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  • 11/13/16--08:15: Gangland News Guest Column
  • This Week in Gang Land

    Unknown Racketeering Defendant Linked To The Mob, Mulch and Medicare Fraud In Three States

    Gang Land Exclusive!Bradley SirkinIn the pecking order of the racketeering indictment of 46 mob-connected defendants with ties to five crime families now pending in Manhattan Federal Court, Bradley (Brad) Sirkin would appear to be a minor player. 
    His name appears next to last in the long list of defendants from five states and he earns little more than a passing reference in the 32-page indictment that charges him and all the others with racketeering conspiracy.
    "He's stayed under the radar," a law enforcement source said.  
    But the former Staten Island resident has some major league mob connections from New York to Florida, said that same source.

    Merlino's WineglassNo Reservations At Skinny Joey's Florida Restaurant

    If you picked up a snazzy Merlino's wineglass on your last trip to Boca, don't throw it away. It may soon be a collector's item. It looks like Joey Merlino is out of the restaurant business.

    Gary BattagliniBookmaker Fights Long Odds In His One-Man Battle With The Feds

    Gary Battaglini admits he's a bookmaker, but insists he's not a mobster. Convicted along with three made members of the Philadelphia crime family back in 2013, the soft-spoken 55-year old has waged a one-man battle to have his conviction overturned.
     
    Subscribe to Gangland News on-line.


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    A look at the Philadelphia mob...in Italian.


    https://news.vice.com/it/article/mafia-italiana-america-declino

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    Reprinted with permission from Gangland News.

    See link below

     

    By George Anastasia

    No Reservations At Skinny Joey's Florida Restaurant

    Merlino's WineglassIf you picked up a snazzy Merlino's wineglass on your last trip to Boca, don't throw it away. It may soon be a collector's item. It looks like Joey Merlino is out of the restaurant business.
    Reports from Boca Raton, where his posh, eponymous nightspot was located, indicate that the restaurant is closed and the property is for sale.  In June, Skinny Joey denied a Miami Herald report that Merlino's had gone belly up. He insisted that his joint was shutting down for the summer season and would reopen in the fall.
    Who knows? That may have been the plan. But that was before the racketeering indictment that snared him and 45 co-defendants for being part of what federal prosecutors have dubbed an East Coast LCN Enterprise.
    Merlino's Joey MerlinoWhen Merlino made bail back in August — friends and family posted real estate to back the $5 million get-out-of-jail ticket — his lawyers said he would be working to get his restaurant ready for the fall season.
    But according to sources, Merlino's financing has dried up.
    Merlino was apparently hoping to tap Florida buddy Wayne Kreisberg for a new infusion of cash for the restaurant. But like Bradley Sirkin, Kreisberg has his own problems. He is a co-defendant in both the New York racketeering case and in the medical insurance fraud and money-laundering indictment in Tampa.
    Other potential financial backers have apparently shied away because of the uncertainty surrounding Merlino's future.
    Joey, of course, didn't own the restaurant. As a convicted felon, he is barred from having a liquor license. Instead he lent his name and some of his mother's recipes to the enterprise and was on hand to meet and greet.
    It was a good hang while it lasted, but Merlino has more pressing problems.
    Edwin JacobsLike coming up with the cash to pay his high-powered lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr.
    Regarded as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the area, Jacobs has successfully defended both Merlino and former Philadelphia mob boss Joseph (Uncle Joe) Ligambi in protracted battles with the feds .
    But the Atlantic City-based attorney doesn't come cheap.
    Word on the street is that the price tag is $250,000 up front and then a weekly stipend that could double the price once the trial gets under way in Manhattan. Expenses for hotel accommodations and meals would also be part of the package.
    Merlino is said to be depending on members of the Philadelphia crime family to kick in for a defense fund. Reports are that a "fund raiser" is in the works. There have been grumblings, however. Some of the guys from downtown who were routinely sending cash to Merlino while he was living in Florida were surprised to learn that Joey had other sources of income that he neglected to mention.
    Wayne KreisbergThe indictment puts him in the middle of a mob-run bookmaking operation involving professional gamblers and tens of thousands of dollars in weekly action. Details are sketchy because the feds in Manhattan have thus far offered a vaguely written account of the charges as they pertain to Skinny Joey.  That may be a reflection of the nature of their case or it could be the curtain raiser with a stronger, superseding indictment waiting in the wings.
    In terms of the gambling charge, was Merlino taking the action or placing the bets? Or both, as some sources say. Was he extorting gamblers? Or was he, as he had done frequently in Philadelphia, "guzzling" bookmakers?
    Guzzling is a term used by Merlino and several associates to describe a scam in which they used straw parties and fake names to place bets, collecting when they won and "disappearing" when they lost.
    Bookmakers in Philadelphia used to run when they saw Merlino coming because of his reputation as a no pay. Guzzling was a way for him to stay in the game.
    Bradley SirkinThe indictment also hints that Merlino was in on the highly lucrative medical insurance scam involving compound creams that required prescriptions and that sold for thousands of dollar per tube.  Not too many of his Philadelphia associates knew about the scheme and few, if any, shared in the windfall. Again, the New York indictment offers little detail, but the Tampa case involving both Kreisberg and Sirkin details a money-laundering and insurance fraud scam in which, it is alleged, more than $600 million was billed and more than $157 million in fraudulent reimbursements were paid by insurance company victims.
    Was the scam that is alluded to in just one paragraph in the New York indictment similar or the same as the scam in the Tampa case?  If so, what was Merlino's piece of that action?
    Those are the kinds of questions being asked in underworld circles in Philadelphia where Joey's wheeling and dealing have once again given his top associates agita.
    Ronald PreviteThey've seen it all before.
    They shake their heads, roll their eyes and chalk it all up to Joey being Joey.
    Ronnie Previte, the mobster-turned-government informant who helped the feds convict Merlino and six associates of racketeering charges in 2001, said it best.
    "Joey's agenda on Monday is to get to Tuesday."
    Get the money, spend the money. Have a good time.
    Previte wore a wire for the FBI for more than a year back in the late 1990s, helping the feds make a case against Merlino, then mob boss Ralph Natale and a dozen other members of the organization.
    The fact that Previte, a former ally of Merlino rival John Stanfa, was able to get close to Merlino and Natale after Stanfa and his crew were indicted, says a lot about economics in the Philadelphia underworld.
    Merlino's RestaurantMoney trumps all.
    Previte said he always brought an envelope stuffed with cash to meeting s with Merlino and Natale. It was his tribute payment, part of his street income, he would tell them. In fact, it was money supplied by the FBI to maintain Previte's street cred.
    In the pending case, it looks like mob associate turned government informant J.R. Rubeo played that same card. Merlino is street smart and a survivor. Over the years, two Philadelphia mob bosses and a major drug kingpin wanted him dead. He's outlasted them all.  But money often clouds his vision. 
    His restaurant was supposed to be his way to ease into a leisurely retirement.  But those who know him say Joey just can't stop being Joey.


    This Week in Gang Land

    Unknown Racketeering Defendant Linked To The Mob, Mulch and Medicare Fraud In Three States

    Gang Land Exclusive!Bradley SirkinIn the pecking order of the racketeering indictment of 46 mob-connected defendants with ties to five crime families now pending in Manhattan Federal Court, Bradley (Brad) Sirkin would appear to be a minor player. 
    His name appears next to last in the long list of defendants from five states and he earns little more than a passing reference in the 32-page indictment that charges him and all the others with racketeering conspiracy.
    "He's stayed under the radar," a law enforcement source said.
    But the former Staten Island resident has some major league mob connections from New York to Florida, said that same source.

    Merlino's WineglassNo Reservations At Skinny Joey's Florida Restaurant

    If you picked up a snazzy Merlino's wineglass on your last trip to Boca, don't throw it away. It may soon be a collector's item. It looks like Joey Merlino is out of the restaurant business.

    Gary BattagliniBookmaker Fights Long Odds In His One-Man Battle With The Feds

    Gary Battaglini admits he's a bookmaker, but insists he's not a mobster. Convicted along with three made members of the Philadelphia crime family back in 2013, the soft-spoken 55-year old has waged a one-man battle to have his conviction overturned.
     
    Subscribe to Gangland News on-line.
    https://www.ganglandnews.com/ppSD2/login.php

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    As head of the city's Nuisance Task Force, Dominic Verdi wore a bulletproof vest. Whenever, he was leading an after-hours raid on a crack house, nuisance bar, or an unlicensed massage parlor, he was always the first guy through the door.

    In thousands of raids over the years, Verdi, the former deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, gained a reputation around town as the go-to guy for law enforcement --state, local or federal -- whenever it came to shutting down illegal operations around the city.

    "He put himself in harm's way," then City Councilman James Kenney said admiringly about Verdi in 2000.

    But Monday, on the 13th floor of the federal courthouse, it was Verdi who was accused of breaking the law. Federal prosecutors charged that while Verdi was leading late-night rights all over town, he was hiding a conflict of interest -- a part ownership he had purchased in Chappy's Beer, Butts and Bets, a beer distributorship formerly located at 2825 S.17th St. in South Philadelphia.

    The rest of the story can be read here.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The government's first two witnesses in the corruption trial of former Deputy L&I Commissioner Dominic Verdi came to the witness stand yesterday loaded with baggage.

    First up was Susan Callueng, a former nightclub owner who was red-faced and dabbing her eyes with tissues.

    Callueng's story was that whenever she needed a permit for her now defunct nightclub, Blurr in Old City, she used to go see Verdi at his office at 9th and Spring Garden.  She'd hand him a check made out to the city of Philadelphia for whatever the permit cost, whether it was $250 or $315. And then she would hand Verdi an envelope stuffed with $1,000 in cash.

    Her story left courtroom spectators scratching their heads. If Callueng was indeed bribing Verdi with cash payoffs at $1,000 a clip, why did she also have to write out checks to the city of Philadelphia for much cheaper permit fees?

    Callueng explained that she didn't have the time to go down to the Municipal Services Building, at Broad and JFK, like everybody else, and wait in line for a permit, which might take weeks or months to get. When the city shut her down on a Friday night, she testified, she wanted to reopen the next day.

    But on the witness stand, Callueng had to admit that she is a cooperating government witness who owes the IRS more than $800,000 in back taxes, fines and penalties. She's also in trouble for fraudulently receiving free health insurance from Medicaid.

    Callueng pleaded guilty last year to one count of fraud and four counts of tax evasion. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 22nd, two days before Christmas. So, as Verdi's lawyer pointed out on cross-examination, in her role as a cooperating witness in the Verdi trial, Callueng has the motive to sing the government's tune.

    The next witness was Kenneth Gassman, a former L&I electrical contractor who testified that Verdi often pushed for favorable treatments for bar and nightclub owners that he was friendly with.

    But Gassman had to tell the jury that he had already pleaded guilty to one count of extortion. That crime involved the use of Gassman's official position at L&I to file false complaints, in the process of extorting an elderly neighbor, who owned a property that Gassman wanted, but the neighbor wouldn't sell.

    Gassman also had to admit that after he pleaded guilty to extortion, he's been waiting six years to be sentenced. And that his sentence will depend on, he admitted on the witness stand, how well he testifies in the Verdi case.

    The government got off to a shaky start yesterday in the corruption trial of Verdi, who is charged in a seven-count federal indictment with conspiracy, extortion, and honest services fraud.

    The government alleges that while Verdi was deputy L&I Commissioner, and leading Nuisance Task Force raids around town, he was hiding a part-ownership in a beer distributorship, Chappy's Beer, Butts and Bets. And that as part of his crime spree, Verdi was inducing bar and night club owners to buy beer from Chappy's, in exchange for favorable treatment from L&I.

    On the witness stand, Callueng had a hard time keeping it together when she talked about her guilty plea and subsequent deal to cooperate with the government.

    "Sorry, I get emotional," she said as she wiped away tears.

    Her IRS bill, she said, climbed to $1.1 million, before she sold off her liquor license for $155,000, and gave the money to the government. She still owes the feds, she said, more than $800,000.

    When she comes back to court three days before Christmas to be sentenced, she testified, she faces guidelines that call for a prison term of between 18 to 24 months.

    Callueng said she got in trouble when she opened her night club in 2004, and didn't bother worrying about zoning permits.

    "I didn't know that I needed certain licenses, and I didn't care," she said. Her priorities, she said, were making money, taking care of her family, and operating her nightclub. Then, the place was raided by the city's Nuisance Task Force.

    Callueng found out she needed a special assembly license, as well as a license for food prep, a certificate of occupancy and a business privilege license. That's when she turned to Verdi for help.

    "It was the first time the club was raided," she said. "All the music went off."

     "There was a badge in my face," she said. "It's a very scary experience."

    When the task force raided her club, she testified, all the lights were turned on. Her patrons got angry, and started chanting.

    What were they chanting, asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf.

    Callueng was too shy to say it.

    "We're all adults here," the prosecutor told the witness.

    "Fuck the police," the bashful witness said.

    That's when one of her managers, Mario Fresta, told her that they needed to "meet up with Dominic Verdi," and that he would take care of their problems.

    Her story was that instead of waiting in line at the Municipal Services Building, Verdi would get her a permit the same day.

    She testified that Verdi got her a health permit, even though her club, she said, was way too filthy to pass inspection. The kitchen, she said, was loaded with crud and mouse droppings.

    "Aren't you glad you don't go these clubs," Judge Berle M. Schiller told the jury.

    Her testimony was that on three occasions when she needed permits, that she handed Verdi an envelope stuffed with $1,000 in $20 bills. And that after he told her about Chappy's, she bought between $3,000 and $5,000 worth of Chappy's beer.

    "I felt that I had to keep getting favors he was doing for us," she said about Verdi.

    The next witness was Kevin Gassman, an electrician who became an electrical inspector for L&I from 1997 to 2010.

    When quizzed about his extortion rap against his elderly neighbor, Gassman explained, "I really wanted to buy his building."

    "I abused my authority," Gassman said.

    Gassman said while he was working at L&I, he found out about Verdi's part-ownership interest in Chappy's. And that at one point, he and another L&I official, the late Kevin Daly, discussed Chappy's with Verdi.

    "I kind of felt that this was a conflict of interest issue," Gassman said.

    And what did Verdi say in response, the prosecutor wanted to know.

    Verdi, Gassman said, informed him that Verdi had talked it over with the city's Inspector General's office, and that "everything's OK."

    Gassman was a member of the Nuisance Task Force. When the task force raided Cescaphe, a ballroom where they hold weddings in Northern Liberties, the place didn't have fire alarms. But it was scheduled to open soon on Valentine's Day, and hold its first wedding.

    Gassman said that when he talked to Verdi about it, Verdi told him, "We needed to see what we could do to work it out."

    To Gassman, that was "preferential treatment," he said.

    When the Catholic War Veterans, who operated a bar, were planning a "Peek-A-Boo" night, featuring a stripper, angry neighbors contacted L&I.

    "It was a very family oriented neighborhood," Gassman explained.

    "Maybe I should become Catholic," the judge quipped.

    L&I raided the joint, and discovered a "young lady who was wearing a snake," Gassman said.

    "Maybe it was a boa," the judge cracked.

    The Task Force shut the place down, but the Catholic War Veterans were allowed to reopen their bar soon after.

    "I was not surprised," Gassman said.

    "Why not," the prosecutor asked.

    "Because they were friends with Dominic," Gassman replied.

    On cross-examination, Susan Lin, Verdi's defense lawyer, zeroed in on Gassman's cooperation agreement with the government, and how it gave him incentive "to get a lesser sentence."

    "Sir, you are looking at 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine," she said. The witness's sentence, she said, had been "postponed so you could testify in this case."

    "Correct," Gassman said.

    So, as a cooperating witness, Lin said, isn't it "in your best interests to implicate as many people as possible?"

    "It's called cooperation," Gassman replied.

    It got worse on re-direct when Wolf decided she had to go over the details of Gassman's extortion crime, which Lin was making plenty of hay on.

    And Gassman had to agree with the prosecutor when she said it wasn't just one mistake he made in harassing and extorting his elderly neighbor, but "four years of bad choices."

    In her efforts to impeach the credibility of the witness, Lin was also able to drag in a tattoo Gassman had on his arm. Especially after the prosecutor made the mistake of referring to the words on tattoo when she was quizzing the witness.

    You just opened the door, the judge told the prosecutor.

    To Lin's delight, Gassman had to reveal to the jury that the tattoo says, "It's better to be guilty and wealthy" instead of "proven innocent and broke."

    The next witness was Joseph Volpe, a chef who owns the Cescaphe ballroom, where they hold 100 to 120 weddings a year.

    "We were having trouble getting through the inspection phase," Volpe testified. Gassman, Volpe said, "was not very nice man."

    So Volpe said, he called Bart Blatstein, a prominent developer who used to own the Cescaphe, and Blatstein brought Dominic Verdi into the situation. Verdi was able to obtain a temporary occupancy permit so the Cescaphe could open on Valentine's Day by hosting its first wedding, Volpe said.

    Volpe subsequently ran into Verdi at a wedding. That's when Verdi told Volpe that his nephew had opened a beer distributorship named Chappy's.

    Volpe explained how, over the next four years, he proceeded to buy more than $200,000 worth of beer from Chappy's.

    "Dominic was a friend we had a relationship with, so we switched" beer distributors, Volpe said.

    The prosecutor, however, was looking for evidence of extortion, so she kept asking Volpe about why he made the switch.

    "He gave you the answer," the judge interrupted. "You don't like the answer."

    When the prosecutor persisted in questioning Volpe about the switch in beer distributors, Volpe responded, "It doesn't hurt to have friends in high places."

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Wolf, however, was still displeased with Volpe's answers. So she asked the judge for permission to treat Volpe as a "hostile, adverse witness."

    "He's your witness," the judge told the prosecutor.

    Verdi, Volpe said, was "a friend of Bart's. I wanted to keep the relationship. I wanted to keep him [Verdi] happy."

    "If I needed help along the way, he [Verdi] would be there to help me," Volpe said.

    On cross-examination, Lin asked Volpe if he "wanted to be here today."

    "No," he said.

    Volpe was the first government witness in the case who hadn't pleaded guilty to a crime. Lin took advantage of that situation by asking the witness if, "You stand to gain anything from your testimony here today?"

    "No," Volpe replied.

    Lin asked Volpe about his dealings with Gassman.

    "We were trying to do things right," Volpe said, and Gassman "kept finding things wrong."

    When Verdi intervened to help, Lin said, did you ever have to hand him an envelope stuffed with cash?

    "No," the witness said.

    Did you ever feel threatened by Verdi, she asked.

    "No," the witness said.

    Testimony in the case is scheduled to resume at 9:30 this morning.

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    By George Anastasia
    For BigTrial.net

    A federal prosecutor has spent most of this week building the case against Dominic
    Verdi, the former Philadelphia Deputy Commissioner of Licenses and Inspections charged with playing fast and loose with rules and ethics in a quid-pro-quo scam built in part around his hidden ownership in a beer distribution company.

    On Friday Verdi, who resigned his city post back in February 2011 amid reports of a far-reaching corruption investigation, will get a chance to tell his side of the story.

    The South Philadelphia politico is expected to take the stand in his own defense in the trial which began in U.S. District Court on Monday and could go to the jury early next week. The prosecution is expected to rest its case on Thursday, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf who over the past two days has called a series of witnesses, including bar owners and law enforcement investigators, who have offered sometimes conflicting testimony about the 62-year-old former city official.

    One former bar owner testified today that Verdi was a "stand up guy" who never asked him to do anything improper. But another alleged that Verdi accepted cash bribes of $1,000 stuffed in an envelope in order to expedite relicensing issues and provide "alerts" about potential inspections.

    A former L&I fire inspector testified that Verdi never asked him to do anything "inappropriate," but a retired State Police sergeant assigned to the same Nuisance Task Force as Verdi said the former Deputy Commissioner once asked him to "go easy" on one bar and was less than candid about a homicide that occurred at a strip club that authorities said was part of the quid-pro-quo scam.

    The prosecution, in a pre-trial memo that outlined the charges, alleged that Verdi had a hidden interest in Chappy's Beer, Butts and Bets, a South Philadelphia-based beer distributorship and that bar owners who were subject to L&I regulations where told that if they purchased their beer from Chappy's, Verdi would look out for their interests.

    "Bar owners reasoned that it would be a good business decision to purchase beer from Chappy's," Wolf wrote in a memo filed prior to the start of the trial. "Bar owners, recognizing Verdi's authority, expected preferential treatment and protection from Verdi in return."

    The same prosecution memo identified disbarred attorney Gregory Quigley, a co-owner of Chappy's, and Henry "Ed" Alfano, as unindicted co-conspirators in the case.

    Quigley, who lost his license to practice law in 2009 after pleading guilty to a perjury charged linked to a State Attorney General's organized crime investigation in Delaware County, has been identified by witnesses as Verdi's partner in Chappy's.

    Alfano, an ex-Philadelphia cop, is an influential Southwest Philadelphia businessman who owns the properties at which two strip clubs and an adult video business operate. He also owns a salvage yard and a towing company.

    In May 2014, Alfano pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud charges tied to a corruption and bribery investigation of Philadelphia Traffic Court. The prosecution memo alleges that Alfano had a "quid pro quo" relationship with Verdi; that Verdi's son worked as a bartender at one of the strip clubs, and that the clubs bought their beer from Chappy's.

    In exchange, the memo quoted Alfano as telling associates, Verdi did "a lot of stuff" for the bars and was "100 percent in our favor."

    It's unclear how much, if any, of Alfano's comments, will be presented to the jury. But testimony today included former State Police Sergeant William LaTorre's account of Verdi's questionable conduct after a patron was beaten to death in the parking lot of Oasis, one of the strip clubs, by two club employees.

    LaTorre said ordinarily a homicide would result in an order from L&I forcing the business to close at least temporarily. That didn't happen after the incident that occurred on Oct. 16, 2009. In fact, LaTorre said Verdi initially told him the incident was "a domestic between a stripper and a bouncer" and that only later did he learn that someone had been killed and that there was a homicide investigation underway by the Philadelphia Police Department.

    "I was upset and angry to be put in this situation by Mr. Verdi," La Torre said.

    He also told the jury that Verdi once asked him to "go easy" on Club 360, another bar that later testimony indicated was a client of Chappy's.  And LaTorre offered what turned out to be disputed testimony about La Stanza, a South Philadelphia bar that authorities said was operating without a valid liquor license.

    LaTorre said a raid on the bar, located at 20th and Oregon, normally would have resulted in the establishment being issued a cease order and closed until the issues had been resolved. LaTorre said the bar/restaurants reopened within a day after obtaining the necessary relicensing.

    But Giovanni Tripodi, the bar owner, said he spent three days in jail after that raid, and that La Stanza did not open until his release and until various licensing violations were resolved.

    Tripodi, who was also a partner in Chappy's, said he had invested in the business after being approached by Quigley and Verdi. He said he provided a $75,000 investment and was promised a 25 percent interest in the beer company. Quigley, he said, did most of the negotiating. He also said Quigley had arranged the LaStanza liquor license that proved to be invalid.

    Tripodi said he lost most of the money he invested in Chappy's and blamed Quigley for the problems that were created, including the invalid liquor license for LaStanza.

    When defense attorney Susan Lin asked him, "Did Quigley screw you?" Tripodi responded, "Absolutely."

    But he had nothing but praise for Verdi.

    "He's a very good guy," he said. "He's a standup guy. That's the only reason I invested in it (Chappy's)."

    Under prodding by the federal prosecutor, Tripodi conceded that the fact that Verdi was an L&I official also factored into his decision. But when asked if he got "special treatment" from Verdi, he replied, "I don't think so."

    Special treatment, of course, is a relative term, one that jurors will have to wrestle with once the case is handed to them next week. Before that, Dominic Verdi will have the chance to offer his explanation.

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

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The government's latest star witness in the Dominic Verdi corruption trial showed up in court today wearing a prison jump suit.

    Other featured cooperating witnesses in the Verdi trial this week included a husband-and-wife team of former night club owners who have pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion, owing the feds as much as $1 million in back taxes, fines, and penalties.

    But John Pettit had them beat. The former strip club manager was convicted this past June of third-degree murder after he punched a drunk patron in the head during a 2009 fight outside the Oasis Gentlemen's Club.  John Koons, 31, suffered a depressed skull fracture from the punch, and when he fell backward, he fractured his skull. He died two weeks after the brawl, without ever regaining consciousness.

    Pettit, now serving a 7 1/2 - 15 year sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, PA, showed up in court today to talk about the protection he claimed that Verdi, the former deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, used to provide for the Oasis.

    "We would never be shut down" no matter how rowdy the place got, Pettit told the jury. And, thanks to Verdi, the club would always "pass inspection," Pettit said.

    The night before Pettit got into the brawl that resulted in the death of a patron, an angry member of a motorcycle gang fired six shots through the front door of the Oasis, Pettit told the jury.

    Usually, it only takes only one such disruption to result in L&I shutting down a bar or strip club, Pettit said. But after the shooting and the murder, the Oasis stayed open, without missing a beat.

    When Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf asked why, Pettit replied, "cause we were protected by L&I."

    "I was shocked" that the Oasis stayed open, Pettit said.

    Pettit, who said he is hoping for a reduced sentence, talked about the problems of running the club that included drug dealers frequenting the joint, and pill-happy strippers who turned into prostitutes in the Champagne room.

    Pettit bought liquor for the club. He said that everybody at the Oasis knew the only place the club bought booze from was Chappy's Beer, Butts, and Bets, the distributorship that Verdi had a part-ownership in. The club also employed Verdi's son, Pettit said.

    "I like Chris," Pettit said, but he was a substandard employee.

    While Pettit was talking about glory days at the Oasis in court today, Judge Berle M. Schiller was repeatedly dressing down the prosecutor. Especially when she called another co-owner of Chappy's a "coconspirator" of Verdi's.

    "Don't give him a label," the judge admonished Wolf. "You haven't proven a conspiracy yet."

    "I think I have, Your Honor," Wolf replied.

    "Oh, you do," the judge replied sarcastically, before adding, "There's no evidence . . . I'm not sure there is a conspiracy."

    Verdi is charged in a seven-count federal indictment with extortion, conspiracy, and honest services fraud. But the judge has repeatedly voiced doubts about whether there was a conspiracy.

    In a sidebar conference, when the prosecutor brought up the alleged conspiracy again, the judge was overheard saying loudly, "Ah baloney," before he told the prosecutor to "sit down and do your re-direct."

    "I think this this important," the prosecutor protested.

    But at the end of the day, when the defense made a motion to toss the conspiracy charge, the judge denied it.

    The last government witness to testify today was FBI Agent Jason Blake, a certified public accountant who has tailed Verdi for years.

    Blake explained to the jury that when he went over Verdi's tax returns from 2006, 2007, and 2009, the only mention of Chappy's was income paid to Verdi's wife, who was also an employee at the distributorship.

    There was no income reported from Chappy's, Blake said, even though bars and nightclubs that were friendly with Verdi were buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of liquor from Chappy's.

    The Oasis alone, purchased some $489,000 worth of booze from Chappy's, according to Blake. Another bar, Benny the Bum's, spent $570,000 at Chappy's.

    Verdi also filed statements of financial interest for the years 2007 through 2010, but none of those forms mentioned that Verdi had an interest in Chappy's, Blake testified.

    While Blake was on the witness stand, the government played tapes of wiretapped phone conversations between Verdi and other co-owners of Chappy's.

    In one wiretapped conversation, a co-owner warned Verdi that a legal battle between the partners might spill over into court.

    "If this goes to court, they're gonna find out about all the other partners," the other partner told Verdi.

    "I don't care what comes out," Verdi replied on the tape. "My names's not on nothing."

    But then Verdi added, "I don't want to be in the middle of this fucking shit."

    Despite the money rolling in, Chappy's seemed to be having financial problems.

    In another taped call with his daughter, Verdi seemed in despair about Chappy's, saying, "I personally think I'm going to lose a lot of money."

    Verdi's investment in Chappy's, prosecutors said, was $20,000.

    When FBI agents interviewed Verdi, Blake told the jury, Verdi admitted he had a part ownership in Chappy's.

    Verdi told the agents, "He made a foolish mistake," Blake said. "He acknowledged what he did was against the law."

    On cross-examination, Blake agreed with Susan Lin, Verdi's lawyer, that Verdi met voluntarily with the FBI five times.

    "He never asked for an attorney," Lin asked.

    That's right, Blake said.

    Lin questioned Blake repeatedly on Verdi's reputation for helping out business owners, whether or not they bought beer from Chappy's.

    "He said he helped everybody," Blake said.

    After Blake left the witness stand, the government rested its case, after just three days of testimony.

    The judge asked Verdi if he was going to testify in his own defense.

    Verdi stood up and talked about all of the false facts he had heard in the courtroom this week while the prosecution presented its case.

    "I'm the only one who's gong to be able to explain" what really happened, Verdi told the judge.

    The trial resumes tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. with the defendant taking the stand.


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    By Ralph Cipriano

    Dominic Verdi, who took the stand today in his own defense, admitted that he had a conflict of interest when he bought Chappy's Beer, Butts & Bets, and tried to keep it a secret.

    "It was the stupidest thing that I ever did in my life," Verdi said.

    The 61-year-old former deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, is on trial for corruption in federal court. On the witness stand, Verdi admitted he lied when the city's Inspector General asked him about whether he had an interest in the South Philly beer distributorship.

    "I should have told the truth," Verdi said.

    The rest of the story can be read here.




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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    On Dec. 12th, former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, convicted of corruption last June, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Harvey Bartle III.

    Fattah is facing as much as 20 years in prison. But a group of the congressman's former staffers say he got a bum deal.

    In a detailed analysis of more than 300 pages obtained by Big Trial, the staffers, who are anonymous, assert that the congressman who served 11 terms was convicted on non-existent evidence. To prove their point, the former staffers rely on excerpts from 3,000 pages of trial transcripts.

    At 6 p.m. Monday on radio station 900AM-WURD, Barbara Grant, a former TV and radio reporter, and former director of communications for Mayor John Street, plans to delve into the issues raised by this analysis. Why?

    "I've known Chaka for a long time," Grant said. "I don't think he deserves to go to jail, I've seen other people walk away having done more."

    Grant said that her problems with the Fattah case began with all the pre-trial publicity, and "the assumption that he was already guilty."

    It's a typical problem defendants in Philadelphia face in high-profile criminal cases. That's because the city's paper of record usually functions as press agents for the prosecutors, typically portraying allegations and accusations as facts, and the defendants as already convicted by the indictment, and/or numerous prosecution leaks to that same paper of record.

    By the time the trial rolls around, the jury pool is tainted, and in the minds of many people, the defendant is, as Barbara Grant noted, already guilty.

    Any politician in this town who is on the wrong end of a criminal indictment is always up against two enemies, the prosecutors and the media, where the agenda is set by the pro-prosecution Inquirer.

    It happened in the Vince Fumo case. It happened in the city Traffic Court judges corruption case. It happened in two Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse cases. It happened with the rogue cops case. And it happened in Chaka Fattah's case.

    Fattah may end up going to jail soon, but the controversy over his case isn't going away.

    On June 2nd, a jury convicted Chaka Fattah of 22 counts, including conspiracy to commit racketeering, as well as conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, making false statements to a financial institution, and falsification of records.

    A co-defendant, Herb Vederman, was convicted on seven counts, including conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, bank fraud, making false statements to a credit union, falsification of records, money laundering, and money laundering.

    Three other Fattah associates were convicted in the case, including Bonnie Bowser, Fattah's former chief of staff; Karen Nicholas, a former Fattah aide and CEO of a nonprofit started by Fattah; and Robert Brand, a consultant who ran a nonprofit.

    The critics of the Fattah case include former Gov. Ed Rendell.

    Rendell, a former Philadelphia District Attorney, has described the indictment of Vederman, a former Rendell aide, as "a horrible prosecutorial overreach."

    Another critic is Judge Bartle, who didn't think the jury got the verdict right.

    In October, Bartle overturned some of the convictions on various charges in the case, but upheld the remaining convictions. Specifically, the judge overturned four counts of fraud against Fattah, and a racketeering conspiracy charge against Vederman.

    The biggest issue on appeal, at the top of the staffers' analysis, is the dismissal in the case of Juror No. 12, a subject I've previously written about. In an interview, the 12th juror, who sought anonymity, said that after two days of deliberation, he had been on the short end of eight straight 11-1 votes.

    "It was 11-1 for five hours straight waiting for me to change my mind," the juror said. "I said, 'I'll hang the jury. I'm not gonna change my mind."

    The jury foreman responded by sending a note to Judge Bartle, accusing Juror No. 12 of refusing to deliberate. The next day, the judge dismissed Juror No. 12, appointed an alternate juror, and instructed the jury to start its deliberations all over again.

    The jury came back and convicted Fattah and his co-defendants. Juror No. 12, however, insisted that he didn't refuse to deliberate, he just refused to change his mind.

    In an interview, J.C. Lore, a professor and director of trial advocacy at Rutgers Law School, said that "simply being a holdout is not a reason to dismiss."

    "If a juror says, I don't believe the government's case," the professor said, "that's the role of a juror."

    The central allegation in the Fattah corruption case was that the congressman had overseen a plot to borrow $1 million from a wealthy donor and used it to pay for the campaign expenses of Fattah's unsuccessful 2007 campaign for Philadelphia mayor.

    But as far as Juror No. 12 was concerned, "I didn't believe there was any evidence for a conviction," the juror said, because, "there was nothing directly tying him [Fattah] to the money."

    The juror in question is a white Lancaster County businessman who said he was a former paratrooper for the U.S. Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division. But nearly six months after the verdict in the Fattah case, the circumstances surrounding Judge Bartle's dismissal of Juror No. 12 remain shrouded in secrecy.

    A transcript from a hearing on the juror's dismissal remains under seal, at the judge's request. A gag order imposed by the judge also remains in place that prevents lawyers in the case from discussing the dismissal of Juror No. 12. Even though, it could be argued, with the verdict in and the jurors having been dismissed back in June, there's no real reason to keep the full story behind Juror No. 12's departure a secret.

    The questions about the Fattah case raised by former staffers cover many subjects. Why at this late date are the congressman's former staffers raising these issues?

    Vederman the racketeer
    "We know first-hand -- up close and personal if you will -- what kind of a man he is, his true character," one of the staffers wrote about Fattah. "We want to see justice carried out fairly and this is something we think we can do to help."

    A big issue the staffers raised was the use by the prosecutors in the Fattah case of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The federal law, commonly known as RICO, provides for extended criminal penalties for acts performed on the part of an ongoing criminal organization.

    RICO is normally used for prosecutions of the mob, typically involving murder, extortion, etc. In contrast, the most the Fattah crime syndicate was accused of was laundering a $1 million campaign loan, as well as lobbying unsuccessfully to get Vederman appointed as an ambassador, and paying some of the educational expenses of a woman who used to be Fattah's au pair.

    Not exactly typical RICO material. And, as anyone who knows Herb Vederman can attest, the mild-mannered, affable former clothing magnate doesn't exactly fit anyone's image of a racketeer.

    That's why former Gov. Rendell, who was a witness for Vederman during the Fattah trial, complained about a "horrible prosecutorial overreach." Dennis Cogan, a prominent criminal defense lawyer who is also a former assistant Philadelphia district attorney, agreed, describing the bribery charges against Vederman as a "bogus RICO case."

    If Vederman was guilty of bribery for the relatively petty donations he was accused of making, Cogan said, such as a $3,000 check toward the educational expenses of Fattah's former au pair, "Nobody is safe."

    In their analysis, the staffers point out that the RICO Act wasn't used in other political corruption cases such as the prosecutions of former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo, and current U.S. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Using RICO against Fattah, former staffers say, raises "a question of fundamental fairness."

    The staffers also point out that Judge Bartle presided over the trial of the congressman's son, Chaka Fattah Jr. who was sentenced by Bartle to five years in prison after a jury convicted him in November 2015 of 22 counts of bank and tax fraud.

    In the case of Chaka Fattah Jr., during a sidebar conference, the prosecutors made statements that were "false and extremely prejudicial" about the congressman regarding Fattah's alleged involvement in the awarding of school district contracts, the staffers wrote. Richard J. Haag, the lead FBI agent on both cases, subsequently admitted leaking information in the son's case about the congressman to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    On philly.com, a story reported that "agents are now asking about Fattah Jr.'s ties with politicians, including his father, Chaka Sr., the ranking Democrat on the house appropriations committee." The FBI agent later admitted that he was the source for the story.

    The staffers want to know how the judge could have heard false allegations about the congressman in his son's trial, and then fairly preside over the trial of Fattah Sr.

    At the congressman's trial, the judge also ruled the defense could not make any reference to the FBI agent's misbehavior during the trial of Fattah Jr..

    The former Fattah staffers also questioned why the defense wasn't allowed to obtain medical records of a key prosecution witness, political consultant Thomas Lindenfeld.

    It was Lidenfeld who testified about the alleged laundering of the $1 million campaign loan to pay for Fattah's unsuccessful campaign for Philadelphia mayor.

    Lindenfeld said he talked to the congressman about the scheme, which left Lindenfeld on the hook to repay some $600,000. When it came time to repay the loan, Lindenfeld testified, he talked to the congressman again about the loan and, according to Lindenfeld, the congressman replied, "No problem."

    Lindenfeld, however, "suffers from a bipolar disorder," the congressman's staffers wrote, and may have experienced "delusions or hallucinations."

    The staffers' analysis also describes an "inexplicable reversal" by Judge Bartle regarding $1 million dollar loan.

    In a pre-trial ruling, the judge ruled that the $1 million loan made from Albert Lord II to Lindenfeld's firm was not illegal under federal law because it involved a mayoral race, although, the judge said, the loan could have been illegal under state and local law.

    But in a  post-verdict memorandum, the judge ruled that the $1 million loan was illegal under federal law, even though "there is nothing in the trial record to support this," the staffers wrote.

    The loan was a sticking point for the defense because both the wealthy donor making the loan, Albert Lord II, former CEO of Sallie Mae, and his son, Albert Lord III, who tried to collect on the loan, testified that they never had any conversations with Fattah about the loan.

    On the witness stand, Albert Lord II, a government witness with immunity, stated repeatedly that he never had a conversation with Fattah about the loan, both before and after the 2007 mayoral campaign that Fattah lost.

    The following exchange is between Samuel Silver, Fattah's lawyer, and Albert Lord II:

    Q. OK, just so to understand your testimony correctly, you never had a conversation with Congressman Fattah about the note; isn't that a fact?

    A. I did not.

    Q. Ok, In fact you never had a conversation with Congressman Fattah about the loan . . .

    A. I did not.

    Q. As you sit here today you cannot remember one time that you talked to Congressman Fattah about that loan, isn't that a fact, sir?

    A. That's a fact.

    Albert Lord III, also testified that when his father asked him to take over his business affairs, and try to collect on the father's loans, the son only dealt with Lindenfeld and never with Fattah. And that only Lindenfeld's name was on the promissory note.

    In addition, there was no email or written statement tying Fattah to the loan. That's why Juror No. 12 kept insisting to his fellow jurors that there was no evidence tying Fattah to the loan, other than the word of Lindenfeld, whom Juror No. 12 found to be not credible.

    That's because it was Lindenfeld's own testimony that he lied about the alleged schemes in the Fattah case to his family, his business colleagues and the feds. So why wouldn't he lie to me, Juror No. 12 figured.

    Another flip-flop by the judge flagged by the former Fattah staffers: in a pre-trial motion, the judge disagreed with Vederman's contention that wasn't a participant in the RICO conspiracy. But in a  post-trial memorandum, the judge changed his mind.

    "The record contains no evidence that Vederman agreed to play a role or even knew about the events surrounding the illegal $1 million loan," the judge wrote, "or any other criminal scheme in which other defendants were involved except for the bribery scheme."

    Regarding the bribery scheme, the judge wrote, the Court Appeals has ruled it "is insufficient to connect a defendant to a RICO enterprise."

    The judge's post-trial memorandum also stated that Fattah had hand-delivered a letter to President Obama, urging the appointment of Vederman to the position of an unpaid ambassador. In the eyes of the prosecutors, it was an official act, even though Fattah had no power to appoint ambassadors.

    The sole witness at trial, however, regarding that incident was Maisha Leek, a former chief of staff for Fattah. When questioned about whether Fattah hand-delivered the letter to the president, Leek did some back-tracking, testifying, "It was a long time ago," and, "I'm not certain."

    The judge's memorandum also states that Fattah used his status as a member of the house appropriations committee to pressure President Obama to appoint Vederman as an ambassador.

    However, Jim Messina, a White House deputy chief, testified during the trial that the Fattah letter to the president urging the appointment of Vederman was "very routine." Messina also agreed with characterizations that there was "nothing inappropriate" and "nothing unusual" about the congressman's recommendation of Vederman to the president.

    It's the kind of things politicians do every day.

    The Bartle memorandum also does not take into account the recent overturning of the corruption case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, where the U.S. Supreme Court redefined what constitutes an official act.

    "The mere expression of support to another public official for an action to be taken by that other public official is not an official act," the Supreme Court wrote.

    The high court's ruling, Fattah staffers say, was ignored by Judge Bartle in the Fattah case.



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    NYTimes/Mark Makela
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    During closing arguments today in the Dominic Verdi corruption case, U.S. District Court Judge Berle M. Schiller was keeping a strict stopwatch on a verbose prosecutor.

    The judge had previously warned Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf last week that "You don't know how to control your time."

    But Wolf apparently didn't learn her lesson. She continued to run over time limits imposed by the judge, who was clearly losing patience with her. So Judge Schiller took to loudly warning Wolf when her time was about to run out.

    "Wind up," the judge warned Wolf when she was five minutes away from what should have ben the end of her 45-minute closing argument. "One minute or less," the judge warned when Wolf was nearing the end of the time allotted for her 10-minute rebuttal.

    The judge's strict approach clearly flustered the disorganized prosecutor. But what may be more damaging to the government's case was the judge's editorial comments about missing prosecution witnesses delivered while Wolf was trying to wind up her all-too-lengthy cross-examination of the defendant. What the jury makes of this not-ready-for-prime-time act is yet to be determined.

    Verdi, the former deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, has admitted on the witness stand that he had a conflict of interest back in 2006 when he decided to invest $20,000 in a beer distributorship. The now-defunct Chappy's Beer, Butts & Bets went out of business in 2010.

    The problem was that in his job as deputy L&I Commissioner, Verdi was in charge of regulating bars and nightclubs who were potential customers of Chappy's. As the leader of the city's Nuisance Task Force, Verdi frequently led raids on many establishments around town that were also either customers of Chappy's, or potential customers.

    On top of having a conflict of interest, Verdi admitted that lied when he was asked about Chappy's in 2007 by an investigator from the city's Inspector General's office. But when the FBI came calling in 2010, Verdi came clean, talking to the FBI five times without a lawyer.

    But Verdi is not on trial for a conflict of interest, or lying about it to authorities. He's been charged with criminal acts, namely extortion, bribery, and theft of honest services. Therein lies the problem for Assistant U.S. Attorney Wolf, who, at too many junctures in this trial, has sounded like a graduate student advancing a theory in a law class, rather than a prosecutor proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt.

    While Wolf was winding up her cross-examination of Verdi this morning, a cross the judge had already said last week was going on too long, Wolf asserted that the defendant had been telling bar and nightclub owners all over town to buy their beer at Chappy's.

    "I told no one to buy beer at Chappy's," Verdi loudly told the prosecutor.

    The other problem for the prosecution is that four of the main witnesses against Verdi are criminals. They include a husband-and-wife team of former nightclub owners who have pleaded guilty to tax and welfare fraud, and owed the government as much as $1 million. A former strip club manager who was convicted of third-degree murder in the beating death of a drunken patron. And a former L&I inspector who got arrested for using his official position to extort an elderly neighbor.

    Susan Callueng, one of the night club owners who got jammed up on a tax and welfare fraud rap, has previously told the jury that while she was writing out checks to Verdi for missing club licenses, she was also handing him envelopes stuffed with $1,000 in cash.

    But while Verdi was on the witness stand, he told Wolf that Callueng was a stranger to him.

    "I never spoke to that lady," Verdi said. The first time I ever laid eyes on her, Verdi said, was last week, when she walked into court as a government witness with immunity.

    There was another witness to the alleged bribery of Verdi by Callueng. Mark Fresta, 37, of Cape Coral, Florida, pleaded guilty last year to one count of extortion in connection with Chappy's. He's another government witness awaiting sentencing. Supposedly, according to the government, when Susan Callueng was bribing Verdi, Fresta was right there, and was the middle man who arranged the meeting between them.

    But today, when Wolf brought up Fresta to Verdi, the judge interrupted the prosecutor's rambling question to ask one of his one.

    "We're hearing a lot about Mr. Fresta," the judge asked. "Is he coming in?"

    "Your Honor," the prosecutor stammered, "Nobody has called him."

    "He's your witness," the judge reminded the prosecutor.

    Judge Schiller is a no-nonsense character who looks and acts like Ed Asner in robes. He's a big time bow hunter who keeps trophies mounted on the walls of his judge's chambers, such as local deer, caribou from Quebec, and even impala from South Africa.

    As the trial wore on, the judge has made it clear that he doesn't think much of the prosecutor, or her case.

    When Wolf switched to grilling Verdi on the intricacies of L&I permit procedures, the judge quickly tired of it, yelling, "Stop it, now move on."

    Soon, Wolf was into another long line of questioning involving Gregory Quigley, a lawyer who was allegedly another co-owner of Chappy's.

    Once again, the judge broke in.

    "Quigley, is that another witness we're gonna see?" the judge asked.

    Obviously not, since testimony in the case was over last week.

    Quigley, another government witness, wasn't called to testify. Wolf tried to explain that away by saying the government had so many witnesses, they couldn't take up the court's time by bringing all of them in.

    "Don't blame it on the court," the judge shot back.

    Wolf was running up against her 45-minute time limit so she cut her argument short and finally sat down.

    "Right on time," the judge cracked.

    Next up was Susan Lin, Verdi's defense lawyer, who asked Verdi if he treated customers of Chappy's any different than bar and nightclub owners who didn't buy their beer and booze from Chappy's.

    "I helped everybody, whether they were customers or not," Verdi said.

    When Lin was done, Wolf stood up, obviously eager to ask Verdi more questions on re-cross examination.

    "This better be one minute," the judge told her. "I'm not gonna be like little kids, back and forth."

    When Wolf was finished, the judge seemed happy the case was finally moving along. Then, the judge implied that the jury might consider making quick work of the case.

    "Maybe you'll get to have a verdict today," the judge told the jury. "I don't know; we'll see."

    It was time for closing statements.

    Wolf jumped up, ready to go at Verdi for another 45 minutes. She started by pointing a finger at the defense table and imploring the jury to hold this public official "accountable for corrupt conduct."

    The time-challenged prosecutor then reviewed all of the details again about Verdi's conflict of interest, and the lies he told about it.

    "It takes a certain kind of person to do that," she said.

    It takes a certain kind of prosecutor to consistently mismanage her time, as well as overlook the judge's increasing irritation about it.

    Wolf argued that Verdi was guilty of extorting bar owners, but he used a gentle approach.

    "He didn't have to threaten them, all he had to do is ask," she said. And bar and nightclub owners were eager to stay on Verdi's good side by buying from Chappy's.

    Verdi's acts of extortion, the prosecutor said, boiled down to, "Buy my beer."

    She tried to soften the rough edges on some of her witnesses.

    "They're convicted felons," she said of the husband-and-wife team of former nightclub owners. "They're creepy business people."

    But, she said, "You don't have to like them, but you can believe them."

    The problem for Wolf is that another government witness, Joseph Volpe, who wasn't under indictment, testified that he got the same kind of favors from Verdi, in the form of allegedly expedited permits, without having to hand Verdi envelopes stuffed with cash.

    But Wolf didn't address that contradiction, perhaps because her time was running out. She switched to the legal definition of honest services fraud, saying that when Verdi was telling bar and nightclub owners about his beer distributorship, if they took him up on it was a quid-pro-quo.

    Meaning in exchange for buying beer from Chappy's, Verdi was dispensing officials acts in the form of allegedly expedited permits.

    Wolf sat down and it was time for Lin to argue on Verdi's behalf.

    The defense lawyer started out by drawing a distinction between a conflict of interest, which is all about appearances, and criminal acts.

    "This case is about bribery and extortion," she said. And whether Verdi "accepted a bribe or accepted a kickback."

    Verdi, she said, never let his interest in Chappy's interfere with his work at L&I. He treated everybody the same.

    Lin urged the jury to consider "the quality of the evidence" offered by the government.

    She described the husband-and-wife team of former nightclub owners as "these two fraudsters" who were making more than $20,000 a week at their club, while they were pleading poverty to get free medical insurance.

    She talked about the missing witnesses in the case such as Mario Fresta.

    "The judge even asked where he was," the defense lawyer reminded the jury.

    She talked about Kenneth Gassman, the government witness who was a former L&I inspector who pleaded guilty in 2010 to extorting his elderly neighbor. Gassman testified that he believed Verdi was going easy on bar and nightclub owners who were customers of Chappy's.

    Six years have gone by, Lin said, and Gassman hasn't served a day in jail because the government was wiling to wait for Gassman to testify against Verdi. And John Pettit, Lin said, referring to the strip club owner who pleaded guilty to third degree murder, he was just here to testify "in exchange for a lighter sentence."

    Lin talked about the complexities of dealing with L&I. The government has used dates on permits granted by Verdi to show quick turnarounds. But the defense has countered that the city's new computer system at L&I frequently had glitches when it came to times and dates, meaning they can't be trusted.

    In the case of the husband-and-wife nightclub owners, the business they owned had a prior license, Lin said, meaning that instead of taking out new permits, Verdi was just issuing renewals. So there was no need for a lengthy review.

    Then Lin, who was ahead of schedule, asked a big question.

    "Where's the money trail," she said.

    The lead FBI agent on this case is a CPA, Lin noted. If Dominic Verdi was getting rich at Chappy's, where are the bank deposits that show the money flowing into Verdi's coffers?

    Where was the proof that Verdi was leading an "extravagant lifestyle" well beyond the salary of an L&I deputy commissioner?

    In contrast to the government's creepy cast of characters on their witness list, Lin talked about the character witnesses who testified on Verdi's behalf.

    They included a Philadelphia police captain and a retired Philadelphia police lieutenant. A current L&I inspector, and a realtor who hired Vedi after he left L&I. And a cousin of Verdi's, Father John DiOrio, who was also the pastor at Verdi's Catholic parish in South Philly.

    These are all pillars of the community, Lin argued. And they all stood up for Dominic Verdi.

    Remember, she told the jury, Dominic Verdi didn't have to take the witness stand. But he did because he's got nothing to hide.

    She was down to her final argument, that the government had to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

    She defined reasonable doubt as something that would make one pause or hesitate before making an important decision.

    Surely, she told the jury, you have to pause or hesitate when considering whether you can trust the government's witness list of felons with suspect motives.

    Lin was done. Since Wolf had only one minute for rebuttal, thanks to the judge, she told the jury that Verdi's character witnesses were biased, and didn't know the facts of this case.

    Before she could go off in another rhetorical direction, the judge warned, "You have one minute."

    Wolf asked the jury to convict Verdi on all the charges, and then she quickly sat down.

    The judge dismissed the jury for the day, telling them when they return tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., he will instruct them for two hours on the legal intricacies of the charges against Verdi.

    And then the case is theirs.


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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    A jury deliberated for just a couple of hours today before unanimously acquitting Dominic Verdi on all the political corruption charges against him.

    Verdi, the former deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, had been accused in a seven-count federal indictment of conspiracy under the Hobbs Act to commit extortion and honest services fraud. But the case had all kinds of problems, which the trial judge, Berle M. Schiller, pointed out to the jury.

    Verdi's problems began in 2006 when he sunk $20,000 into Chappy's Beer, Butts & Bets, a beer distributorship that was out of business by 2010. Verdi complicated the problem when the city's Inspector General asked him about it in 2007, and he denied having any ownership interest in Chappy's.

    So Verdi was guilty of a conflict of interest, and lying about it. Not exactly exemplary conduct, but ethical violations. The feds, however, overreached by charging Verdi with criminal acts -- conspiracy to commit extortion and honest services fraud -- but failing to prove any of it.

    When the verdict was announced, Verdi sat there stunned while his wife started crying.

    "The truth finally came out," Verdi said outside the courthouse. "After six and a half years of being harassed, after six and a half years of my family being harassed, after six and a half years of my friends being harassed."

    "To all my friends and family, thank you for standing behind me the way you did," Verdi said. "And to all the people out there who didn't believe me, karma's a bitch."

    A big problem with the federal case was that the feds presented the jury with no proof of a money trail leading to Verdi's bank account, a point stressed in her closing statement by Susan Lin, Verdi's court-appointed defense lawyer.

    The government's other problem was a stable of cooperating witnesses that included a convicted murderer, a former L&I inspector who pleaded guilty to using his official position to extort his elderly neighbor, and a husband and wife team of former night club owners who pleaded guilty to tax and welfare fraud and owed the feds as much as $1 million in back taxes, fines and penalties.

    How can you trust these people, Lin argued to the jury. Every one of those cooperating witnesses, she argued, met the definition of reasonable doubt.

    On top of that mess, the judge pointed out to the jury a couple of government witnesses that supposedly were involved in the extortion plot, but never showed up in the courtroom to corroborate the government's case. Even though the prosecutor kept referring to them as part of the allegations against Verdi.

    Further damaging the prosecution efforts was Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf. The bumbling prosecutor ran into her share of problems with the judge, who frequently criticized her lack of time management skills, as well as what the judge often decided were irrelevant questions.

    The case has been hanging over Verdi for years. The alleged conspiracy involving Chappy's hit the media in 2008. Verdi resigned from L&I three years later under a cloud of suspicion. He was indicted in 2014.

    Verdi was hung out to dry in the media. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran the story about the federal indictment and all the allegations against Verdi; so did the TV stations. But when Verdi's trial went down, only this blog and PhillyVoice.com were there to cover it.

    In the Inquirer's defense, maybe they were down at the U.S. Attorney's office getting some inside dope on future criminal indictments, so they can hang some new victims in the public square.

    Meanwhile, one of the old victims, Verdi, said he went broke paying for his legal expenses. He had to ask a judge to appoint a lawyer to defend him.

    While he was under indictment, friends said, the feds repeatedly pressured Verdi to give them information he didn't have. Verdi's friends say the feds presented him with several proposed plea deals, but Verdi kept insisting that he didn't commit any crimes.

    The breaking point for Verdi, friends say, was when the feds came to his house and made accusations in front of his children. That's when Verdi decided he had to fight it out in court.

    Verdi took the witness stand in his own defense, always a risky move for a defendant in a criminal case. But Verdi told the judge that the prosecution presented so many untruths only he could explain to the jury what really happened.

    Today, Verdi's big gamble paid off when he walked out of court a free man, after the judge shook his hand. The prosecutor, however, departed without saying anything.

    Verdi's lawyer was pleased with the outcome of the trial.

    "I'm very happy that Mr. Verdi and his family, who are truly good salt-of-the-earth people, can finally put all of this behind them," Susan Lin said.

    "It was a just verdict."

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  • 12/10/16--06:10: Big Trial In The News
  • It was a good week in the media for Big Trial.

    First, The Philadelphia Inquirer discovered by reading Big Trial that former L&I Deputy Commissioner Dominic Verdi had been found not guilty of the political corruption charges against him.

    The Inquirer, which had hung Verdi out to dry publicly when he was indicted, but didn't bother to cover the trial that exonerated him, remedied that injustice by putting Verdi on the front page two days after a jury found him not guilty.

    Then, the rest of the media pounced on a story that Big Trial's Ralph Cipriano and George Anastasia wrote for our partners at phillyvoice.com, about the mystery of the 12th juror in the Chaka Fattah case. That's the white guy from Lancaster County who was convinced that the government hadn't proved its case against Fattah, but the trial judge booted him. The news peg: the former congressman is due in court Monday to be sentenced, and faces 17-22 years in the slammer.

    First, a bunch of Fattah's former staffers put up a website, thefattahcase.com, to raise questions about the case, starting with the mystery of the 12th Juror. Then, the Inquirer's Clout column weighed in on the mystery, and whether the congressman had gotten railroaded.

    Finally, The Philadelphia Tribune followed up with a great column by lawyer Michael Coard, that went through the applicable legal standards and concluded it was high  time for the trial judge to clear up the mystery by unsealing a transcript of a closed-door hearing with that 12th Juror.




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    Matt Rourke/AP
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    It was a prison sentence that seemed to please both sides.

    "I'm personally satisfied," said U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger today, after Judge Harvey Bartle III hit former Congressman Chaka Fattah with a 10-year prison sentence for his conviction in a racketeering and political corruption case.

    "That's a significant sentence," Memeger told a media horde outside the federal courthouse. The feds had asked the judge to put Fattah away for between 17 and 22 years, but 10 years is a long time "to be sitting in prison," Memeger said. He added with a prosecutor's glee that going from Congress to prison would be "a long fall for Chaka Fattah."

    Inside the courtroom, Albert S. Dandridge, one of Fattah's lawyers, turned to the congressman's supporters after Judge Bartle had imposed sentence and said, "That's about as good as we could have expected."

    As he exited the courthouse, the former congressman seemed to agree. "We respect the court's decision," Fattah said. And then the former congressman thanked his defense lawyers, the nine character witnesses who showed up to testify in his defense today, as well as the more than 200 supporters who wrote the judge on Fattah's behalf, requesting leniency.

    When the sentencing hearing began, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson sounded like an evangelical preacher as he condemned the widespread evils of public corruption.

    "Public corruption has eroded confidence in our democracy," Gibson told Bartle. Fattah "knew exactly what he was doing" when he stealing money from government grants and charitable foundations to pay for his failed mayoral campaign, as well as for his son's student loans, the prosecutor said.

    Gibson asked for the judge to impose maximum sentence of 17 to 22 years to "send a message to the community that public corruption is taken seriously."

    Mark M. Lee, one of Fattah's defense lawyers, told the judge that in light of the prison sentence given former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo, 61 months in jail, that a maximum sentence of 17 to 22 years for Fattah seemed "unnecessarily harsh."

    Lee then paraded nine character witnesses through the courtroom to testify about the congressman's good deeds during his 37 years in office as a former state representative and U.S. congressman.

    The character witnesses quoted Ralph Walso Emerson, the Talmud, and St. Thomas Acquinas as they testified about the congressman's devotion to his constituents.

    "I never saw a man more driven in serving his community," said Harris Devor, who praised Fattah's zeal "for educating poor kids," as well as his "deep love for Israel."

    "He sacrificed his life to make a difference to others," said Lynne Korman Honickman, a philanthropist who praised Fattah's devotion for educating young people.

    Joseph Quinones, a former 10th grade high school dropout, told the judge about how Fattah encouraged "a poor dumb kid from the hood" to get a degree from the Temple University Fox School of Business, as well as an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

    Quinones told the judge that compared to all of the good works that Fattah had done during his lifetime, the crimes that he was convicted of were just "a snapshot" or a "moment in time" in the congressman's life.

    That prompted Assistant U.S. Attorney Gibson to stand up and exhibit his prowess as a barrister.

    Gibson previously had displayed good sense by not bothering to cross-examine any of the character witnesses who were giving emotional speeches on behalf of Fattah. The usual strategy is not to prolong that kind of testimony, and to get the character witnesses out the door as quickly as possible.

    But Assistant U.S. Attorney Gibson made an exception in Quinones's case. The prosecutor seemed offended by Quinones's descriptions of Fattah's transgressions as a snapshot, or a moment in time.

    Are you familiar with the crimes Fattah was accused of, Gibson asked. Did you read the indictment? Are you aware Fattah committed his crimes over a seven-year period?

    Quinones seemed surprised at being cross-examined, but he quickly recouped. And, when given an opportunity to reprise his talking points, Quinones took full advantage by making a second impassioned speech on behalf of Fattah's good character.

    Considering that Fattah began his public career as a teenager campaigning against gang violence, Quinones said, yes, his transgressions were a moment in time for the 60-year-old former congressman, and yes, just a snapshot.

    When the character witnesses were finished, Gibson told the judge again about how many years Fattah had been committing his crimes. Gibson attacked the congressman's "arrogance," saying that on some days, Fattah didn't want to show up at his own criminal trial, claiming he was "too busy to attend." Gibson also criticized Fattah's defense, which he said too often amounted to blaming others for his crimes.

    When it was Fattah's turn to speak, he termed his indictment as "the most disappointing event of my life." He apologized to his four co-defendants, all of whom are awaiting sentencing, for the "position that they are in."

    "They are good people," he said, adding that he was "deeply saddened" that all four of them were also facing jail time.

    Fattah expressed regret and sounded apologetic, but he never got around to saying he was guilty of any particular crime. It was consistent with the defense his lawyers put forth at trial, namely that if a couple of Fattah's former political consultants borrowed $1 million from a wealthy donor, and then laundered the money so it could be used to pay off Fattah's campaign debts, those consultants were acting on their own, without the congressman's knowledge.

    Even though the most likely person to benefit from that deal was Chaka Fattah.

    Fattah referenced his own good deeds, saying, "I've helped tens of millions of people." And then he added that he was "grateful for the opportunity I've had to help people."

    "I stand ready to be sentenced," he concluded.

    Judge Bartle began by reciting the 18 crimes that Fattah had been found guilty of by a jury that included conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, as well as falsifying records and laundering money.

    Those were serious crimes, Bartle said. And the judge wanted to send the proverbial message to other politicians who might be temped to follow Fattah's path into crime.

    "Those in high places will certainly know why happens today in this courtroom," the judge said. He agreed with the character witnesses that Fattah had done many good deeds during his career, but that's what he was elected to do, the judge said.

    Bartle described the crimes that Fattah was convicted of as "astonishing." The judge talked about the people who had elected Fattah to office for 11 terms in Congress, and said, "You abused the trust they placed in you."

    By simultaneously mixing good public deeds with secret crimes, the judge said, Fattah was acting cynically, and "this cynicism saps the strength of our democracy."

    "You've made some bad choices," the judge told Fattah. And now you're going to pay for it.

    The judge then sentenced Fattah to 10 years in jail, to be followed by three years of supervised probation.

    The judge fined the defendant $614,500, and told him to report to jail on Jan. 25, 2017. The judge also took under advisement a motion by the government to revoke Fattah's bail.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    Seth Williams should bring an umbrella to work.

    Why? Because our corrupt district attorney, already under investigation by the FBI, the IRS and a grand jury, is about to see his proudest achievement as a prosecutor get splattered by what's about to hit the fan.

    What does Seth Williams consider to be his proudest achievement? Why his self-described "historic" prosecution of Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Catholic cleric in the country to be sent to jail, not for touching a child, but for failing to adequately supervise sexually abusive priests. It's an achievement that has caused church haters and so-called victims advocates to swoon over Seth. At the height of this adulation, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd proclaimed Seth, raised Catholic, to be the "avenging altar boy."

    But there's long been a problem with the Lynn case, namely that the alleged victim -- former altar boy Danny Gallagher AKA "Billy Doe" -- is a transparent fraud, as revealed in his copious medical records, legal depositions, and in two interviews with a couple of psychiatrists. It's a classic fake news story for anybody who wants to look into it.

    Today, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, filed a motion in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court that seeks to take the pre-trial testimony of retired Detective Joseph Walsh. Here's why alarm bells are about to go off at the D.A.'s office as soon as they read Bergstrom's motion -- Walsh was the lead investigator in the Msgr. Lynn/Billy Doe case. And, according to Bergstrom's motion, Walsh has already talked to defense lawyers and "provided exculpatory evidence" never revealed to defense lawyers during two previous archdiocese sex abuse trials.

    In his motion, Bergstrom states that he and Jeffey Ogren Esq., who represents another jailed defendant in the Billy Doe case, former school teacher Bernard Shero, "interviewed Walsh on Nov. 29, 2016."

    "During that interview, Walsh provided exculpatory evidence as to both defendants, Lynn and Bernard Shero -- evidence that was not disclosed to counsel prior to Lynn's first trial and is clearly exculpatory."

    Exculpatory evidence is defined as evidence favorable to a defendant, evidence that tends to exonerate, or free one from accusations. But there's a problem with the witness. The retired detective, according to Bergstrom, is scheduled for two surgeries over the next three months.

    "It is clearly in the interest of justice that Walsh's testimony be taken pre-trial," Bergstrom wrote. "Walsh expressly agreed to testify should he be subpoenaed."

    It was the testimony of Billy Doe that sent three priests to jail, as well as former teacher Shero, who is doing 8 to 16 years for abusing the former altar boy.

    Lynn, the archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, was convicted in 2012 on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Billy Doe/Danny Gallagher. The monsignor was sentenced to a jail term of 3 to 6 years. He served 33 months in jail, plus 15 months of house arrest before his conviction was overturned by an appeals court.

    In December 2015, the state Superior Court overturned Lynn's conviction and ordered a new trial. A panel of three Superior Court judges ruled that the trial court had "abused its discretion" by allowing 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse to be admitted as evidence against Msgr. Lynn.


    The 21 cases dated back to 1948, three years before the 65-year-old Lynn was born, and took up at least 25 days of the 32-day trial. In their successful appeal brief, Lynn's lawyers argued that the prosecution "introduced these files to put on trial the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia, hoping to convict [Lynn] by proxy for the sins of the entire church."



    The detective who sat on the witness stand during those 25 days, and was the D.A.'s expert witness on the crimes contained in the archdiocese's so-called secret archive files --- Detective Joseph Walsh.

    And Walsh is no fan of Danny Gallagher's.

    In a deposition in a civil case that Danny Gallagher filed against the archdiocese, Walsh expressed doubts about Gallagher's credibility. In a deposition taken Jan. 29, 2015, Walsh testified when he questioned Gallagher about nine factual discrepancies in Gallagher's story, Gallagher usually just sat there and said nothing. Or claimed he was high on drugs. Or told a different story. 

    None of Walsh's continued questioning of Gallagher was revealed to defense attorneys in two archdiocese sex abuse trials.

    The reason why Walsh's testimony is an issue today is because after Lynn's conviction was overturned, D.A. Williams announced he would retry the case. Even though if he's convicted again, Lynn would face no additional jail time because he's already served his minimum sentence.

    The case is scheduled to be retried May 1, 2017. Bergstrom today also filed a motion to dismiss the retrial. In that motion, Bergstrom provides a few more details about his interaction with Detective Walsh.

    According to his motion to dismiss, Bergstrom interviewed Walsh on Nov 29th. "During that interview, Walsh revealed highly exculpatory and relevant information that was concealed from Lynn in his first trial," Bergstrom wrote. "Unaware of that exculpatory information, Lynn's attorneys had no opportunity to examine Walsh on those issues during the first trial."

    According to the motion to dismiss, "In an October 2015 psychiatric evaluation of Gallagher, an independent doctor determined that it was not possible to conclude to a reasonable degree of certainty whether he had been sexually abused because his story was so inconsistent."

    In the motion to dismiss, Bergstrom lays out allegations against D.A. Willilams present on Aug. 2nd, when Williams announced that he would retry the case against Msgr. Lynn:

    Williams was -- at the time of the decision -- in clear violation of the rules established by both the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission and the Philadelphia Board of Ethics regarding his failure to disclose over $160,000 in gifts.

    Williams -- again, at the time of the decision to re-prosecute Lynn -- was also aware that his ex-girlfriend was about to claim responsibility for slashing the tires on several City security vehicles parked near Williams' home -- an incident he initially directed be investigated by his own Office, not the Philadelphia Police.

    Williams was aware that he was the subject of an FBI and IRS investigation.

    Lynn now moves to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 587 (B).

    In a third motion filed today, Bergstrom asked for pre-trial discovery on "all medical records relating to Daniel Gallagher and all correspondence related to those records in the Commonwealth's possession, custody and control."

    The records, which are known to contain numerous false and contradictory allegations of sexual abuse made by Gallagher in the past, are "highly relevant" to Gallagher's credibility, Bergstrom wrote.

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    Illustration: politics365.com
    By Ralph Cipriano
    For BigTrial.net

    Judge Harvey Bartle III has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Friday on a motion by Philadelphia Media Network to unseal "records and information relating to the dismissal of Juror No. 12."

    On Monday morning, the same day Bartle sentenced former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah to 10 years in prison for racketeering and corruption, Philadelphia Media Network filed a motion to intervene in the Fattah case, in order to obtain "records and information related to dismissal of juror."

    Philadelphia Media Network owns The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com. The 12th Juror in the Fattah case was dismissed after he was accused of refusing to deliberate. But in an interview with this reporter, Juror No. 12 insisted he wasn't refusing to deliberate, he was refusing to change his mind after he came out on the short end of eight straight 11-1 votes to convict Fattah. That prompted speculation as to whether the case should have ended in a hung jury.

    In an accompanying memorandum of law filed Thursday, the Inquirer's attorneys, Amy B. Ginensky and Eli Segal of Pepper Hamilton LLP, wrote that "the Court appears to have sealed records related to that dismissal [of Juror No. 12] and to have ordered the parties not to discuss the dismissal."

    The judge did impose a gag order on all the lawyers involved in the Fattah case not to discuss the dismissal of Juror No. 12. So the Inquirer lawyers asked for the right "to intervene and seek access to records and information elated to the juror's dismissal."

    As Exhibit 1 attached to their motion, Ginensky and Segal attached a copy of the Aug. 3rd article on phillyvoice.com written by Ralph Cipriano and George Anastasia, headlined, "Should Chaka Fattah trial have ended with a hung jury?"

    As Exhibit 2, the lawyers attached a copy of a Dec. 4th blog post on Big Trial, headlined, "As Sentencing Nears, Debate Continues Over Chaka Fattah."

    It's reassuring that the Inquirer's lawyers know where to go for news that matters.

    In the motion for access to records and information related to the dismissal of Juror No. 12, the Inquirer lawyers argued for the release of a transcript of a hearing that Judge Bartle conducted with the juror before dismissing him, and a lifting of the gag order about the dismissal of Juror No. 12.

    In a memorandum of law in support of their motion, the lawyers wrote, "The details surrounding the juror's dismissal have not been made public." Those details, the lawyers wrote, should be made public "to bring clarity to the public on this critical issue."

    "Access to judicial proceedings and records subject to the common law or First Amendment Right of access may be denied only in the rarest of circumstances," the lawyers wrote. "Here, six months after Fattah's conviction for public corruption, PMN seeks access to all transcripts, notes from jurors, written submissions, orders, or opinions" related to the June 17th dismissal of Juror No. 12.

    "The fact that this case involves a public official charged with public corruption makes the public's interest in the records -- and thus the need for access -- all the more compelling," the lawyers wrote. Public disclosure "would eliminate public mystery regarding what a dismissed juror did to prompt his dismissal."

    The lawyers quote prior case law as saying, "the issue of potential juror misconduct goes to the very heart of public confidence in the fairness or appearance of fairness in judicial proceedings. Once the spectre of a gained jury is raised, public scrutiny of the resolution of the issue is essential . . . "

    "Given that almost six months have passed since the jury returned its verdict, whatever need existed for imposing such a prohibition in the first place has likely subsided," the lawyers wrote.

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    By George Anastasia

    A federal judge said Friday that he will unseal all documents explaining how and why a holdout juror was dismissed in the Chaka Fattah corruption case.

    Judge Harvey Bartle III, responding to a motion filed by lawyers for Philadelphia Media Networ, said he will file a formal notice "promptly" to unseal the court record.

    The information could provide legal fodder for appeals that are expect dot be filed by Fattah, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday. He will remain free on bond pending the outcome of his appeal. His four co-defendants are also facing jail time.

    The rest of the story can be read here.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    At 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 5th, retired Detective Joseph Walsh is scheduled to appear under subpoena as a witness in the courtroom of Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright.

    At the Jan. 5th hearing, defense lawyer Thomas A. Bergstrom will get to question Walsh on his investigation of Danny Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe;" specifically on Walsh's continued questioning of the former altar boy that wasn't reported to defense lawyers.

    Judge Bright is presiding over the retrial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, scheduled for May 1, 2017. Bergstrom is trying to use the testimony of retired Detective Walsh to prove prosecutorial misconduct in support of a defense motion to dismiss the case.

    Today, while she was scheduling the Walsh hearing, Judge Bright also slapped a gag order on the lawyers in the case.

    This is patently ridiculous. The facts of the Lynn case have been known for six years, since the release of the 2011 grand jury report. That report has been discredited on this blog for containing more than 20 factual errors, and in many cases, blatant rewrites of sworn grand jury testimony to fit a preconceived story line cooked up by the D.A.'s office.

    It's a story that has been all over the cover of Newsweek. Yet six years into the case, and nearly six months before the retrial, Judge Bright decides to gag the lawyers in the case from talking about it.

    Ridiculous.

    Msgr. Lynn was convicted by a jury in 2012 on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Danny Gallagher, but that conviction was overturned in 2015 by an appeals court.

    In motions filed last week, Bergstrom stated to the court that he and Jeffey Ogren Esq., who represents another jailed defendant in the Billy Doe case, former school teacher Bernard Shero, "interviewed Walsh on Nov. 29, 2016."

    "During that interview, Walsh provided exculpatory evidence as to both defendants, Lynn and Bernard Shero -- evidence that was not disclosed to counsel prior to Lynn's first trial and is clearly exculpatory."

    "It is clearly in the interest of justice that Walsh's testimony be taken pre-trial," Bergstrom wrote. "Walsh expressly agreed to testify should he be subpoenaed."

    It was the testimony of Billy Doe that sent three priests to jail, including Lynn, as well as former teacher Shero, who is doing 8 to 16 years for abusing the former altar boy. But, as revealed in his extensive medical records, civil depositions and lengthy interviews with two psychiatrists, Danny Gallagher is a transparent fraud.

    Lynn, the archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, served 33 months in jail, plus 15 months of house arrest before his conviction was overturned by an appeals court.

    Here's what Bergstrom wants to ask Walsh about.

    In a deposition in a civil case that Danny Gallagher filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Walsh expressed doubts about Gallagher's credibility. In a deposition taken Jan. 29, 2015, Walsh testified that when he questioned Gallagher about nine factual discrepancies in Gallagher's story, Gallagher usually just sat there and said nothing. Or claimed he was high on drugs. Or told a different story. 

    None of this continued questioning of Gallagher by Walsh was ever reported to the defense.

    After Judge Bright set the date for the hearing for Walsh to testify, she told Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, "Alright, we'll deal with all this in January."

    After court was over, I asked the judge's clerk about how the judge could place a gag order on such a highly-publicized case where just about all the facts are known.

    "She'll never talk to you," the clerk responded. I asked if there was an email for the clerk of the court, where I could send a letter to the judge questioning the reason for the gag order.

    "It will be ignored," the clerk said.


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    By Ralph Cipriano
    For BigTrial.net

    Was Juror No. 12 in the Chaka Fattah case being obstinate? Or was he reprising Henry Fonda's role in 12 Angry Men?

    Was Juror No. 12 violating his oath as a juror? Or following the dictates of his own conscience?

    It's an argument that won't be settled by a newly unsealed memorandum from Judge Harvey Bartle III. And it won't be settled on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer or the Legal Intelligencer.

    Instead, it's an argument that will most likely play out in appeals court. While former Congressman Chaka Fattah sits in jail, anxiously awaiting the outcome.


    In a memorandum made public by the judge today, Juror No. 12 allegedly told a court clerk shortly before his dismissal that he "was going to hang this jury no matter what."

    "Here, there is no doubt that Juror No. 12 intentionally refused to deliberate when he declared so early in the process that he would hang the jury no matter what," the judge wrote. "This finding was predicated on the admission of Juror 12, as reported by the court's deputy clerk."

    The judge's memorandum lays out some of the specifics of his closed-door interview with Juror No. 12. In the memorandum, the judge said he asked Juror No. 12 if he told the clerk he intended to hang the jury.

    "I did," the juror supposedly said. "I said we don't agree; I'm not just going to say guilty because everybody wants me too; and if that hangs the jury, so be it."

    The judge had a problem with this.

    "There have been approximately four hours of deliberations," the judge wrote. "There's no way in the world he [Juror No. 12] could have reviewed and considered all the evidence in the case and my instructions in the law."

    As the only reporter who talked with Juror No. 12, he didn't claim to have reviewed all the evidence in the case and all the judge's instructions in the law. His story was simply that for five hours he participated in eight straight votes on the charges in the case, beginning at the bottom of the indictment.

    These are facts totally missing from Judge Bartle's belatedly released memorandum.

    On eight straight 11-1 votes, Juror No. 12 said he came out on the short end of votes to convict. On the last vote, an argument over whether Fattah co-defendant Karen Nicholas had falsified records to federal officials, Juror No. 12's story was that he went over every email between Nicholas and the feds and concluded that she hadn't falsified anything.

    That's when, according to Juror No. 12, the jury foreman wanted to take another vote. And Juror No. 12 said he replied, "You can take another vote but I'm not gonna change my mind."

    "It was 11-1 for five hours straight waiting for me to change my mind," Juror No. 12 stated in an hour-long interview. "I said, 'I'll hang the jury. I'm not gonna change my mind.'"

    "I sat through a month-long trial," Juror No. 12 stated. "I read all the evidence again and again. Why should I change my mind?"

    That sounds like the definition of what a juror is suppose to do, weigh the evidence, and come to a decision. And if it conflicts with what other jurors are saying, a juror isn't supposed to cave simply because the majority of jurors, and possibly the trial judge, want him to. A juror is supposed to follow the evidence, and the dictates of his conscience.

    According to the judge's memorandum, the other jurors in the case wrote an ungrammatical note to the judge that said: "We feel that Juror No. 12 is argumentative [and' incapable of making decisions. He constantly scream at all of us."

    But Juror No. 12's story was that he raised his voice only after other jurors began shouting at him.

    "When people raised their voices to me, I'm gonna raise my voice back to you," Juror No. 12 said. At the time, Juror No. 12 said he was raising questions about the prosecution's case, and what he saw as a lack of evidence.

    Juror No. 12 said his fellow jurors responded with anger and insults, such as suggesting that when Juror No. 12 was a paratrooper jumping out of planes, he might have landed on his head too many times.

    "They were talking about getting rid of me right away," he said. "In the first hour, people were yelling at me, 'You're an idiot.'"

    According to Juror No. 12, some of his fellow jurors believed that the indictment in the case was evidence of wrongdoing.

    "Sweetheart, that's the indictment, that's not evidence," Juror No. 12 responded.

    He turned out to be right. After Juror No. 12 was dismissed, Judge Bartle instructed the jury that the 29-count, 85 page indictment wasn't evidence in the case; just a set of allegations that had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Juror No. 12 also said that it was his idea for jurors to start at the bottom of the indictment and work their way up. The rest of the jurors, he said, wanted to start at the top and work their way down.

    The central crime in the racketeering indictment involved the loan of $1 million to Fattah's unsuccessful 2007 mayoral campaign by a wealthy donor. The feds claimed that the congressman had laundered that loan through a friendly political consultant to pay off his campaign debts.


    "If there was no loan, there's no conspiracy," Juror 12 argued. "There's nothing tying him [Fattah] to the loan."

    This was true; there was no written evidence tying the congressman to the loan. Only the word of two government witnesses who were jammed up with their own legal problems that included lying to the government.

    The argument to start at the bottom of the indictment and work their way up was the last argument Juror No. 12 said he won in the jury room.

    Remember, Juror No. 12 was the government's worst nightmare: a white guy from Lancaster County with a military background who had studied the evidence and came away convinced that the government didn't prove his case against the black 11-term congressman from Philadelphia.

    Whether Juror No. 12 was being obstinate, or following the dictates of his conscience is sure to be the subject of dueling briefs in appeals court.

    Judge Bartle, for one, had already made up his mind. In his memorandum the judge said he dismissed the juror because:

    Juror No. 12 has delayed, disrupted, impeded, and obstructed the deliberative process and had the intent to do so. I base that having observed him, based on his word and his demeanor before me. He wants only to have his own voice heard. He has preconceived notions about the case. He has violated his oath as a juror. And I do not believe that any further instructions or admonitions would do any good. I think he's intent on, as he said, hanging this jury no matter what the law is, no matter what the evidence is.

    That, however, was not Juror No. 12's story. His story was that he didn't have any preconceived notions. He carefully reviewed the evidence, came to some conclusions, and then, in the face of great opposition, refused to change his mind.

    It's an argument that defense lawyers in the case are sure to pick up on.

    And, unlike the lawyers in the Fattah case, who are still bound by Judge Bartle's gag order, the defense lawyers in appeals court will be free to make an argument. And suggest that perhaps the trial judge got it wrong.


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    By George Anastasia
    For BigTrial.net

    This has not been a good month for wannabe wiseguy Ron Galati.

    The South Philadelphia auto body owner with the Godfather complex was sentenced a few weeks ago to a maximum of 29 years in prison in a Common Pleas Court insurance fraud and murder-for-hire case.

    And on Monday a three-judge panel with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal of an earlier federal murder-for-hire conviction for which he is serving a 22-year stint.

    The only break the 66-year-old mob associate has gotten from the legal system is a ruling that his Common Pleas Court sentence will run concurrently with his federal time.

    Jailed since his arrest in 2013, Galati still has about 15 years to serve on his federal time which, in theory at least, will eat up a big chunk of his Common Pleas Court sentence. (He faces a minimum of 14 years and eight months on the Common Pleas Court charges.)

    The soap opera-like Galati saga is quintessential South Philadelphia. Galati, described as a friend and associate of mobsters Joseph Ligambi, George Borgesi and Joseph "SkinnyJoey" Merlino, often talked and acted like a mobster and frequently quoted lines from Goodfellas, one of  his favorite mob movies.

    Friends and associates have insisted that Galati was all talk, that he enjoyed the mobster motif even though he was never a part of the reality. The feds offered a different spin.

    Authorities have long suspected that Galati's body shop was used to outfit a stolen van used in an infamous mob shooting targeting then boss John Stanfa on the Schuylkill Express. Portholes had been cut in the sides of the van to allow shooters to spray Stanfa's car with bullets as both vehicles traveled at high speed along the eight-lane highway during morning rush hour traffic.

    Stanfa's son, Joseph, riding in the back seat, was wounded in the attempted hit which occurred during the height of a 1993 mob war between Stanfa and Merlino factions. No one has ever been convicted  in that shooting. 

    Galati's reputation as a standup guy was enhanced after he was convicted in the late 1990s of insurance fraud and served nearly three years in prison, rejecting attempts by authorities to convince him to cooperate against organized crime figures and tell what he knew about the van.

    Galati returned to South Philadelphia after his prison sentence and again went into the auto body shop business.

    His first murder-for-hire conviction revolved around allegations that he had offered to pay two hitmen to kill the boyfriend of his then estranged daughter Tiffany.

    The boyfriend, Andrew Tuono, was shot outside his Atlantic City home in November 2013. Tiffany Galati was at Tuono's side as the hit went down, but she was not injured.  She subsequently testified for the prosecution at her father's federal trial. Tuono, who survived the shooting, also was a government witness along with the two hitmen and a third Galati associate who admitted helping Galati recruit the shooters.

    The Common Pleas Court case centered on a massive insurance fraud scam run out of Galati's South Philadelphia auto body shop. That case, brought by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, also included allegations that Galati had recruited the same two hitmen to kill a rival body shop owner and his son who Galati believed were cooperating in the insurance fraud investigation.

    That hit never went down, but the two gunmen were prepared to testify that Galati had offered them cash to kill Joseph Rao and his son.

    Galati has steadfastly denied that allegation. This fall he entered no contest pleas to the insurance fraud and murder-for-hire charges in the Common Pleas Court case. Ironically, his daughter was in court that day supporting her father. She and Tuono ended their relationship shortly he was shot. She has since reconciled with her family, according to friends and associates. Galati's son, Ron Jr., was sentenced to house arrest and probation in the same insurance fraud case.

    The appellate court ruling this week appeared to end any hope Galati Sr. had of reducing his prison time.

    A three-judge appellate court panel rejected a somewhat technical argument in which Galati claimed that his conviction for aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime was unwarranted. Galati appeared to be arguing that a phone call he made to set the murder-for-hire plot in motion did not legally constitute aiding and abetting a crime of violence..

    "Galati's effort to cast his involvement in a scheme that ended with a man being shot as lacking the use of physical force is creative," the appellate court wrote. But the panel found it insufficient to warrant overturning his conviction.

    George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net

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  • 12/20/16--17:23: Inside The Jury Room
  • By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    On the first day of deliberations in the political corruption trial of U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, the jurors were screaming at each other.

    After an 11-1 vote, the jury foreman told the lone holdout, Juror No. 12, to sit down and shut up. The next day, the jury foreman apologized. But the jury continued to argue, and  continued to split 11-1 on eight straight votes.

    As far as two jurors were concerned, the majority was ganging up on the lone holdout.

    "In my opinion, the rest of the jurors pounced on the gentleman with the . . . dissenting opinion," Juror No. 3 told Judge Harvey Bartle III.

    "I mean, it was mayhem," the jury foreman agreed. "It was everybody pretty much against this guy."

    In the end, the judge decided to join in the pile-on, and kick the dissident juror off the jury, for having the temerity to disagree with the majority.

    On the afternoon of June 16, after a five-week trial, jurors were debating the fate of an 11-term congressman from Philadelphia.

    Judge Bartle asked the questions as he conducted interviews with five of the quarreling jurors. Watching the spectacle were three assistant U.S. Attorneys and 14 defense lawyers representing the congressman and four co-defendants, according to 90 pages of newly unsealed court transcripts.

    The inquisition began when the judge read a note from the jury foreman that said:

    "Juror No. 12 refuses to vote by the letter of the law. He will not, after proof, still change his vote. His answer will not change. He has the 11 of us a total wreck knowing that we are not getting anywhere in the hour of deliberation [yesterday] and the three hours today."

    "We have zero verdicts at this time all due to Juror No. 12," the note read. "He will not listen or reason with anybody. He is killing every other juror's experience. We showed him all the proof. He doesn't care. Juror No. 12 has an agenda or ax to grind w/govt. Sincerely, Juror No. 2, Billy Cassidy."

    The judge read a second note from the jury, which, after just five hours of deliberations over two days, continued to complain about Juror No. 12, identified in court records as Timothy Miller of Lancaster County.

    "We feel that Tim is argumentative, incapable of making a decision," the second ungrammatical note read. "He constantly scream at all of us."

    The note was signed by the jury foreman, as well as as many as eight other jurors.

    The judge announced he was going to question the jury foreman as to whether or not Juror No. 12 was deliberating "as required under his oath." The judge also announced his intention to question Juror No. 12.

    Robert E. Welsh Jr., representing Herb Vederman, one of Fattah's co-defendants, objected. Welsh urged the judge to "admonish the jurors . . . of their duty to deliberate." Welsh said he thought it was "less intrusive" for the judge to "calm down whatever contretemps may be going on in the jury room."

    Ann C. Flannery, representing Karen Nicholas, another co-defendant, agreed, saying that to start questioning the jurors so quickly "sends a message that if there's a block of jurors with one opinion, they can immediately get personal court intervention by complaining to the court."

    All the other defense lawyers joined in on the objection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric L. Gibson, however, took a different view.

    Gibson told the judge he was concerned about whether Juror No. 12 was biased against the government. And if he was, Gibson said, then Juror No. 12 lied to the court about whether he could be an impartial juror.

    "And his refusal to deliberate would be further evidence of that and his unsuitability as a juror," the prosecutor said.

    The judge called Billy Cassidy, the jury foreman, as a witness, and asked if Juror No. 12 was willing to follow the law.

    "No," Cassidy said. "I think he thinks we're here for him. He wants to read every detail not once, but twice, three times when we laid everything out. And then when we ask him why he voted what he did, it goes against the law."

    Juror No. 12 "has everybody in that room a wreck and totally frustrated where it is ruining our experience with this whole trial," the foreman said.


    The judge asked about the screaming in the jury room.

    "Well, we're past that point now," the jury foreman said. But he said that Juror No. 12 was "very argumentative."

    "I personally ended up telling him to sit down and shut up yesterday," Cassidy admitted. "I started the meeting off today by apologizing for my conduct. Nobody should ever be told to shut up."

    The jury foreman told the judge that the day before, there were several instances of screaming in the jury room.

    "And not just -- not me," Cassidy said. "I mean, everybody, I mean, it was mayhem. It was everybody pretty much against this guy . . . He had his own agenda and I don't know what it is."

    "He rambles," the jury foreman complained about Juror No. 12. "He raises his voice. He stands up. He put his hand on another juror," the foreman said.

    "You know, I had to tell him, get your hands off of him," the foreman said. "I'm going to tell you right now he's a time bomb in that room and he's got everybody on edge."

    After the jury foreman left the judge's chambers, the prosecutor suggested once again that Juror No. 12 had "an ax to grind against the government."

    "Never ever in my career," the prosecutor said, had he ever heard of a "juror laying hands on another juror."

    "That's very, very troubling," the judge agreed.

    "We don't know the details," defense attorney Welsh cautioned.

    The judge decided to bring back jury foreman Cassidy and ask about the details of the touching incident.

    "He put his hand on another juror's shoulder as as they were sitting there as he was getting more and more mad because we're at a point now where he wants all the attention," Cassidy said about Juror No. 12.

    "We've gone over this over and over again and a monkey would know what we're talking about at this point," the jury foreman complained. "It's an absolute disgrace."

    The judge sent Cassidy back to the jury room and said it was time to call Juror No. 12 as a witness.

    "Well, we'll see what Mr. Miller has to say, but this is a very serious situation that we have here," the judge said. "I hope counsel understands that."

    When Juror No. 12 was brought in, the judge asked about concerns "that you've been screaming in the jury room and raising your voice, is that accurate?"

    "A lot of people have been raising their voice and screaming," Juror No. 12 replied.

    "I'm asking about you," the judge said.

    "I have," Juror No. 12 said. "If they've yelled at me, I've yelled back."

    The judge asked Juror No. 12 about "concern that you're not deliberating, not allowing other people to speak, not deliberating. Tell us about that."

    "I am the only one deliberating," Juror No. 12 said.

    "Within the first half hour they wanted to take a vote," Juror No. 12 said about his fellow jurors. "So they all voted. My vote was different than everybody else's."

    "They asked me why," the juror said. "I bring up evidence. They said, that doesn't mean anything. They pointed to the indictment. I said, the indictment is not evidence."

    The 11-1 vote they were arguing about concerned a charge involving Karen Nicholas, a Fattah co-defendant. She was accused of lying to the federal government on an application for a grant to fund an educational conference sponsored by Congressman Fattah.

    "They argued with me and then they threatened to have me thrown off," Juror No. 12 told the judge. "And I said, if you you feel that way, you can do it. At the end of the day we got nothing accomplished."

    On the second day of deliberations, "I came in today and they said they were sorry," Juror No. 12 told the judge. "We went over it again. Once again we're in the jury room. Not 45 minutes into deliberation they want to take a vote. My vote's different. They all ask me why. I tell them."

    "So, we go over it and we go over it and they point to the indictment again," Juror No. 12 said. "The indictment is not evidence. Read the charge."

    Juror No. 12 said he was trying to explain what the evidence was to another juror when he noticed the rest of the jurors weren't paying attention. They were talking about baseball and football, among other topics.

    "They have no idea," Juror No. 12 said. "They're just waiting for me to finish up so they can take another vote. And that's fine."

    "And I told them, if you don't want me to be here, I don't want to be here," he said. "So if you want to take me off this jury, that's fine. I'm OK with it, I really am."

    "Well, a lot of the other jurors say you were screaming," the judge said.

    Juror No. 12 said the jury agreed that everybody would get a turn to talk, but that's not how it played out.

    "Why do I have three people screaming at me," he said. "Now, I can't even hear me. So naturally I have to raise my voice . . . But I do not want to yell at anybody. And today there was very little yelling, hardly any at all, hardly any at all."

    After the judge excused Juror No. 12, defense attorney Welsh suggested "that the record is clear at this point that we have a disagreement over evidence and that he {Juror No. 12] is the one who is deliberating and that many of the others are not willing to go through [the evidence] in a conscientious fashion."

    "He is the conscientious guy who says, let's look at" the evidence, Welsh said.

    The jury seems "to have calmed down," Welsh said, before suggesting once again that the judge urge the jury to continue with their deliberations.

    Ronald H. Levine, another defense lawyer who represented co-defendant Bonnie Bowser, suggested that the judge instruct the jury that the indictment was not evidence.

    "That's very disturbing," Samuel W. Silver said, representing Congressman Fattah.

    Prosecutor Gibson said that Juror No. 12 "indicated he doesn't want to be here, which is also problematic." Gibson said he was worried about the jury foreman's claim that Juror No. 12 "doesn't want to follow the law, which is also a violation. And jury nullification is not something that we tolerate."

    Defense lawyer Flannery, however, said she wanted to put on the record that she did not observe "anything untoward or irrational or overly agitated" about Juror No. 12 when he appeared in the judge's chambers as a witness.

    "He was very articulate in explaining what the situation was," she said, adding that she took exception to Gibson's description of the juror.

    Silver, another defense lawyer, agreed.

    "But in my view what we saw in this juror is somebody who is being shamed out of the room for expressing his viewpoint, which is exactly what we don't want from the jurors," Silver said. "And to dismiss him would be a very, very disturbing thing because it would suggest that somebody who is dissenting and trying to explain his position does not have a seat at the table."

    The judge decided to recall juror No. 12.

    "Mr Miller, I just had one other question," the judge asked. "Did you touch any of the jurors?"

    "Well, we're sharing the books," the juror replied. "I may have."

    "Did you stand up and put your hand on anybody's shoulder," the judge asked.

    "Not intentionally, no," the juror said.

    "Did you do it," the judge asked again.

    "I couldn't remember, to be honest with you," Juror No. 12 said.

    The next witness was Juror No. 3, who told the judge that "the rest of the jurors pounced on the gentlemen with the . . . dissenting opinion."

    "And so I think he got very defensive and just a little bit of impatient," Juror No. 3 said. "The other jurors were very impatient with him . . .  so I think he got very defensive."

    The judge asked if she saw Juror No. 12 put his hand on another juror's shoulder.

    "No, I didn't see that," she said. But she said she did witness other jurors rolling their eyes and scoff when Juror No. 12 spoke.

    When Juror No. 3 left, the prosecutor suggested that the judge interview another juror, but the defense lawyers objected.

    The judge, however, said, let's bring in one more juror.

    "I think this threatens the . . . entire deliberative process," Silver warned. "We're examining the jurors. We're having testimony."

    "Courts have said that I can examine every one of them," the judge said. And then he asked to talk to Juror No. 6, identified as Ms. Rivers.

    Juror No. 6 proceeded to complain about Juror No. 12 taking "a longer time" to vote.

    "It's like he's being obstinate," she said. "It's like he's being different."

    The judge asked about whether Juror No. 12 had touched any of the other jurors.

    "He might have put his arm around my shoulder or hand on my shoulder," Juror No. 6 said. "He did it maybe with another juror, too."

    The judge asked about the difference of opinion in the jury room.

    "The majority of us, we can look at it, we can review the evidence and we can come to a conclusion," Juror No. 6 said. "That's 11 of us. And then you have one person, it's like wait a minute, and he just kind of holds out to be seen for whatever reason and just takes a little longer, and it's very frustrating to everybody . . . "

    The judge called as the next witness, Juror No. 1, identified as Mr. Blimline, and asked if Juror No. 12 was willing to follow the judge's instructions.

    "He pours over them," Juror No. 1 said. "He pours over the documents very well."

    The problem, Juror No. 1 said, was that Juror No. 12 was "going way beyond the questions like, well . . . what did this person feel or why did this person . . . That's not even -- that's not part of the question."

    "Well, of course," the judge said, "intent is part of it."

    The juror agreed, but said, "I feel like he's more like investigating the whole process trying to figure out why everything happened and like going way beyond the scope of what -- the information that we even have, you know."

    The judge asked about the screaming in the jury room.

    "He's very vocal," Juror No. 1 said about Juror No. 12. "When he feels like he's not getting -- being heard."

    "And he's not willing to listen to any sort of reason or any sort of what everyone else is saying and he's trying to force everyone else to get to his point of view," Juror No. 1 said.

    "And if he feels like he's not getting there, he gets louder and louder and points and puts his hand on your shoulder," the juror said.

    After Juror No. 1 left, the prosecutor told the judge that going by the demeanor of Juror No. 12, "there's ample evidence to conclude he's disrupting the process and should be removed from the jury.

    "Your Honor," defense lawyer Welsh said, "I think the picture that is portrayed here is quite the opposite."

    "The man is deliberating and he's in the face of 11 people who will pounce on him."

    Defense lawyer Levine argued that Juror No. 12 was raising the issue of intent. "And, of course, that is at the heart of this case," Levine said. "And that seems to be the focus of some disagreement."

    Levine objected to Juror No. 12 being dismissed from the case.

    "This seems to be a juror who actually is being conscientious," Levine told the judge.

    When the judge convened a conference the next morning in his chambers at 8:59 a.m., he asked his deputy clerk, Kristin Makely, to be sworn in as a witness.

    The judge asked deputy clerk Makely to tell the court what happened yesterday when she escorted Juror No. 12 from the jury room to the judge's chambers.

    "OK, I was walking him out," the clerk said. And in the hallway, near the judges' elevators, "he stopped me by just sort of -- not in a threatening way at all, just stopping me with his hand on my shoulder."

    "And he just looked me straight in the eye," the deputy clerk said. And then, she said, Juror No. 12 told her, "I'm going to hang this jury."

    Later that day, the deputy clerk testified, Juror No. 12 "came out of the jury room, and he said, 'I really need to talk to you.'"

    According to the deputy clerk, Juror No. 12 "said more about how they're treating him and what he's saying to them and then, it's going to be 11 to 1, no matter what."

    Timothy Miller, Juror No. 12, was brought in for further questioning. The judge asked Miller about his conversations with the deputy clerk.

    "Basically, I said there was a lot of name calling gong on," Miller said.

    He told the judge about his background as a paratrooper for six years in the 82nd Airborne.

    "They made a comment that maybe I hit my head a few -- hard a few times," Juror No. 12 said about his fellow jurors. He added that the jury foreman "called me stupid the first day," but then "he apologized."

    "Somebody made a comment that I may have hit my head . . . a couple of times too hard on the ground when I landed," Juror No. 12 told the judge.

    "I didn't appreciate the comment," he said. "I can't prove that they said it. I don't know who all heard it. It doesn't matter. I found it offensive."

    The judge asked what else the juror had told the clerk.

    "I said, I'm taking it seriously; I'm deliberating," he said. "I feel I'm doing the best that I can. There's people in there calling me names, stupid . . . piece of work."

    The judge asked if the juror had told the deputy clerk "that you're going to hang this jury."

    "I said I would," the juror said.

    "You did?" the judge asked.

    "I did," the juror said. "I said -- I told her -- I said, we don't agree; I'm not just going to say guilty because everybody wants me to, and if that hangs this jury, so be it."

    The judge asked why Juror No. 12 didn't remember making that comment the first time the judge asked.

    "I'm more concerned about people spitting on my military record," the juror said.

    The judge persisted, asking "did you say to her you would hang the jury no matter what?"

    "I can't really remember that," Juror No. 12 said. "I can't recall that exactly."

    After Juror No. 12 was excused, several defense lawyers objected to dismissing him from the case. But the prosecutor said he thought the demeanor of Juror No. 12 "demonstrated a hostility . . both to the other jurors and to the court, in particular."

    The prosecutor added that Juror No. 12's comment to the deputy clerk that he would hang the jury no matter what "suggests he's not participating in the deliberations" and that he's "ignoring the evidence and the law."

    "I think the court has no alternative but to remove him at this point," the prosecutor said.

    The judge agreed.

    "I find my deputy clerk," the judge said, "to be credible."

    "I find the juror," the judge said, "not to be credible. I find that he did tell Ms. Makely that he was going to hang this jury no matter what."

    "There have been only approximately four hours of deliberation," the judge said. "There's no way in the world he [Juror No. 12] could have reviewed and considered all of the evidence in the case and my instructions in the law."

    [But it was Ok with the judge that within the first half hour of deliberations, the rest of the jurors were ready to vote on the case, according to Juror No. 12, beginning with the top of the indictment, and the alleged conspiracy to commit racketeering.]

    "Juror No. 12 has delayed, disrupted, impeded, and obstructed the deliberative process and had the intent to do so," the judge said. "I base that having observed him, based on his words and his demeanor before me."


    "He wants only to have his own voice heard," the judge said about Juror No. 12. "He has preconceived notions about the case. He has violated his oath as a juror."

    "And I do not believe that any further instructions or admonitions would do any good," the judge said. "I think he's intent on, as he said, hanging this jury no matter what the law is, no matter what the evidence is."

    "Therefore, he will be excused and I will replace him with the next alternate," the judge said.

    Without Juror No. 12, the jury came back and convicted Congressman Fattah and his four co-defendants on 57 of 74 total charges, including conspiracy to commit racketeering, as well as conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, bribery, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.


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