trial that ended in June, insisted he was innocent and continued to rant against prosecutors and investigators who he said lied and fabricated evidence to build the case against him.

    O'Brien was found guilty of 123 of the 127 counts he faced, including multiple counts of drug trafficking. He was also found guilty of money-laundering and lying in a bankruptcy proceeding.

    "I don't show remorse because I did nothing wrong," he said in a statement to the court during  today's proceeding.

    The hearing included an emotional victim impact statement from the sister of Joseph Ennis who died in December 2013 while under O'Brien's care. Ennis was being treated for pain after being hit by a van while walking in a snow storm, his family said. The judge also heard victim impact statements from a go-go dancer who had testified during O'Brien's trial and from O'Brien's former wife, Kathleen.

    The 30-year sentence, which will keep O'Brien jailed until he is in his 70s, was less than the life sentence federal prosecutor had sought.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Beth Leahy argued that a life sentence was "fully justified" and warranted given the crimes for which O'Brien was convicted.

    "He did not care one bit" about the people who were addicted to the pain medication that he prescribed and that members of the Pagans sold on the streets. Instead, she said, "He cared about money and he cared about power."

    Ennis, she said, was one of two patients who died while under his care. She also said there were other "victims," including several women, like the go-go dancer, who said O'Brien wrote prescriptions for them in exchange for oral sex.

    Part of the evidence introduced during the six-week trial included a tape made by an FBI undercover agent posing as a patient. The woman agent asked for an increase in the Xanax O'Brien was prescribing. The larger dose was known as a "blue," apparently because of the color of the pill.

    On the tape, which was played for the jury, O'Brien suggested "a blue for a blow." The agent turned down the offer, but Leahy said several other women, some already addicted, did not or could not.

    She also pointed to another tape in which O'Brien threatened Anthony Rongione, a patient who owed him money. On the tape, O'Brien told Rongione, "I'll hunt you down like a dog and I'll hurt you."

    Later, Rongione was confronted by two members of the Pagans armed with brass knuckles and a baseball bat. The bikers, she said, had been sent by O'Brien to collect the money. They fled, however, after neighbors in South Philadelphia came to Rongione's aid.

    What Leahy did not mention is that a day later, Rongione and another man were shot and killed in his home. Those murders are still under investigation.

    In his comments to the court, O'Brien said he was just beginning his fight. He said he would appeal his conviction and that he would again represent himself in a medical insurance fraud trial set to begin before Judge Quinones in January.

    He accused prosecutors and investigators of "flat out lies" and said they had abused the justice system. He said he was treating Joseph Ennis for pain and did not contributed to his death, claiming Ennis had taken more medication than he had prescribed.

    "I'm a physician," he said. "I didn't kill anyone...I did the best I could."

    Authorities, however, said O'Brien conspired with members of the Pagans in a pill mill operation that dumped tens of thousands of prescription pills on the streets. In a scheme worked out between O'Brien and members of the biker gang, O'Brien would charge $200 per visit for "patients" sent to him by the bikers. Few, if any, had any real medical problems and O'Brien seldom conducted an examination, authorities said.

    Instead, he would write prescriptions for oxycodone, methadone, Percocet and Xanax for those patients who would turn the drugs over to the Pagans. The patients, on average, were paid $500 by the bikers. Authorities alleged that O'Brien pocked $1.8 million during the three years the scheme was in operation while some members of the Pagans were bringing in $10,000-a-week by selling the drugs on the street.

    Leahy said today that O'Brien had violated his oath and the trust legitimate patients placed in him.

    One of those patients, she said, was Joseph Ennis.

    Ennis's sister, Bridget Shaw, offered an impassioned plea for a strong sentence.

    Shaw told the court that her brother was a "handsome, charming, daring, brave and always our hero." With seven other family members standing behind her as she addressed the court, she said to O'Brien:

    "While you were setting up your practices as a façade to help, Joey was assisting autistic children and families, painting in his studio or setting up his sign business.

    "While you were comfortable in your latest medicine scheme, Joey was hit by a van in a snowstorm and sent to you by his lawyer.

    "While you were acting like a caring doctor to reel him in, Joey was looking to you for help.

    "While you were prescribing a careless concoction to line your pockets, Joey was trusting you would safely take away his pain. Instead you stopped his heart.

    "While you were taking vacations and hiding money, we were trying to celebrate Christmas for our children while planning his funeral still wondering what could've possibly happened...The death of our brother was only a small piece of this extensive federal trial - depicting all the disgusting things that you did. Joey was a good hearted, fun-loving person. No one loved life more...Our brother was not an addict, he was a patient relying on you for help."

    George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The district attorney's office has struck a deal with Father James J. Brennan, who was accused of the attempted rape 20 years ago of a teenage boy.

    On Monday, Father Brennan, whose retrial was scheduled to begin Oct. 24th, pleaded no contest to a second-degree misdemeanor charge of simple assault, and was placed on two years probation.

    "This case, which took six or seven years to resolve, ended with a whimper and not a bang because they made us an offer we couldn't refuse," said criminal defense lawyer William J. Brennan, no relation, who represented Father Brennan.


    The case sure started with a bang. Back in 2011, the district attorney issued a grand jury report, still online, which stated eleven times that Father Brennan had anally raped 14-year-old Mark Bukowski back in 1996. It happened in the priest's apartment, on a night when the priest admitted he showed the boy pornography and then got into bed with him.

    This excerpt is from pages 11 and 12 of the 2011 grand jury report:

    Father Brennan, who was now shirtless, insisted that Mark remove his gym shorts and climb into bed with him in only his underwear, which Mark did. Mark attempted to sleep on his side, with his back to Father Brennan, because he was afraid to look at the priest. As Mark lay in that position, Father Brennan hugged him from behind, resting his chin on Mark’s shoulder and pulling the boy closer to him.

    When Father Brennan pulled Mark toward him, Mark felt Father Brennan’s erect penis enter his buttocks. Mark began to cry, and asked himself over and over again, “Why is this happening?” as Father Brennan anally raped him. Mark fell asleep that night with Father Brennan’s penis still in his buttocks.

    The alleged rape, however, never happened, as Bukowski would subsequently testify in court. It turned out that the district attorney's office had gilded the lily, rewriting the alleged victim's grand jury testimony to transform what William J. Brennan would describe in court as a "savage spooning" into an anal rape.

    Father Brennan was tried in 2012 as a co-defendant with Msgr. William J. Lynn in the first Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial.

    On the witness stand Mark Bukowski testified that both he and the priest had t-shirts and boxer shorts on the night they spent in the priest's bed.

    The grand jury report called for indicting Father Brennan and charging him with rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a minor. But when the trial began, the rape charge against Father Brennan was reduced to attempted rape, with no official explanation.

    Now, that one-time rape charge been reduced to a simple second-degree misdemeanor assault, akin to a DUI, or driving under the influence. Father Brennan will not have to register as a sex offender. He may even remain a priest, William Brennan said, depending on the outcome of a canonical trial in the archdiocese.

    "We tried the first case for five months" the first time, in  2012, William Brennan said. "With massive evidence against the archdiocese, through the co-defendant [Msgr. Lynn], the Commonwealth was unable to secure a conviction."

    In the Lynn trial, the prosecution was allowed to introduce 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born, to show a pattern of behavior in the archdiocese, namely sweeping sex abuse complaints under the rug.

    While Msgr. Lynn was convicted by a jury in 2012 on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, the same jury voted 11-1 for acquittal of Father Brennan on the charge of attempted rape.

    William Brennan said he was eager to try the case again, because he had acquired a civil deposition where Mark Bukowski provided "great fodder for impeachment." The first time he tried the case, William Brennan described Bukowski a "serial confabulator."

    Bukowski is a former Marine who went AWOL and was discharged under less than honorable conditions. He had a history of drug problems and criminal arrests. His own mother accused him of stealing from herself and her husband. Bukowski also has pleaded guilty in the past to forgery, identity theft, and two counts of filing a false statement to authorities.

    William Brennan said he was confident of winning the case. But if he lost, Father Brennan would face "a lengthy jail sentence" of perhaps decades in jail.

    It was a chance the lawyer decided he couldn't take. William Brennan said he was mindful of the fates of the other three priest defendants tried by the D.A.'s office in the two previous archdiocese sex abuse cases.

    Msgr. Lynn served his minimum prison term of three years in jail and had his original conviction overturned, but he faces a retrial next year.

    Father Charles Engelhardt died in jail.

    Former priest Edward V. Avery is still in jail serving a 2 1/2 to five year sentence.

    Since his first trial, which ended with a hung jury, Father Brennan has worked in the construction business.

    "He's a very devout man, he's a true believer," William Brennan said of his client. Asked whether Father Brennan wants to remain a priest, the lawyer said, "He probably wants to catch his breath and see what the rest of his life holds for him."

    "He's been working in manual labor," William Brennan said of his client. "But as far as I'm concerned, he is still an ordained Roman Catholic priest."

    "The church may take action" against Father Brennan, William Brennan said. "I am not a canon lawyer. But based on the criminal trial where I represented him, I would presume that he has an argument to make against laicization."

    "If a priest gets a first time DUI, which is the same offense level, he is not automatically laicized," William Brennan said.

    An archdiocese spokesman, Ken Gavin, said that Father Brennan "has not been in active ministry for over a decade." He was placed on leave in 2006.

    "While technically a priest in name, he is not in function," Gavin said. "His laicization case is pending with the Vatican."

    The deal with Father Brennan follows a recent pattern with the D.A.'s office of doing whatever they can to win at all costs. All at the expense of their ostensible cause, protecting the safety of children.

    Last year, the district attorney offered a deal to Father Andrew McCormick, accused of raping a 10 year-old altar boy in 1997. If convicted on five sex charges, McCormick was facing a prison term of 25 to 50 years.

    The priest's first trial ended in a hung jury. At McCormick's second trial last year, the D.A. was so determined to win that they offered the priest a sweetheart deal.

    After, the jury sent the judge a note saying they were at an impasse, the prosecutor told the priest that if he would plead guilty to a single charge of corrupting the morals of a minor,  he was looking at no jail time plus four years probation. And he wouldn't have even had to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law.

    Father McCormick, however, said he couldn't plead guilty because he didn't do anything, and that it would be a lie. So he turned down the deal. His faith was rewarded when his second jury trial ended in another mistrial.

    At the district attorney's office, if it's all about protecting the children from predators in collars, the D.A. has dropped the ball twice in the past two years. In order to get a guilty plea on a lesser charge, rather than suffer another embarrassing loss at the hands of a jury.

    Which makes you wonder what all the noise was about in the first place.

    Headlines, that's all our corrupt D.A. was after.

    That's why he put on these sorry cases and played the public, and especially the media, for gullible fools.

    Sadly, it's still working.

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    The long-running legal battle is over between feuding former co-anchors Alycia Lane and Larry Mendte.

    Back in 2008, Lane sued CBS, her former employer, and Michael Colleran, a former CBS president and general manager, for negligence for allowing Mendte to hack into her personal computer.

    Mendte was named as a defendant in the suit filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. In the suit, Lane accused Mendte of unlawful interception of communications, invasion of privacy, and tortious interference with prospective contractual relations.

    The case was scheduled to go to trial Friday until the parties reached a confidential settlement last week. The rest of the story can be read here.

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    By George Anastasia
    For BigTrial.net

    They don't always play by the rules . . . even when they're dealing with members of their own team.

    Federal authorities in New York may have cut Skinny Joey Merlino a break by insisting -- over the objections of Philadelphia and Florida law enforcement agencies --that Merlino be included in a sweeping but vaguely drawn racketeering indictment now pending in Manhattan.

    Read the story here:


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    Sabrina Rubin Erdely, her editor, and her lawyers
    By Ralph Cipriano
    For BigTrial.net

    In his closing statement to the jury, Tom Clare, a lawyer for the plaintiff in the Rolling Stone libel case, talked about the fraudulent gang rape of "Jackie" by a bunch of imaginary frat boys.

    "It had all the elements of a perfect story," Clare told the jury, according to The Washington Post. "And when something appears too perfect it usually is."

    On Friday, a jury in Charlottesville, VA, decided that Rolling Stone and its reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not only defamed Nicole Eramo, a former administrator at the University of Virginia, but acted with actual malice. That meant the jury believed that Erdely and the magazine's editors knew that Erdely's 2014 story was false but they went ahead and published it anyway, with reckless disregard for the truth.

    After the trial was over, Rolling Stone apologized a second time for their since-retracted story about Jackie. But the magazine has never apologized for another all-too-perfect story Erdely wrote in 2011 about a Philadelphia altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe" who supposedly was raped in savage attacks by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher.

    With all due respect for the plaintiff in the $7.5 million U-Va. libel case, former dean Nicole Eramo, the scandal of what happened here in Philadelphia with Billy dwarfs what happened in Virginia with Jackie. Because in Virginia, the worst that happened was that people were libeled with actual malice.

    As bad as that is, in Philadelphia, three priests and a Catholic schoolteacher went to jail because of a fraudulent narrative about Billy, and one of those priests died there. [Another one of the priests, Msgr. William J. Lynn, is scheduled to be retried next May 1 for imaginary crimes against Billy.]

    To make things worse, in Philadelphia, our district attorney is more irresponsible than Rolling Stone. The false narrative about Billy Doe that got printed in Rolling Stone drew heavily on a 2011 grand jury report issued by the D.A.'s office. It's a report filled with 20 mistakes as well as actual malice, because the D.A. repeatedly rewrote grand jury testimony to fit a preconceived story line.

    But unlike what happened in Virginia, we didn't have The Washington Post riding to the rescue to expose factual discrepancies in the Jackie story. No, here in Philadelphia, we have The Philadelphia Inquirer, a newspaper that's committed journalistic malpractice by covering up the D.A.'s sins, and uncritically passing off Billy Doe's fantastic rape stories in the news and editorial columns as though it really happened.

    In their apology after the jury's verdict Friday, Rolling Stone made some admissions that could easily apply to Sabrina Rubin Erdely's Billy Doe story, entitled "The Catholic Church's Secret Sex Crime Files:"

    "In our desire to present this complicated issue from the perspective of a survivor, we overlooked reporting paths and made journalistic mistakes that we are committed to never making again," the magazine wrote. "We deeply regret these missteps and sincerely apologize to anyone hurt by them . . ."

    In his closing statement to the jury, Clare said that Dean Nicole Eramo -- the villain of the Rolling Stone U-Va. story who was allegedly indifferent to rape victim Jackie's plight -- was "collateral damage in a quest for sensational journalism."

    But, Clare argued, Jackie's account of her gang rape was so brutal and so vile that the magazine should have figured out that it wasn't credible.

    While we're talking about vile and brutal stories that somebody should have figured out weren't credible, we should mention that Billy Doe, AKA Danny Gallagher, initially claimed that he was viciously raped three times when he was a fifth and sixth grader by two priests and a Catholic school teacher.

    And that as bloody and vicious as these attacks were, nobody noticed at the time, including his older brother who was also a student/altar boy at the same church and school, his mom the nurse, and his father the police sergeant, all of whom lived less than a mile away from the scene of the alleged crime spree.

    In Erdely's Billy Doe story, the writer referred to the former altar boy as "a sweet, gentle kid with boyish good looks" who was "outgoing and well-liked" before he was callously "passed around" from predator to predator. And those brutal attacks turned him into a sullen, drug-addicted loner.

    In the Billy Doe case, what Erdely didn't know [or bother to find out] was that Billy had a history of a half-dozen arrests for retail theft and drugs, including one bust for possession with intent to sell 56 bags of heroin. And that every time Billy told his story, the details kept changing.

    Which usually has some effect on a witness's credibility.

    But not when a district attorney is looking for the perfect victim's story that falls within the statute of limitations, so he can be the first prosecutor in the country to throw a priest behind bars for covering up sex abuse in the church.

    In the case of Billy Doe, the former altar boy initially claimed to two social workers for the archdiocese that in the first attack, one priest anally raped him for five hours in the sacristy and then threatened to kill him.

    In the second attack, Billy claimed he was punched in the head and knocked unconscious by another priest. And when he came to he found himself naked and tied up with altar sashes. After which he was anally raped so brutally that he supposedly bled for a week. And after the rape, the priest supposedly threatened to hang Billy by his scrotum. And then the priest forced Billy to suck blood off the priest's penis.

    In the third attack, Billy claimed he was punched in the face by a school teacher and strangled with a seat belt before he was raped in the back seat of a car.

    Honestly, how could anybody believe this nonsense?

    Then, Billy retold his tales to the police and a grand jury. And all of the fantastic details you just read -- the anal rapes, the death threats, the getting punched in the head and supposedly knocked unconscious, the business about being tied up with altar sashes and strangled with a seat belt, and being forced to suck blood -- all of those details disappeared from the story.

    In its place the resourceful Billy invented a whole new story about being forced to perform strip teases, oral sex and mutual masturbation with the same trio of assailants.

    The details, however, kept changing.

    In the case of the school teacher, Billy gave three different locations for the alleged rape -- in the classroom, in the back seat of the teacher's car, and in a park.

    In the U-Va. libel case, the jury found that Rolling Stone editors acted with actual malice because they did not take down the original November 2014 story immediately, but left it online until the following April, when it was retracted.

    Editors at the magazine did not respond to a request for comment on the Billy Doe story  from 2011, which is still posted online. 

    In response to the U-Va. verdict, Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League, wrote in an email that, "In just one week, Gawker and Rolling Stone have been found guilty of libelous stories, costing them millions."

    But, Donohue wrote, as "Bad as those two are, they pale in significance to the damage done by the Philadelphia D.A. in his mad pursuit to hunt down priests and Catholic laymen."

    "It is not enough that he has been proven to be unethical -- and a loser -- justice demands that he be sanctioned," Donohue wrote about the Philly D.A. "As for the Philadelphia Inquirer, its ancillary role is despicable."

    Donohue was referring to several recent scandals involving D.A. Seth Williams. Our ethically-challenged D.A. has already admitted that he took in $160,000 in gifts and free vacations and failed to report them, and that he failed to report to authorities a tire-slashing of an official car by his angry girlfriend.

    Thomas Bergstrom is the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, who on May 1st, is scheduled to be retried for allegedly endangering Billy Doe's welfare by not adequately supervising one of the priests who supposedly raped Billy.

    In the Erdely story, Lynn was portrayed as a "company man" who started out his priestly career in the seminary as a "friendly, overweight boy whose acne-scarred face was topped with jet-black hair."

    Bergstrom agrees that as bad as the U-Va. gang rape hoax was, what happened here in Philadelphia with lying altar boy Billy is a far worse travesty of justice.

    In the U-Va. alleged gang rape case, Bergrstrom said, they were dealing with "just a lying witness."

    In the first Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, Bergstrom said, he was not only battling Billy's bogus rape tales, but also bad judicial rulings, as well as prosecutorial misconduct.

    At Lynn's original trial in 2012, the trial judge allowed in as evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before the monsignor was born, to show a pattern of coverups in the archdiocese.

    An appeals court cited those supplemental cases when they threw out Lynn's original conviction.

    At Lynn's original trial, Bergstrom said he also didn't know that the detective who led the investigation of Billy Doe's claims had interviewed the alleged victim numerous times. And that when Detective Joseph Walsh questioned Danny Gallagher about nine different factual discrepancies in his stories, Gallagher either sat there and said nothing, claimed he was high on drugs, or told a new story.

    "We didn't know anything about the Walsh stuff," Bergstrom said, which was disclosed in a civil deposition and subsequently, a Newsweek cover story. "We had no idea idea that he [Walsh] had interviewed Gallagher as many times as he had done."

    "The chief prosecution detective didn't believe the one and only witness they had [Gallagher], and they hid that," Bergstrom said of the D.A.'s office. Which is why Bergstrom plans to file a motion to have the charges against his client thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct.

    Detective Walsh isn't the only sceptic who didn't believe Danny Gallagher.

    Dr. Stephen Mechanick, a forensic psychologist who examined Gallagher for nearly three hours, concluded that he was "paranoid," manipulative, passive aggressive, and delusional. And that Gallagher had provided "conflicting and unreliable information" to the psychiatrist about his past, and "was not always honest with his medical providers."

    Mechanick also plowed through Billy's medical records from 28 different drug rehab facilities, hospitals, doctors and drug counselors as well as his academic records. The psychiatrist used those records as evidence to disprove all of Gallagher's numerous claims of physical and psychological abuse.

    When Gallagher was deposed during a civil suit he filed against the archdiocese for damages, he responded to questions about his numerous conflicting claims of abuse by testifying that he didn't remember more than 130 times.

    There's one other big difference in the fraudulent rape stories told by Jackie and Billy.

    In Jackie's case, she was exposed as a fraud.

    In Billy's case, thanks to our unscrupulous D.A. and the willfully negligent Inquirer, he still gets to pose as a sex abuse victim.

    And in a confidential settlement that the church would like you to forget about, Billy collected $5 million from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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