Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel

Embed this content in your HTML


Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels

Channel Catalog

Channel Description:

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

older | 1 | .... | 24 | 25 | (Page 26) | 27 | 28 | .... | 34 | newer

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    Lawyers for former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah are arguing that he should stay out of jail while an appeals court considers whether Judge Harvey Bartle III abused his authority by dismissing a dissident juror who didn't think that the government had proved its political corruption case against Fattah beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Fattah, a former 11-term congressman, was sentenced earlier this month by Judge Bartle to 10 years in prison after a jury in July convicted Fattah of conspiracy to commit racketeering, wire fraud and honest services fraud, as well as falsifying records and laundering money. Fattah, currently free on $100,000 bail, is scheduled to report to jail on Jan. 25th.

    But according to Fattah's lawyers, who filed a motion for bail today, there is a "substantial question" on appeal likely to result in a reversal of the former congressman's conviction of whether Judge Bartle committed an "abuse of discretion" when he booted dissident Juror No. 12.

    "In short, a substantial issue will be presented on appeal whether it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to question jurors at an early stage of deliberations without good reason to suspect juror misconduct, to intrude on the jury's deliberative process, and then dismiss a juror who had serious doubts about the government's case," wrote lawyers Samuel W. Silver, Bruce P. Merenstein and Mark M. Lee in a motion filed today in U.S. District Court.

    The lawyers cited a recent appeals case where the D.C. Circuit held that a trial court may not remove a juror "if the record evidence disclosed any possibility that the request to discharge stems from the juror's view of the sufficiency of the government's evidence."

    "Here, the trial court ignored each of these principles in questioning five jurors and then dismissing Juror No. 12," the defense lawyers wrote about Judge Bartle. "First, the court engaged in unnecessary and invasive questioning of the jury when it examined almost half the jury on the basis of complaints that, just a few hours into deliberations, Juror No. 12 was unwilling to change his vote and had prevented the jury from reaching any verdicts."

    "Second, the court's willingness to dismiss Juror No. 12 on the basis of, in effect, six words the juror purportedly said to the court's deputy, was an abuse of discretion not supported by the case law involving removal of a juror," the lawyers wrote. "There was much more than a reasonable doubt or a reasonable possibility that other jurors' complaints about Juror No. 12 were based on his view of the government's case -- or his unwillingness to change his vote and create a unanimous guilty verdict, as indicated in the note from the foreperson and some of the jurors' testimony."

    The six words allegedly uttered by Juror No. 12: "I'm going to hang this jury."

    When asked by Judge Bartle if he said those six words to the court's deputy, Juror No. 12 replied, "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."

    At the request of the prosecutor, Judge Bartle then dismissed the jury, finding "that he did tell [the deputy] that he was going to hang this jury no matter what." The judge also ruled that because the jury had deliberated for only four hours, "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 on the law."

    The judge found that Juror No. 12 "delayed, disrupted, impeded, and obstructed the deliberative process, and had the intent to do so." The judge also found that the juror had "violate his oath as a juror" because of his alleged intent on "hanging the jury no matter what the law is, no matter what the evidence is."

    In their motion for bail, Fattah's lawyers argue that the judge's "findings" had "no support in the [trial] record."

    "For example, no evidence, including the testimony of the courtroom deputy, supported the finding that Juror No. 12 said that 'he was going to hang this jury no matter what . . . no matter what the law is, no matter what the evidence is.'"

    "Rather, the juror purportedly told the deputy simply that "I'm going to hang this jury," a statement that could have meant that the juror did not expect to be persuaded by the arguments of the other jurors," the defense lawyers wrote.

    The deputy clerk testified that Juror No. 12 also told her, "It's going to be 11 to 1 no matter what."

    That comment, however, followed what Juror No. 12 "described as cruel comments from other jurors" mocking Juror No. 12's military record, the lawyers wrote. "In any event, nobody testified that Juror 12 said he would hang the jury 'no matter what the law is, no matter what the evidence is.'"

    "Finally, the court's reliance on the fact that Juror 12 remained skeptical of the government's evidence, when there supposedly was 'no way in the world he could have reviewed and considered all of the evidence in the case and [the court's] instructions on the law' ignores that the other jurors plainly had reached their own conclusions regarding the law and the evidence in the same amount of time and were impatient with Juror No. 12 for not agreeing with them after just a few hours."

    The other argument the defense lawyers presented to keep Fattah out of jail involved a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on July 27th -- just six days after the guilty verdict in the Fattah trial -- that overturned the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

    McDonnell was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2014 for taking gifts, money and loans from the CEO of a Virginia based company in exchange for officials acts that allegedly benefitted the CEO and his firm. The case centered on what was the definition of an official act.

    "There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that, " wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. "But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal interpretations of the government's boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute."

    In the Fattah case, the congressman was accused of committing official acts when he wrote letters to President Obama and U.S. Senator Bob Casey, and arranged a phone call with the White House, "in support of [co-defendant] Herb Vederman's long-shot quest for an ambassadorship," the defense lawyers wrote.

    "The government's own evidence at trial was unequivocal that neither the Senator nor the White House took this single request from a single federal legislator seriously," the defense lawyers wrote.

    "Thus the application of [the McDonnell case] to the bribery-related charges" in the Fattah case also "raises a substantial question on appeal," the defense lawyers wrote.

    On the docket, the appeals court acted quickly, giving the government's lawyers until Jan. 4th to respond to Fattah's motion for bail.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    When he explained why he dismissed a dissident juror in the Chaka Fattah case, U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III advanced an argument that no longer holds water.

    "There have been only approximately four hours of deliberation," the judge declared on June 16th in a memorandum released last month, after lawyers for The Philadelphia Inquirer had to go to court to unseal it. "There's no way in the world," the judge further declared, that Juror No. 12 "could have reviewed and considered all of the evidence in the case and my instructions in the law."

    The judge then concluded that Juror No. 12 had not only violated his oath as a juror, but also "delayed, disrupted, impeded, and obstructed the deliberative process, and had the intent to do so."

    But according to an interview with Juror No. 12, and other documents in the case, the judge's logic disqualifies the other jurors who were repeatedly voting in the majority to convict, especially the jury foreman, without a shred of evidence to go on.

    According to an interview last July with Juror No. 12, seven minutes after deliberations began in the corruption trial of the 11-term U.S. Congressman, the jury foreman announced that he wanted to take a vote "just to see where we are" on the most serious charge in the case, an alleged racketeering conspiracy that involved Fattah and four co-defendants.

    The conspiracy involved the procuring of a $1 million loan from a wealthy donor to pay for Fattah's campaign expenses from his unsuccessful 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia. The money was supposedly laundered in the form of a bogus loan made by the wealthy donor to the business of a political consultant, Thomas Lindenfeld, who subsequently became a government witness and testified against Fattah.

    However, the jury foreman's argument to start at the top of the 85-page indictment with the racketeering conspiracy that allegedly involved all five defendants didn't make much sense to Juror No. 12.

    "If there's no loan, there's no conspiracy," Juror No. 12 argued. "There's nothing tying him [Fattah] to the loan." At least on paper, the loan was between the wealthy donor and the political consultant; Fattah was not mentioned anywhere on the loan documents, or in any other written trial evidence.

    There was another problem on the first day of deliberations, as explained by Juror No. 12. When the jury foreman wanted to take that first vote on the alleged racketeering conspiracy involving the loan, none of the evidence -- in the form of some 400 trial exhibits -- was in the jury room.

    That's what Juror No. 12 said when I interviewed him last summer. We now know from a court transcript that what Juror No. 12 said was true.

    On the first day of deliberations, July 15th, Mira E. Baylson, a lawyer for Fattah co-defendant Robert Brand, told the judge in a sidebar conference that there was a problem with the evidence. Namely, that the government had submitted at the last minute some 20 new documents not previously admitted as evidence.

    "I'm sorry you didn't tell me before this," the judge said. "What are we going to do? Tell the jury not to deliberate?"

    "Your Honor, we received the exhibit list just this morning," Baylson told the judge. "I've been working diligently on it with [Assistant U.S. Attorney] Kravitz to try and work" this out.

    "There are 20 exhibits on the government's list that, to my knowledge, were not admitted," Baylson said. "We have agreed that 11 of them were not admitted. There are 9 that we are still checking on. That is the issue right now."

    "We'll just tell them [the jury] they get the exhibits in the morning and that's all," the judge said. "But let's work on it tonight," the judge said. He added that he wanted this resolved "the first thing in the morning."

    On July 17th, the judge ordered that the other 9 new government documents be stricken as evidence.

    The fact that the jury was deliberating and voting on individual charges in the indictment on the first day of deliberations without any evidence to review was also confirmed in a footnote in Fattah's motion for bail filed last week.

    "In fact, during that first short deliberation session, the jury only had the court's instructions, the verdict sheet, and the indictment," Fattah's lawyers wrote.

    When he was interviewed by the judge in chambers last July, Juror No. 12 provided more details about the first day of jury deliberations.

    "Within the first half hour they wanted to take a vote," Juror No. 12 told the judge. "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."

    "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."

    According to Juror No. 12, the jury began deliberations at his insistence by considering the charges at the bottom of the 29-count indictment. On three votes, the jury split 11-1, in favor of a conviction.

    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 deliberatio they want to take a vote. My vote's different. They all ask me why. I tell them."

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

    "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."

    According to Juror No. 12, the jury took five more 11-1 votes on the second day of deliberations. That was a total over two days of eight straight 11-1 votes to convict, with Juror No. 12 always on the short end of every vote.

    While he was interviewing jurors, 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.

    He may be right.

    After the judge dismissed Juror No. 12 from the case, the judge instructed the jury that the 29-count indictment was not evidence, but merely a set of allegations that had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    When he was interviewing jurors, the judge asked another juror, Juror No. 1, whether Juror No. 12 was willing to follow the judge's instructions.

    "He pores over them," Juror No. 1 responded. "He pores over the documents very well."

    But according to Judge Bartle's logic, Juror No. 12 is the guy who violated his juror's oath.

     The juror who pored over the judge's instructions. The juror who kept pointing to the evidence in the case. The juror who wanted to start deliberations in a logical fashion, at the bottom of the indictment, with the least serious charges, and work his way up. Rather than start at the top of the indictment, with the broadest and most serious charge, and work his way down.

    The only juror in the room, apparently, who understood that the indictment wasn't evidence.

    That's the guy who Judge Bartle decides to kick off the panel; the guy that the judge said had impeded jury deliberations and violated his oath as a juror.

    Meanwhile, it's apparently OK with the judge that the jury foreman, according to Juror No. 12, was ready to vote within the first seven minutes, without any evidence in the room, on the most serious charge at the top of the indictment.

    According to Juror No. 12, this is a jury that on day one of deliberations took three straight 11-1 votes without any evidence in the room. At a time when some members of the jury believed that the indictment was evidence.

    A jury that took five more 11-1 votes on Day 2 of deliberations. With some members of that jury still thinking the indictment was evidence.

    Apparently, that was OK with the judge as well. As long as the jury arrived at the proper conclusion.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    Lawyers for two of Chaka Fattah's co-defendants have joined the chorus seeking to have their clients stay out of jail while a federal appeals court considers the propriety of Judge Harvey Bartle III's early dismissal of a dissident juror.

    Last week, defense lawyers filed a motion seeking to have Fattah, the former 11-term U.S. Congressman, remain free on bail while a federal appeals court considered whether Judge Bartle had abused his discretion by booting the dissident juror.

    In a bail motion filed today on behalf of Robert Brand, a Fattah co-defendant, a team of defense lawyers argued that Judge Bartle's "rash, unmethodical dismissal" of the dissident juror who "vigorously disagreed with the ultimate verdict was improper." The bail motion filed on behalf of Brand also claimed that Judge Bartle's "haphazard" questioning of five jurors during the trial "so disrupted the deliberation process" that it "severely prejudiced" the defendant as well as tainted the jury.

    In a second bail motion filed on behalf of Karen Nicholas, another Fattah co-defendant, attorney Ann Campbell Flannery criticized Judge Bartle for asking "leading and suggestive" questions of five jurors in the political corruption case. Flannery also asked the federal appeals court to consider whether "the trial judge's quick and continued intrusion into the deliberative process was an abuse of discretion."

     And whether the judge's actions had "a coercive effect" on the remaining jurors, namely "that if one dissented or took longer to deliberate than the others, the others could complain to the court and obtain swift intervention and relief."

    In the bail motion on behalf of Nicholas, Flannery argued that when Judge Bartle decided to boot the dissident juror, he was "ignoring repeated testimony that the other jurors had reached a conclusion on the count being considered, as well as significant evidence that the jurors' complaints arose from frustration about the juror's differing view of the evidence when most of them were ready to move on to another count."

    "Dismissal of a holdout juror directly violates a defendant's constitutional right to a unanimous jury and requires a reversal of the conviction," Flannery wrote.

    Her client, Karen Nicholas, was found guilty on six counts and sentenced by Judge Bartle to 24 months in jail. She is scheduled to report on Jan. 26th.

    Robert Brand was found guilty on two counts and sentenced by Judge Bartle to 30 months in jail. He is also scheduled to report to prison on Jan. 26th.

    Judge Bartle has previously denied bail motions for both Nicholas and Brand, as well as Fattah, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail by Bartle, and was scheduled to report on Jan. 25th.

    In the bail motions on behalf of Brand and Nicholas, defense lawyers brought up a previous corruption case involving former state treasurer Corey Kemp. In the Kemp case, when there was a dispute in the jury room, the trial judge waited until the fourth day of deliberations before systematically questioning all the jurors.

    But in the Fattah case, the defense lawyers pointed out, Judge Bartle "questioned [five] jurors on an ad hoc basis" after only one half-day of deliberations, Flannery wrote on behalf of Karen Nicholas.

    "Jurors were randomly brought in for questioning even after the testimony of the first three jurors clearly suggested that the heart of the problem was a dispute about evidence," Flannery wrote.

    In Flannery's view, Judge Bartle "acted quickly, impatiently, and at the prosecution's urging." By replacing a holdout juror with "a more amenable juror," Flannery wrote, the defendant's "constitutional right to a unanimous verdict has been violated."

    Judge Bartle also acted in a discriminatory fashion against the dissident juror, the defense lawyers asserted in the bail motions.

    "Despite almost universal testimony that the other eleven jurors had made up their minds on a count and that Juror 12 had voted a different way and wanted to discuss the count further," Flannery wrote, Judge Bartle booted the dissident, claiming there was no way after just four hours of deliberations that the juror could have "reviewed and considered all of the evidence in the case and my instructions on the law."

    "Yet in articulating its reasons for excusing the juror," Flannery wrote, Judge Bartle "completely failed to address" that the argument in the jury room was a "dispute about evidence." When he dismissed the juror, Judge Bartle claimed that the dissident had "preconceived notions about the case," even though there is no evidence in the trial record to support that claim, Flannery wrote.

    In the bail motion on behalf of Robert Brand, lawyers Barry Gross, Meredith C. Slawe, and Mira E. Baylson wrote that Judge Bartle "unmethodically conducted" an inquisition of five random jurors.

    In the Corey Kemp case, "the trial judge took great effort to ensure that the juror was not excused due to her doubts about the sufficiency of the government's evidence," Brand's lawyers wrote.

    "After learning that the jury had hit a 'stalemate' on the fourth day, the court twice re-instructed the jury on its role, conducted three separate in camera voir dire sessions of each and every juror in which he asked identical questions which did not specifically reference any individual juror, and questioned the problematic juror separately before discharging her two weeks after deliberations had begun."

    In the Fattah case, the defense lawyers wrote, Juror No. 12 was "discharged after less than a full day of deliberations," and Judge Bartle "made no attempt to reinstruct the jury, even though the jurors indicated that the problem arose just thirty minutes into deliberations."

    Judge Bartle also found "Juror 12 incredible in part because of the speed in which he deliberated," the defense lawyers wrote. "Yet the other jurors wanted to take a vote within the first 30 minutes of deliberations and [Judge Bartle] clearly found the other four jurors it questioned credible."

    Unlike the judge in the Corey Kemp case, Judge Bartle in the Fattah case "did not exercise caution or methodically investigate the alleged juror misconduct," the defense lawyers wrote. Judge Bartle also didn't re-instruct the jury. And when he removed Juror No. 12, Judge Bartle "unfairly influenced" the other jurors in the case "to believe that they had to reach unanimity" and convict the defendants.

    In the two bail motions, the defense lawyers raised the issue of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and what constitutes an "official act" on behalf of an elected official.

    In the Brand motion for bail, the defense lawyers also raised the issue of the mental health of Thomas Lindenfeld, the government's key cooperating witness.

    Lindenfeld, Brand's defense lawyers said, testified against their client even though he has "rapid cycling bipolar disorder" that may require "treatment by psychotropic medication."

    Lindenfeld was "undiagnosed and untreated" at the time of the alleged criminal activity in the case, the defuse lawyers wrote.  "His illness was serious enough at that time to cause his wife and son to seek intervention."

    In the Fattah case, Lindenfeld was the government's star witness who tied Fattah to the central plot in the case, an alleged racketeering conspiracy to launder a $1 million loan from a wealthy campaign donor to pay for Fattah's campaign debts from a failed 2007 Fattah campaign for mayor of Philadelphia.

    Lindenfeld was also the only government witness to testify about Brand's alleged knowledge of the criminal conduct in the case, his defense lawyers wrote.

    In the bail motion, Brand's lawyers argued that a defense subpoena for Lindenfeld's medical records were "improperly quashed." The defense lawyers also claim that their subpoena for Lindenfeld's medical records were "improperly quashed" by Judge Bartle. And that during the trial, the judge also prevented Brand's lawyers from questioning Lindenfeld about his mental health, the defense lawyers wrote.

    The last brief filed today in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals came from the government. In a 21-page government's opposition to Fattah's motion for bail, Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric L. Gibson and Paul L. Gray, and trial attorney Jonathan Kravis responded that there is no need to keep the former congressman out of jail while the appeal is going.

    "The United States of America, by its undersigned attorneys, respectfully opposes the motion of defendant Chaka Fattah, Sr., for release pending appeal," the feds wrote. "As the district court properly concluded in its memorandum denying Fattah's motion for release, Fattah's appeal does not present a substantial question that is likely to result in a reversal or new trial on all counts on which a sentence of imprisonment has been imposed."

    Regarding the dismissal of the 12th juror, the feds say it was "fully consistent with well-established Third Circuit precedent."

    The judge also had the right to interview jurors because he was investigating "substantial evidence of jury misconduct." That evidence included two notes to the judge from the jury foreman raising questions about Juror No. 12, the feds wrote.

    The U.S. Attorney's office also saw no substantial issue raised by the U.S. Supreme Court's Gov. McDonnell case concerning what constitutes an official act.

    "The evidence here established overwhelmingly that Fattah was engaged in official acts as defined in McDonnell in his persistent quest for an ambassadorship" on behalf of co-defendant Herb Vederman, the feds wrote, quoting Judge Bartle.

    "The district court reasoned that, 'unlike much of Gov. McDonnell's activity, Fattah clearly crossed the line beyond mere expression of support for Vederman for an ambassadorship," Bartle wrote, even though Vederman never got the ambassadorship, which would have been an unpaid position.

    And the district court found that, 'the Government presented overwhelming evidence that Fattah's hiring of Vederman's girlfriend' was also an 'official act,'" the feds wrote.

    0 0

    Former ADA Mariana Sorensen [left] 
    By Ralph Cipriano

    The lead detective in the "Billy Doe" sex abuse case didn't find the former altar boy to be a credible witness after he spent hours confronting the alleged victim over numerous factual discrepancies in his many conflicting stories.

    And when Detective Joseph Walsh voiced his doubts about the D.A.'s star witness to a top prosecutor, she didn't want to hear about it.

    "You're damaging my case, you're hurting my case," is what Thomas A. Bergstrom, a lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, claimed that former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen said about the star witness whose testimony sent three priests and a former Catholic school teacher to jail.

    "You can't turn a blind eye to that," Bergstrom said when he asked Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright to invoke the ultimate penalty for prosecutorial misconduct, namely dismissing a retrial of the criminal case against Msgr. Lynn scheduled to begin May 30th.

    During a three-hour pre-trial hearing today, Bergstrom and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington battled over what Walsh and Sorensen allegedly said years ago to each other behind closed doors in the D.A.'s office. Meanwhile, the detective, now retired, was sent outside the courtroom to pace the hallway. 

    When Blessington said that Sorensen denied ever saying anything about hurting her case to Walsh, Bergstrom told the judge that she now had a reason to hold a hearing. So Bergstrom would have an opportunity to "cross-examine Mariana Sorensen and see who's telling the truth."

    The judge obliged by setting a 2 p.m. hearing for next Wednesday at which time former Detective Walsh, and presumably former ADA Sorensen, will testify. It would be a fitting climax to a bizarre seven-year old sex abuse case that now qualifies as a classic fake news story.

    While he's got Sorensen on the witness stand under oath, Bergstrom should ask her about the 20 factual mistakes in the 2011 grand jury report, which Sorensen allegedly authored, where the testimony of grand jury witnesses was blatantly rewritten to fit bogus and since disproven story lines cooked up by the D.A.'s office under Seth Williams.

    "Billy Doe" is a grand jury's pseudonym for Danny Gallagher, a 28-year-old former altar boy who claimed that back during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 school years at St. Jerome's parish in Northeast Philadelphia, when Gallagher was 10 and 11 years old, he was repeatedly raped in three separate attacks by two priests and a school teacher.

     At a 2012 trial, Msgr. Lynn was convicted by a jury of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Gallagher, by allowing former priest Edward V. Avery to return to ministry and allegedly rape the altar boy.

    Avery, now serving 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison for raping Gallagher, pleaded guilty on the eve of a 2012 trial where he was a co-defendant with Lynn. But Avery ultimately recanted his plea bargain, saying in court that he had never even met Gallagher. And that the only reason he had pleaded guilty was that he was 69 years old at the time, facing a 13 1/2 to 27 years sentence, and didn't want to die in jail.

    The other defendants in the case include Bernard Shero, Gallagher's former homeroom teacher, who's doing 8 to 16 years in prison. At the pre-trial hearing today, Jeff Ogren, Shero's appeals lawyer, was sitting with Detective Walsh.

    Another defendant, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, died in prison back in 2014 after serving nearly two years of a 6 to 12 year sentence for allegedly abusing Gallagher.

    The other defendant is Msgr. Lynn, convicted in 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child, namely
    The Defendant
    Gallagher. Gallagher, however, as demonstrated many times on this blog, simply has no credibility. 

    First he told several fantastic and completely contradictory stories to authorities. Then, his voluminous medical records from some 28 drug clinics, doctors and rehab hospitals revealed that before Gallagher claimed to have been raped at 10 and 11 by two priests and the school teacher, he had falsely claimed he was: molested at 6 by a friend; sexually abused at 6 by a neighbor; sexually assaulted at 7 by a teacher, molested at 8 or 9 by a friend; and sexually assaulted at 9 by a 14-year-old.

    Gallagher also falsely claimed to his doctors to be a professional surfer and a paramedic.

    A forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Gallagher for nearly three hours in 2015 concluded that Gallagher had lied and provided unreliable information about his past drug abuse, and alleged sex abuse. Gallagher also flunked a personality test; the forensic psychiatrist who examined him concluded that Gallagher was manipulative, paranoid, passive-aggressive and delusional. That's in addition to being a former heroin addict with six arrests for drugs and retail theft under his belt, including one bust where he was caught with 56 bags of heroin.

    In a civil deposition, when Gallagher was quizzed about the many contradictions in his personal history and past claims of sex abuse, Gallagher responded by stating he couldn't remember more than 130 times. 

    In spite of his complete lack of credibility, however, Charles J. Chaput, the Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, ultimately rolled over in a  civil suit and gave Gallagher what was supposed to be a confidential cash settlement of $5 million.

    Indeed, The Philadelphia Inquirer, after seven years, still pretends that Gallagher is a sex abuse "victim" and has yet to print his real name, Danny Gallagher. Amazingly, the Inky, after continuously and publicly hanging the accused parties out to dry for seven years, still calls Gallagher Billy Doe in print. Even though Gallagher the hustler has been outed on this blog for years, as well as on the cover of Newsweek, the front page of the National Catholic Reporter, and in the Northeast Times.

    Lynn, who is facing a retrial of his chid endangerment case, served 33 months of his minimum 3 to 6 year sentence, plus 18 months of house arrest. The conviction of Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, has been overturned twice by appeals courts.

    The first time Lynn's conviction was overturned, the state Superior Court ruled that the state's original child endangerment law did not apply to Lynn, an opinion shared by former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a 2005 grand jury.

    The second time, the state Superior Court ruled that the trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, unfairly put the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on trial during the Lynn case, by admitting as evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse that didn't involve the monsignor, dating back to 1948, three years before the 66-year-old Lynn was born.

    At the pre-trial hearing today in the Lynn retrial, the lawyers sparred over the D.A.'s plans to introduce at trial some 12 supplemental cases of sex abuse. Bergstrom argued to the judge that all 12 cases should not be admitted as evidence because they had nothing to do with Lynn.

    Bergstrom also argued that Detective Walsh decided that Gallagher wasn't a credible witness when he was doing trial prep sessions before the first trial of Lynn back in 2012. One of those sessions, Bergstrom told the judge, lasted three to four hours.
    The $5 Million Man

    During pre-trial prep, Bergstrom told the judge, "Walsh confronted Gallagher with numerous contradictions in his version of the events involving Avery, Engelhardt, and Shero."

    "Faced with this inconsistencies/contradictions, Gallagher either provided no explanation [remained silent] or offered that he was high on drugs," Bergstrom said.

    Bergstrom then highlighted five of those factual discrepancies that Walsh confronted Gallagher over, including:

    --Gallagher claimed that he was in the church's bell choir maintenance crew during fifth grade when Avery began abusing him. But "from his investigation, Walsh knew that Gallagher was not in the Bell crew in fifth grade, as only eighth grade boys made up the bell crew," Bergstrom said. [This fact was borne out at trial by Catholic school yearbooks].

    -- Gallagher claimed that when he served as an altar boy at a 6:15 Mass in 1998, he "was assaulted over the course of four to five hours" in the sacristy by Father Engelhardt, who had supposedly locked all the doors and taken off all his clothes. However, Walsh "knew from his investigation that Gallagher did not serve" any 6:15 a.m. Mass during 1998, because of the meticulous calendars kept by his mother that tracked all the church dates for her two altar boy sons, Danny Gallagher and his older brother, James. Danny Gallagher also claimed that he walked to church from his home after the attack by Engelhardt. But during Walsh's investigation, Gallagher's older brother told the detective that his parents always drove him and his brother to and from Mass, even though they lived less than a mile from the church.

    -- Gallagher claimed that he was assaulted by Avery following a funeral Mass that the priest and altar boy allegedly served at. But Walsh knew from his review of church records that Avery had never officiated at a funeral Mass during the year that Gallagher claimed he was assaulted.

    -- Gallagher claimed he was high on drugs when he first reported his alleged abuse to a drug counselor and an archdiocese social worker in 2009, and that's why he told fantastic and bloody stories of violent sex abuse, all since recanted. But Walsh knew from his investigation that both the drug counselor and the archdiocese social worker had said that Gallagher wasn't high on drugs. Indeed, the social worker interviewed Gallagher moments after Gallagher's father, a Philadelphia police sergeant, had driven Gallagher home from a drug clinic.

    -- Gallagher claimed that he would switch altar boy assignments with other altar boys when he saw a list posted in the church to avoid Avery and Engelhardt after they allegedly raped him. But Walsh knew from his investigation that altar boy Mass schedules "did not contain the names of the priests." And that the list of priests serving Mass was not posted in the church, but in the rectory, where only the priests could see it.

    That's why, Bergstrom said, Walsh "does not believe Danny Gallagher," because Gallagher "wasn't credible."

    But when Walsh reported his doubts to Sorensen, she replied, "You're hurting my case," or "You're damaging my case," Bergstrom told the judge.

    None of the particulars of Walsh's repeated questioning of Gallagher, nor Gallagher's responses [or lack thereof] were ever reported to the defense, Bergstrom told the judge. Had they been, the defense would have cross-examined Detective Walsh as a witness at Lynn's first trial, Bergstrom said.

    The defense also didn't know about Sorensen's lack of interest in Danny Gallagher's lack of credibility, Bergstrom told the judge.

    "What Walsh was telling Sorensen," Bergstrom said, was that the prosecution's "primary and only witness" wasn't credible. And that Sorensen "had to know or should have known," Bergstrom said, that "she had every reason to believe that he [Danny Gallagher] is lying."

    "Putting a witness on trial" who you know is likely to lie is against the code of ethics for an officer of the court, Bergstrom said. "He is the only damn witness in this case," Bergstrom said, about Gallagher. And that Sorensen had to know that "her primary witness is not credible."

    ADA Pat Blessington
    "If the prosecution knows that this witness is likely to lie," Bergstrom told the judge, "They've got a serious problem."

    And that problem was that Detective Walsh knew that Danny Gallagher's stories were "incredible," Bergstrom said. And without Danny Gallagher, Bergstrom said, "there is no case" against Msgr. Lynn.

    When it was his turn to speak, Assistant District Attorney Blessington told the judge that Bergstrom had misstated the facts of the case.

    Lynn was accused of endangering the welfare of a child, Blessington reminded the judge. By placing abusive priests back in service, Blessington said, the crime of child endangerment was committed before "Avery ever laid eyes on Danny Gallagher."

    Lynn knew as far back as 1992 that Ed Avery was abusive to children, Blessington said. At the clinic where Avery was evaluated, they told Lynn to keep Avery away from adolescents, Blessington said.

    "The crime is putting a time bomb out there," Blessington told the judge about Lynn's handling of Avery. "It doesn't have to go off." But in his next breath, Blessington contended that Gallagher had been "horribly abused."

    Blessington also pointed out that at Lynn's first trial, the defendant testified that he only knew of one child who had been abused by a priest under Lynn's supervision, and stated that victim was Danny Gallagher. Lynn also stated at the trial that he was sorry that Gallagher was abused, Blessington said.

    "His own client admitted it," Blessington yelled at Bergstrom. During today's hearing, Blessington conceded that he may have gotten too emotional about the Lynn case, which he prosecuted the first time. While he argued at today's hearing, the prosecutor's hands were shaking, and so were the papers he was holding.

    Lynn was found guilty at the first trial, Blessing told the judge, as were Engelhardt and Shero at a second sex abuse trial. Avery pleaded guilty. What more proof do you need that crimes were committed, Blessington argued.

    "It's crazy, Your Honor," Blessington told the judge.

    When it came to Detective Walsh, Blessington didn't dispute any of the facts as put forth by Bergstrom. Instead, Blessington argued that Walsh's opinion that Danny Gallagher wasn't credible was simply an opinion. 

    "So what" if the detective didn't believe Gallagher, Blessington said.

    "Sorry Joe," Blessington told Walsh, a former teammate who wasn't in the room. "Your opinion doesn't count."

    Evaluating a witness's credibility is the duty of jurors, Blessington said. And they found Lynn guilty, and they found Engelhardt and Shero guilty after they listened to the testimony of Danny Gallagher.

    About the evidence in the cases, "We turned everything over," Blessington argued. That's why the defense knows about the contradictions in Gallagher's stories.

    At the end of today's hearing, the judge told the lawyers in the case that hopefully by next week's hearing, she would have a decision on Bergstrom's motion to dismiss the case. As well as Bergstrom's motion to not admit any supplemental cases of sex abuse as evidence.

    The Msgr. Lynn Retrial: A Seth Williams Production
    At the hearing, Bergstrom argued that it would only take a week to retry the Lynn case, if the court only considered the alleged rape of Gallagher by Avery. But if the district attorney is allowed to present a dozen other crimes involving other people, Bergstrom said, the trial could take three or four weeks.

    It was Bergstrom's contention that admitting any other crime as evidence in the case, including Avery's guilty plea, would only serve to infer Lynn's guilt, as well as to bolster Gallagher's lack of credibility.

    The district attorney argued, however, that they want to include a dozen other abuse cases to show a pattern of behavior in the archdiocese, namely covering up abuse. And that the retrial of Lynn could take up to four to six weeks.

    God help us.

    The judge also has to rule on a motion by the defense to drag Gallagher's voluminous medical records into the case.

    0 0

    A scheduled hearing that may feature retired Detective Joseph Walsh testifying against former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen has been moved from 2 p.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Friday.

    At the hearing, Thomas A. Bergstrom, the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, is expected to ask Walsh about his investigation into the "Billy Doe" sex abuse case, and why he didn't believe that the former altar boy was telling the truth.

    According to Bergstrom, when Walsh told Assistant District Attorney Sorensen about his doubts, she replied, "You're hurting my case" and "You're damaging my case." But according to Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, Sorensen denied that she ever said that.

    The hearing will be held before Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright in Courtroom 1101 at the Criminal Justice Center on Friday the 13th, possibly a bad omen for Seth Williams and his self-described "historic" prosecution of the church.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    In a battle over whether two co-defendants of former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah are entitled to bail while they appeal their convictions, defense lawyers claim that the government is ignoring the testimony of five jurors in the case, as well as the improper actions of the trial judge in removing a dissident juror.

    The defense lawyers were responding to a brief filed Monday by the government that asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to deny bail motions for Fatttah codefendants Robert Brand and Karen Nicholas.

    Neither of the codefendants "present a substantial question that is likely to result in a reversal or new trial on any counts on which a sentence of imprisonment has been imposed," wrote Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric L. Gibson and Paul L. Gray, and trial attorney Jonathan Kravis.

    "There is no justification for granting either Brand or Nicholas bail during appeals," the prosecutors conclude. "Accordingly, the government respectfully submits that the appellants' motions for bail pending appeal should be denied."

    In their argument, the government stated that Judge Harvey Bartle III was responding to two notes from the jury foreman that alleged misconduct on the part of Juror No. 12, who was on the short end of eight straight 11-1 votes to convict.

    In the first note, the jury foreman charged that Juror No. 12 "refuses to vote by the letter of the law."

    "He has the 11 of us a total wrecking knowing that we are not getting anywhere in the hour of deliberation yesterday and the three hours today," the jury foreman wrote. "We have zero verdicts at this time all due to Juror No. 12 . . . Juror No. 12 has an agenda or ax to grind w/govt."

    A second note, written by the jury foreman and signed by eight other jurors, stated that Juror 12 "is argumentative, incapable of making decision" and "constantly scream[s] at all of us."

    While he investigated the jury foreman's complaints, the judge interviewed five jurors. The judge also called his deputy clerk as a witness. She testified that Juror 12 told her, "I'm going to hang this jury," and, "It's going to be 11 to 1 no matter what."

    When Judge Bartle asked Juror 12 if he was refusing to deliberate, he responded, "I'm not just going to say guilty because everybody wants me to, and if that hangs this jury, so be it."

    In response to the government's argument, lawyers for the codefendants Robert Brand and Karen Nicholas criticized the actions of the trial judge.

    "The government's response concerning the juror issue speaks volumes through what it does not say," wrote Ann Campbell Flannery on behalf of Karen Nicholas yesterday in a reply filed yesterday.

    "The government virtually ignores the five juror interviews, focusing instead on the notes that triggered the inquiry and the testimony concerning the comment made to the deputy clerk," Flannery wrote.

    "The juror interviews -- which were similarly ignored or contradicted by the trial court's findings -- raise ambiguity as to whether the root of the problem was, in fact, Juror 12's contrary view of the evidence on a particular count and the other jurors' impatience in wanting to move on with a unanimous verdict on that count, rather than a refusal on the part of Juror 12 to deliberate."

    "The juror interviews also create ambiguity as to the meaning of the juror's statement to the deputy clerk, since 'no matter what' was in the context of other jurors having written to the judge behind his back, complained about him to the court (complaints to which the court advised him), called him names, "pounced on him" after he cast a dissenting vote, etc.," Flannery wrote.

    Flannery criticized Judge Bartle for not instructing the jurors to listen to each another and reexamine their views before he "directly intervened" in the jury's deliberations after just four hours "with interviews and dismissal" of Juror 12.

    "The resounding (if unintended) message to the remaining jurors was that if someone dissented, the other jurors could obtain swift intervention and relief by complaining to the court," Flannery wrote. "The government completely falls to address this point."

    Her client, Karen Nicholas, was found guilty last June on six counts of a 29-count racketeering conspiracy indictment, and was sentenced by Judge Bartle to 24 months in jail. She is scheduled to report on Jan. 26th.

    Robert Brand was found guilty on two counts and sentenced by Judge Bartle to 30 months in jail. He is also scheduled to report to prison on Jan. 26th.

    Judge Bartle has previously denied bail motions for both Nicholas and Brand, as well as Fattah, whom he sentenced to 10 years in prison, and his scheduled to report Jan. 25th. Lawyers for Fattah have previously filed a motion for bail during his appeal.

    In their reply in support of Robert Brand's motion to continue bail pending appeal, lawyers Barry Gross, Meredith C. Slawe and Mira E. Baylson argue that the government did not address Judge
    Bartle's "unmethodical selection of only five jurors for in camera void dire, nor does it speak to the variations in questions asked of each of those jurors."

    "Instead, the government's opposition in no way way refutes Mr. Brand's contention that the process used to investigate and discharge Juror 12 presents a substantial issue for appeal," the lawyers wrote.

    The government, however, contended that Judge Bartle's decision to question jurors and then remove Juror 12 for failing to deliberate was "fully consistant with well-established Third Circuit precedent."

    The judge was investigating allegations of juror misconduct, the government lawyers said. And that  Judge Bartle's decision to question jurors in the case was "further supported by the second note, signed by nine different jurors, alleging that Juror 12 was screaming at them and impeding deliberations."

    The judge also wasn't required to "reinstruct the jury once [he] made a finding of juror misconduct," the government lawyers argued.

    0 0

    Davis and friend
    By Ralph Cipriano

    He may have lost a bail motion today, but former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah still has one long shot left to stay out of jail -- a request for a presidential pardon from Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton.

    In a Jan. 1 letter to President Obama,  Davis and Dr. Therman E. Evans, a New Jersey doctor and pastor, ask the president to pardon Fattah before leaving office later this month.

    "We have known him for 30 years and know first-hand his unmatched contributions to improving the life chances of tens of millions of Americans," Davis and Evans wrote.

    Davis and Evans cite three key issues that they argue make Fattah a worthy candidate for a presidential pardon -- "the presiding judge exhibited a clear prejudice, there was documented misconduct by the prosecutors, and there are major evidence gaps in the case."

    "In the midst of the jury's deliberating, the judge inappropriately dismissed a juror," Davis and Evans wrote, referring the president to a Big Trial blog post, "Will 12th Juror Flap Keep Chaka Out of Jail."

    Davis and Evans also say that Judge Harvey Bartle's recent decision to deny bail to Fattah and his co-defendants is out of step with rulings around the country in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn the political corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. In the case, the Supreme Court redefined the definition of bribery in a political corruption case, as well as what constitutes an official act by an elected official.

    In a brief one-page ruling today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied without explanation appeals for bail from Fattah and two co-defendants, Robert Brand and Karen Nicholas.

    In their letter seeking a pardon, Davis and Evans also cite Judge Bartle's decision to deny a motion to enter into evidence the mental health records of Thomas Lindenfeld, the government's star cooperating witness.

    The request for a presidential pardon may be the equivalent of a Hail Mary. But under Obama in 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder submitted a motion to vacate the conviction of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska because of prosecutorial conduct.

    While Lanny Davis was special counsel to former President Clinton, Clinton commuted the sentence of former U.S. Congressman Dan Rostenkowski from Illinois. So if you're a Fattah supporter, there is some reason for hope.

    In their letter to Obama, Davis and Evans remind the president that he had a minor role in the Fattah case.

    "Even though much had been made about it, at trial the Prosecution failed in its attempts to provide any confirmation by any witnesses that a letter was hand-delivered to you, Mr. President, for an ambassadorship for a family friend," Davis and Evans wrote, referring to an ambassadorship Fattah had sought on behalf of co-defendant Herb Vederman. In the wake of the McDonnell case, Fattah's lawyers have contended that the congressman's letter to the president advocating the appointment of Vederman to an unpaid ambassadorship did not constitute an official act.

    Evans and Davis also accused the government of prosecutorial misconduct during the Fattah trial:

    "Months before the Congressman's trial, the Prosecutors at sidebar, in another case, but before the same Judge, made statements which alleged bad acts and illegal activity by the Congressman," Evans and Davis wrote. "The prosecutors knew without a shadow of doubt that the statements were undeniably false."

    "The lead FBI agent has admitted to violating federal law in leaking false information to the press involving the Congressman and his son years before the indictment."

    "In conclusion, Congressman Fattah has made extraordinary contributions to this country," Evans and Davis wrote.

    "His GEARUP program has helped millions of young people go on to college," Evans and Davis wrote. "His mortgage relief plan (included in Dodd Frank) has kept millions of people in their homes. His urban jobs bill has made possible real life chances for opportunity youth. His support for the development of the commercial space industry and your own acknowledgment of his work on neuroscience are part of a proud legacy of decades of public service."

    "Under the circumstances, we, along with many others would hope that you would take action to address this injustice and we respectfully request your favorable consideration," Davis and Evans concluded.

    Fattah, sentenced to ten years in prison by Judge Bartle, is scheduled to report on Jan. 25th.

    0 0
  • 01/13/17--14:59: "You're Killing My Case"
  • By Ralph Cipriano

    On the witness stand today, retired Detective Joe Walsh detailed numerous inconsistencies in the many contrary stories told by Danny Gallagher, the former altar boy who claimed he was raped by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher.

    And when Walsh told Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen about those inconsistencies, her reply, according to Walsh was, "You're killing my case."

    At the end of a nearly three-hour pre-trial hearing today, Thomas A. Bergstrom, a lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, stood before the judge and asserted what Sorensen should have done when faced with all those inconsistencies: confront Gallagher and find out what was the truth.

    But Sorensen, who was not called by the District Attorney as a witness to refute Detective Walsh, never did confront Danny Gallagher, Bergstrom told the judge. Why? Because, Bergstrom said, Sorensen had to know, "That the kid's a liar."

    The hearing in Common Pleas Court today was held before Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright. She was trying to decide whether to grant a motion by Bergstrom to dismiss the retrial of Msgr. Lynn, scheduled to begin in May, because of Bergstrom's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

    The judge, who spent much of her time in the back room today trying to referee a grudge match between Bergstrom and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, gave the attorneys in the case deadlines for filing briefs before she would rule on the motion to dismiss on Feb. 27th.

    Bergstrom and Blessington were adversaries in 2012, at the first trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, the verdict of which has since been overturned. At that first trial, a jury convicted Lynn on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child, Danny Gallagher, by allowing Father Edward V. Avery to return to ministry. It was Avery who was accused of sexually assaulting Danny Gallagher after a funeral Mass.

    It was a strange sight today to see retired Detective Walsh testifying on behalf of the defense. Walsh, who wore jeans, sneakers and had a pair of sunglasses tucked into the collar of his green sweater, was the district attorney's lead detective in the investigation into Gallagher's sensational allegations of sex abuse.

    At the 2012 trial, Walsh, usually wearing a suit and tie, spent day after day, week after week, reading grim accounts of past cases of sexual abuse by priests into the record, to show a pattern in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of covering up that abuse.

    Walsh, as many lawyers would tell you, is a witness straight out of central casting. He's got the square jaw, the swept-back white hair, and a just-the-facts manner that's accompanied by plenty of charm, and an easy smile. In short, if there is a retrial of Msgr. Lynn, Walsh on the witness stand testifying on behalf of the defense is going to be a problem for the district attorney. He's that credible.

    When he was telling Sorensen about the problems in her case, Walsh said, she replied, "I believe him, I believe him," meaning she was putting her faith in Danny Gallagher's crazy and wildly conflicting stories/fables.

    When ADA Sorensen told him she was killing her case, Walsh said he told her he was just asking questions and writing down what people told him.

    Instead of running with Gallagher's wild stories, Walsh said he told Sorensen, "I'm getting the truth."

    But Sorensen didn't want to hear it. The truth, Walsh said, was killing her case.

    Asked on cross-examination by Blessington if he ever put that alleged remark by Sorensen into writing, Walsh replied, "No, sir."

    The other bizarre element to today's hearing was that Bergstrom repeatedly attempted to enter the prosecution's own records into evidence, to demonstrate the many inconsistencies in Danny Gallagher's stories. And Blessington kept strenuously objecting to keep those same documents from being admitted as evidence.

    The height of this absurdity occurred when Blessington successfully convinced the judge to keep the D.A.'s 2011 grand jury report out of evidence. One of the reasons Bergstrom may have wanted to use that grand jury report written by Sorensen was to show the many errors in it, as more evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.

    Such as when Danny Gallagher's mother, a registered nurse, told the grand jury that she noticed a drastic personality change in her son at age 14, when he entered high school. But when Sorensen wrote the grand jury report, the mother's testimony was changed to say that the drastic personality change "coincided with the abuse," which supposedly happened when Gallagher was 10 and 11 years old and back in grade school.

    How was Sorensen going to explain that rewrite? But Bergstrom never got the chance to ask because the judge excluded the grand jury report as evidence, at the request of our unscrupulous district attorney, and Sorensen wasn't called as witness. Even though Blessington had previously told the judge that Sorensen denied Walsh's claim that she said he was damaging her case.

    Maybe Sorensen wasn't called as a witness because she was going to plead the Fifth Amendment.

    But at the hearing, Bergstrom was able to get into the record before Judge Bright the curious time line of the Danny Gallagher case. It goes like this:

    -- Gallagher, who first came forward in 2009 with his incredible allegations of abuse, testified before a grand jury in 2010. On Jan. 21, 2011, the 2011 grand jury report was issued, based completely on the totally unverified stories told by Danny Gallagher and another since-discredited alleged victim, Mark Bukowski. A month later, the five defendants in the case, led by Msgr. Lynn, were arrested based on those completely unverified allegations in the grand jury report, as rewritten by master fiction writer Mariana Sorensen.

    -- In December 2011, nearly a year after the grand jury report was issued, Detective Walsh, at the request of former First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann, was hired to conduct the investigation into Gallagher's claims. It was Detective Walsh who interviewed Gallagher's mother, and older brother [also an altar boy at the same parish], as well as the teachers and priests at St. Jerome's. And what did Walsh discover? That every witness statement he took, including the ones from Gallagher's own family members, contradicted Danny Gallagher's wild and crazy stories.

    The judge at times seemed confused by the simple truth of the time line. Under District Attorney Seth Williams, the modus operandi when prosecuting the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was to first publish completely unverified allegations in the grand jury report. Then, a month later, arrest the district attorney, with the full cooperation of the news media, hung those defendants out to try publicly, while Danny Gallagher was allowed to hide under the moniker "Billy Doe."

    Nearly a year later, after the D.A. finally got around to investigating those allegations, the lead detective suddenly discovered that none of those allegations were true. That's why, Bergstrom insisted to the judge, that ADA Mariana Sorensen told Detective Walsh, "You're killing my case."

    "She had the case locked up," Bergstrom told the judge. "But the good detective unlocked it."

    In court today, Bergstrom dwelled on two simple story lines that showed that Danny Gallagher was a complete liar. First, Danny Gallagher claimed that he was assaulted by Father Charles Engelhardt after an early morning Mass, which Gallagher stated was at 6:30 a.m.

    Gallagher, of course, got the time of the early morning weekday Mass wrong at St. Jerome's, in Northeast Philly. It was held at 6:15 a.m., followed by an 8 a.m. Mass.

    Gallagher first told a drug counselor, and then two archdiocese social workers, the same wild story, that he was allegedly taken hostage by Father Engelhardt and savagely abused in an anal ramming attack that went on for four or five hours in the sacristy of the tiny church. After he was done raping the boy, the priest allegedly threatened that if Gallagher told anybody, he would kill him.

    But every month at St. Jerome's, Detective Walsh explained, the pastor put out a Mass schedule. And every month, Gallagher's mother would take the schedule home and write on her calendar, which she kept on the fridge in her kitchen, the dates of the Masses that Danny and his older brother, James, also an altar boy at the same church, were scheduled to serve at.

    But, Detective Walsh told the judge, the mother's meticulous calendars showed that during the 1998-99 school year, when Gallagher claimed he was raped as a fifth-grader, Danny Gallagher wasn't scheduled to serve at any 6:15 a.m. Masses. But his brother did serve at one early morning Mass, with Father Avery.

    Lost in the flow of today's hearing was the fact that Gallagher completely backed off the wild stories of violent abuse, punches, kicks and death threats, and supposedly being tied up in bondage, that he had first told his drug counselor and two social workers from the archdiocese. Before he invented a completely different story line.

    Gallagher explained away his early wild stories by telling Walsh that he was high on drugs when he talked to his drug counselor, and when he talked to the two social workers. But Walsh knew from his investigation that the drug counselor said that Danny Gallagher was sober when he told him his stories of alleged abuse. And Walsh knew that when Gallagher talked to the two archdiocese social workers, and told them the same wild stories, just minutes earlier, he had been chauffeured home from a drug clinic by his father the police sergeant.

    Where did he find the time and the drugs to get high, Walsh said he asked Danny Gallagher. Gallagher, Walsh said, had no answer.

    Walsh alluded to many other factual contradictions in Gallagher's stories. Gallagher claimed that Father Engelhardt accosted him after the 6:15 a.m. Mass when he was putting away the sacramental wine. But Gallagher's older brother told Detective Walsh that it was another church officer, the sexton, who put away the sacramental wine. And that the sexton was the last to leave the church, after he locked it up. Which would have meant that it was impossible for Danny Gallagher to be alone with Father Engelhardt after the 6:15 Mass, which only lasted about 25 minutes.

    "There were just so many inconsistencies," Walsh told the judge.

    Not to mention what happened to the 8 a.m. Mass? Was it cancelled because an elderly priest was busy anally raping a 10-year-old altar boy behind the locked doors of the sacristy? While people who showed up early for the 8 a.m. Mass in the tiny church were busy saying the Rosary.

    Didn't they hear Danny Gallagher's cries for help? Gallagher's cockamamie story made no sense, Walsh told the judge.

    Danny Gallagher also told Detective Walsh that when he was attacked after Mass, he had walked to and from the church. But Walsh said that Gallagher's older brother told him that whenever he served Mass, his parents would drive him and his brother to and from the church, even though they lived less than a mile away.

    "They were good parents," Walsh said.

    Walsh also told a story about two textbooks on sex abuse that Danny Gallagher kept under his bed. In the 2011 grand jury report, Sorensen wrote that Gallagher was self-diagnosing by reading those books, supposedly trying to come to terms with his own abuse.

    But according to Detective Walsh, when Danny Gallagher saw the books on Walsh's desk, "He pointed at it" and said, "that's where I used to crush my pills and get high." Gallagher then pointed out to Walsh numerous indentations in the hard covers of the two textbooks.

    The other simple story line highlighted by Bergstrom: Danny Gallagher claimed that a second assailant, Father Avery, accosted him after school while he was a member of a maintenance crew during fifth grade, helping to put away the bells and some heavy 7-foot tables used during a bell choir concert.

    But, Detective Walsh told the judge, three teachers at St. Jerome's, including the bell choir's longtime music director, told him that only eigth-grade boys were allowed to serve on the bell choir maintenance crew, because they were generally the "biggest and strongest" kids at the school. So they could set up the heavy bronze bells and seven-foot tables before the concert.

    The maintenance crew, however, only set up equipment for the bell choir concerts, Walsh told the judge. Then. they went home. After the concerts, which lasted no more than an hour, the members of the bell choir, which included two teachers, put away the bells and tables, Walsh said. Not Danny Gallagher, who was a member of the maintenance crew when he was an eighth-grader, but not a fifth-grader, his former teachers told Walsh.

    Based on those two simple stories, Bergstrom told the judge, if Danny Gallagher never served at a 6:15 a.m. Mass and he never served as a fifth-grader member of the bell choir maintenance crew, "These men should have never been convicted," Bergstrom said about the defendants in the case.

    "Neither of these things are true," Bergstrom said. "It's that simple."

    A month before the first trial of Msgr. Lynn, Walsh said he sat down with Danny Gallagher to prepare the D.A.'s star witness for trial.

    "There were a lot of discrepancies," Walsh told the judge. "I was going to iron out the discrepancies."

    But, Walsh said, when he confronted Gallagher about the many discrepancies in his stories, "He just put his head down" and said nothing. Or claimed he was high on drugs.

    When Gallagher refused to respond, Walsh said he pointed out that during a trial, a judge would compel Gallagher to answer those questions.

    "You can't just sit there and not answer those questions," Walsh said he told Gallagher. But, Walsh said, "he would stare at the table" and say nothing.

    "He wouldn't answer," Walsh said about Danny Gallagher. "He would clam up and put his head down."

    At the end of today's hearing, Bergstrom told the judge that the prosecution should have informed defense lawyers about Gallagher's non-responsive answers in response to Detective Walsh's repeated questioning. As well as Mariana Sorensen's alleged response to the factual discrepancies in Gallagher's stories, namely, "You're killing my case."

    The judge now has a month to mull over whether to respond to Bergstrom's motion by throwing out the D.A.'s case against Msgr. Lynn.

    0 0

    By George Anastasia

    Nicodemo D. “Little Nicky” Scarfo, who ruled the Philadelphia mob in the 1980s with a temperament and philosophy more suited to the 1920s, has died in a federal prison medical facility in Butner, NC, according to underworld sources.

    Prison officials could not be reached to confirm the report which began circulating in South Philadelphia this morning. Scarfo had been an inmate at the medical facility for more than a year. Cause of death, which reportedly occurred on Friday, could not be determined, but sources said he had been plagued with several medical problems.

    Scarfo, 87, was serving a 55-year sentence on racketeering and murder charges. He was convicted in 1988 along with 16 co-defendants, most of them made members of his notorious crime family. The prosecution, which included charges of murder, attempted murder and extortion, brought down his organization and signaled the end of his eight-year reign as Philadelphia crime kingpin.

    Based in Atlantic City, where he had been banished in 1963, Scarfo took over the Philadelphia crime family in 1981 following the nail bomb murder of mob boss Philip “Chicken Man” Testa.

    Testa became boss after the 1980 shotgun slaying of longtime Philadelphia Mafia don Angelo Bruno who was shot and killed as he sat in his car in front of his South Philadelphia home on a rainy Friday night in March 1980.

    Bruno’s murder ended two decades of relative tranquility in the local underworld and set off an internecine power struggle that lasted for nearly two decades. Scarfo was a Testa ally and his consigliere. After becoming boss he set about avenging Testa murder by ordering the deaths of several individuals suspected to being behind the bombing.
    The contrast between Bruno and Scarfo was stark. Bruno was a low-key Mafia boss who used murder as a negotiating tool of last resort. For the volatile Scarfo, murder was a calling card.

    During the Scarfo era, nearly 25 mob members and associates were killed, most on orders of the diminutive, five-foot-three mob boss. In addition, nearly two dozen more mob members and associates were indicted and jailed as a result of his bungling leadership. The murders wiped out a generation of potential leaders and federal prosecutions, fueled in large part by the turncoat testimony of mobsters who sought government protection after falling out of favor with the violent Scarfo, took care of the rest.

    The result was a crime family that was just a shell of the highly efficient, low-key organization that Bruno once ran.

    Two key witnesses in the 1988 trial were admitted hitmen Thomas “Tommy Del” DelGiorno and Nicholas “Nicky Crow” Caramandi. Their testimony opened the flood gates and for a time Philadelphia had the unique underworld distinction of providing more cooperating witnesses per capita than any other Mafia family in America.

    “It’s the South Philadelphia boys’ choir,” one law enforcement official quipped at the time.

    Following the 1988 trial, two other close Scarfo associates, facing lengthy prison time, agreed to cooperate. Lawrence “Yogi” Merlino, a capo and a member of the Merlino family that had fallen out of favor with Scarfo prior to the trial, cut a deal after he was convicted.

    Most embarrassing to Scarfo, however, was the defection of his nephew and underboss, Philip Leonetti. Leonetti, a highly effective government witness who testified at several trials up and down the East Coast, had his 45-year prison sentence reduced to five years, five months and five days as a result of his cooperation.

    He is now living in another part of the country in the Witness Security Program with a new identify and a successful business career. He co-authored a book, “Mafia Prince,” in which he described his uncle as a satanic despot who ruined his life and the lives of many others.

    Scarfo’s twisted legacy extended beyond his crime family and impacted all three of his sons.

    His youngest, Mark, attempted to commit suicide during his father’s racketeering trial  in 1988. The then teenager remained in a comatose state for nearly 25 years. He died two years ago.

    Scarfo’s oldest son, Chris, assumed his wife’s maiden name in an attempt to avoid the infamy associated with his father’s reputation.

    Scarfo’s namesake and middle son, Nicodemo, was convicted three times on mob-related gambling and fraud charges. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence.  He was the target of a failed mob hit in 1989 at Dante&Luigi’s Restaurant, surviving a shooting in which he was hit six times. None of the bullets struck a vital organ.

    The shooting, according to investigators, stemmed from the elder Scarfo’s attempt to continue to run his crime family from prison by using his son as a proxy.

    George Anastasia can be reached at

    0 0
    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    A lawsuit filed in Chicago by a former employee of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests [SNAP] alleges that the nonprofit's top officials routinely accepted kickbacks from plaintiff's lawyers, as well as colluded with those lawyers to maximize negative publicity against the Catholic Church.

    The explosive lawsuit was filed on Jan. 17th by Gretchen Rachel Hammond, a former director of development for SNAP. In the lawsuit, Hammond's lawyers claim she was fired in a "retaliatory discharge" before she could report SNAP's kickback scheme to the government. The story of the lawsuit was broken on Jan. 18th by the National Catholic Reporter.

    In Philadelphia, SNAP has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of Danny Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," the credibility-challenged former altar boy who claimed he was raped by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher. SNAP also has urged District Attorney Seth Williams to continue to prosecute Msgr. William J. Lynn, now facing a retrial on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, Gallagher. Even though Lynn has already served 33 months of his 36-month minimum sentence, plus 18 months of house arrest.

    SNAP also has been closely associated with Mariana Sorensen, a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney who was the author of an error-filled 2011 grand jury report that called for the arrests of Lynn, three other priests and a former Catholic schoolteacher.

    In the past, Sorensen, while working as an assistant district attorney, has  served as a member of SNAP's board of directors.

    Sorensen and SNAP have also been outspoken advocates of extending the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, so that alleged victims of sex abuse can file more civil lawsuits against the Church.

    In 2007, Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University law professor and SNAP advocate, convened a conference in New York City, "Call To Action," to promote legislative efforts in states around the country to lift statutes of limitations regarding victims of sex abuse.

    Hamilton introduced Sorensen at the conference by saying she was a member of "by far the best D.A.'s office in the country."

    It was Sorensen, however, who, according to the testimony of Detective Joseph Walsh last week, was not swayed when Walsh told her about numerous inconsistencies in Danny Gallagher's stories of abuse; inconsistencies that Gallagher had no explanation for when repeatedly confronted by Walsh.

    "You're killing my case" is what Walsh quoted Sorensen as telling him.

    In the Chicago lawsuit, Hammond said that when she was hired by SNAP in 2011, she "was deeply excited to apply her  professional experience in non-profit fundraising to the noble endeavor of helping victims who had suffered sexual assaults at the hands of trusted clergy members."

    But Hammond discovered that "SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors," the lawsuit says. Instead, "it exploits them." The nonprofit "routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of 'donations,'" said the lawsuit filed by Bruce. C. Howard and Richard S. Wilson of Chicago.

    "In exchange for kickbacks, SNAP refers surveyors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church," the suit says. "These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payment from survivors' settlements."

    There is a gravy train that benefits the few sex abuse victims whose claims fall within the statute of limitations.

    Danny Gallagher collected $5 million from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a civil settlement for his alleged pain and suffering. When asked on the witness stand during a criminal trial who hooked him up with his civil lawyer, Gallagher said under oath that the D.A.'s office did it.

    In the Chicago case, "SNAP also regularly communicates with attorneys about their lawsuits on behalf of survivors, receiving drafts of pleadings and other privileged information," the lawsuit says. "The attorneys and SNAP work together in developing the legal theories and strategies of survivors' lawsuits. Attorneys and SNAP base their strategy not on the best interests of the survivor, but on what will generate the most publicity and fundraising opportunities for SNAP."

    "When plaintiff discovered that SNAP was colluding with survivors' attorneys, she confronted her superiors to report her discover,y" the lawsuit says. "In return, SNAP began taking retaliatory actions against Plaintiff, which resulted in Plaintiff suffering from stress and depression that manifested in health problems."

    SNAP ultimately fired Hammond in 2013. The lawsuit claimed that SNAP's "betrayal of its mission and harsh treatment" of Hammond has "robbed" her of the "joy she once held for her chosen profession in non-profit fundraising."

    Hammond's lawsuit cites Barbara Blaine, SNAP's founder and president, David Clohessy, SNAP executive director, and Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director. Those officials declined comment to National Catholic Reporter, saying they hadn't had an opportunity yet to read the lawsuit.

    SNAP has 50 regional chapters around the country, including one in Philadelphia. While the nonprofit purports to help victims of sex abuse, "In reality, SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors' and officers' personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church," the lawsuit says.

    "SNAP's commercial operation is premised upon farming out abuse survivors as clients for attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors and collect settlement checks from the Catholic Church," the lawsuit states. "In return for client referrals, attorneys reward SNAP with financial kickbacks in the form of donations."

    "SNAP then manipulates and exploits media publicity surrounding survivors' lawsuits against the church to raise its own public and drive fundraising efforts," the lawsuit says. While seeking litigation against the church, "SNAP callously disregards the real interests of survivors, using them instead as props and tools in furtherance of SNAP's own commercial fundraising goals."

    "Instead of recommending that survivors pursue what is in their best personal, emotional and financial interests, SNAP pressures survivors to pursue costly and stressful litigation against the Catholic Church, all in order to further SNAP's own publicity and fundraising interests."

    In Philadelphia, Clohessy called on Seth Williams last August to retry Msgr. Lynn, after his original conviction on one count of child endangerment was overturned for the second time by an appeals court.

    "The impending freedom of William Lynn will no doubt feel like yet another blow to hundreds of wounded Philly-area abuse victims  and thousands of betrayed Philly-area Catholics," Clohessy wrote. "No matter how uphill it might seem, we hope prosecutors seek a new trial."

    Clohessy urged the D.A. to "vigorously [pursue] those who act recklessly, callously and deceitfully with kids' safety."

    But Hammond's lawsuit accuses Clohessy and SNAP of exploring abuse victims.

    While SNAP exists to provide support to survivors of clergy abuse, the nonprofit "did not have a single grief counselor or rape counselor on its payroll," the lawsuit says.

    In the lawsuit, Hammond said she "routinely received telephone calls at work from distressed survivors." But that Hammond had to inform those survivors that she "was a fundraiser, not a counselor," and then listen as survivors "confided to her about their trauma."

    Hammond said in her lawsuit that when she told Dorris about her problem, Dorris allegedly told Hammond "to simply not answer phone calls from survivors seeking assistance and counseling."

    The lawsuit also alleges that SNAP used funds raised by Hammond "to pay of lavish hotels and other extravagant travel expenses for its leadership." The lawsuit also alleges that SNAP spent $35,000 on legal fees to to defend its leaders against a Missouri trial judge's order to produce documents connected to a violation of the judge's gag order. The case involved a Kansas City priest accused of sexual abuse.

    The lawsuit offers as proof of SNAP's animus against the church an email Clohessy sent to an abuse survivor recommending that the victim pursue a claim in bankruptcy proceedings against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

    Every nickel "they don't have" is a nickel "that they can't spend on defense lawyers, PR staff, gay-bashing, women-hating, contraceptive-battling, etc," Clohessy is quoted as writing in the email.

    The lawsuit provides details on how financially dependent SNAP is on contributions from lawyers who sue the church on behalf of abuse victims.

    The lawsuit says that of $439,577 in total contributions raised by SNAP in 2003, 54 percent came from lawyers who represented sex abuse victims. In 2003, just one Minnesota lawyer who represented sex abuse victims, donated $179,100 to SNAP, 40 percent of the nonprofit's total contributions for the year.

    In 2007, the lawsuit says, more than 81 percent of the $437,407 SNAP received in contributions came from lawyers, including $167,716 from that same Minnesota lawyer. In 2008, the same lawyer donated $415,140 to SNAP, which amount to 51 percent of the nonprofit's annual contributions that year.

    Besides finances, SNAP also relies on plaintiff's lawyers to provide grist for negative publicity against the church.

    "Attorneys would often provide" top SNAP officials with "drafts of complaints and other pleadings prior to filing, along with other privileged information," the lawsuit says. "SNAP would use those drafts to generate sensational press releases on the survivors' lawsuits. SNAP would then issue the press releases to media outlets and schedule a press conference on the day a survivor's lawsuit was filed."

    "SNAP and survivors' attorneys would often base their case filing strategy on what would generate the most publicity for SNAP -- instead of the the best interests of the survivors," the lawsuit says.

    The lawsuits states that in November 2012, Clohessy solicited a lawyer on behalf of a victim to file a lawsuit against the church. In that email, Clohessy "asked the attorney when SNAP could expect a donation."

    SNAP believed that Hammond, who worked at SNAP from 2011 to 2013, was "planning on reporting SNAP's acceptance of kickbacks to government authorities," the lawsuit states. And that's why they retaliated by mistreating her, before firing her.

    The lawsuits states that in a deposition, Clohessy was asked if SNAP to his knowledge had ever issued a press release that contained "false information?"

    His reply, according to the lawsuit, was: "Sure."

    0 0

    By George Anastasia

    Based on the "standards" set for corruption in Pennsylvania's First Senate District, the case against Larry Farnese seems penny ante at best.

    Nevertheless, the 48-year-old South Philadelphia state senator begins the fight for his political life today, trying to refute the charge that he donated $6,000 in campaign funds to a college in order to convince a committeewoman to vote for him in a ward leader election that he won unanimously.

    Say what?

    Jury selection began today before U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Rufe. The trial is expected to last about a week.

    Farnese holds the same senate seat that once belong to Henry J. (Buddy) Cianfrani, the quintessential political wheeler-dealer who was convicted of padding his senate payroll with ghost employees. After Buddy there was Vincent Fumo whose political career ended when he was buried under a 137-count corruption conviction built around allegations of influence peddling and millions of dollars in misspent or misdirected cash.

    Now a jury will decided whether a college donation to fund a study abroad program for the daughter of a committeewoman will send another first district senator to jail.

    Farnese and committeewoman Ellen Chapman, 62, are charged with conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. Prosecutors allege that Chapman had originally intended to support someone else in the 2011 ward leader election but switched her support o Farnese after he made the donation.

    Most of the facts in the case are not in dispute. What is at issue is the motive.

    If a jury decides, as the government contends, that Farnese and Chapman agreed to a quid-pro-quo  -- if, in fact, she agreed to support Farnese if he made the donation -- then legally it doesn't matter that he was elected unanimously by the 30 ward committee members. The fact that he didn't need her vote doesn't matter. The fact, as it has been suggested, that she didn't even cast a ballot in that election, is immaterial.

    Farnese has denied the allegations laid out in the indictment. His lawyer, Mark B. Sheppard, has argued that the feds have no business getting involved in what was an internal matter involving the Eighth Ward Democratic Party organization. (The ward covers Center City, a big chunk of South Philadelphia and extends north to Port Richmond and Brewerytown.)

    Sheppard contends that the government has literally made a federal case out of internal ward poltics, that the issues do not rise to the level of corruption, and that prosecutors have no jurisdiction.

    To some observers it is another example of government overreach, of federal prosecutors losing sight of their missioin, of investigators turning an impartial search for the truth into a crusade to win political convictions. Another recent example played out in the same federal courthouse last year where Dominic Verdi, the former Deputy Commissioner for Licenses and Inspection was found not guilty of a series of criminal charges built on a flimsy house of cards that a jury quickly dismantled.

    Sheppard is expected to urge the jury to use its common sense, to apply a standard that includes more than just the letter of the law, to look at the facts and the circumstances and the arena in which all of it played out.

    This was ward politics, not government. This was and is the way the system functions.

    But will a jury see it that way?

    Prosecutors say it is their duty to investigate bribery and fraud wherever they find it.

    Part of the interesting back story in the case is how and why federal authorities began looking at the ward leader election. Whether any of that comes out at trial is an interesting question. If ward politics is the issue, then the motives of everyone involved -- including anyone who brought the allegations of wrongdoing to the attention of authorities -- is certainly relevant.

    In a pretrial motion seeking to have the charges dismissed, Sheppard argued that prosecutors had overstepped their authority and had criminalized what many consider routine ward politics. Sheppard argued that there was no bribe, but that even if there had been, the federal government had "no business" getting involved. At best, he contended, this was an issue for state election law and code enforcement.

    Judge Rufe denied that motion, indicating that was an issue for the jury to decide.

    With the indictment hanging over his head, Farnese was elected to a third four-year senate term in November. Voters apparently didn't find the charges reason enough to turn him out of office.

    Now he hopes a federal jury feels the same way.

    The late Buddy Cianfrani left the state senate and served 27 months in federal prison after he was convicted. He then returned to South Philadelphia.

    And got right back into ward politics.

    George Anastasia can be reached at

    0 0

    By John Ziegler

    Like most readers of this website, I have been following with great interest the tremendous work by Ralph Cipriano exposing the obvious injustice done in one of the major sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church of Philadelphia. I recently interviewed Cipriano for my podcast and wrote about the “Billy Doe” case for Dan Abrams’ “LawNewz” website.

    The complete lack of follow up on the most recent bombshells in the story by the news media has been outrageous, however, sadly, it has also not been at all surprising to me. You see, for over five years now I have effectively been living the same experience as Ralph during my investigation of the so-called “Penn State Scandal” (to be clear, I have no connection to the school and now actually have disdain for the university for how it has actively promoted a horrendous lie in this matter).  

    These two stories have an enormous number of elements in common. One of the most important is that the news media is so completely invested in their original narrative that they can’t bring themselves to even seriously consider that they completely blew each of the cases, even as the evidence piles up that it is obvious that they did.

    Based on my extensive experience reporting on the “Penn State” case, I strongly believe that it greatly mirrors the “Billy Doe”/Monsignor Lynn injustice, only it has been effectively injected with figurative steroids because it provoked the firing (and then death) of legendary football coach Joe Paterno. There are also several direct connections between the two cases, including the fact that the Philadelphia lawyer for the accuser “Billy Doe” [Danny Gallagher] also made many millions by representing twelve Sandusky accusers, including the first and most important “victim,” Aaron Fisher.

    The two cases are also importantly linked in the (barely) subconscious way in which the prosecution, news media, and much of the public, perceived how they happened. There is zero doubt in my mind that had the Catholic Church scandal not exploded exactly when it did, and been such a big story in Pennsylvania, that there never would have been a “Penn State Scandal.”

    Because of the Catholic Church abuse cases were still fresh in everyone’s mind when the Sandusky allegations first surfaced in late 2008, before breaking nationally in in November of 2011, it was incredibly easy for “Penn State” to be seen as a sick “sequel,” with all of the casting practically ready-made. Joe Paterno (an Italian Catholic) was the Pope, Sandusky was the pedophile priest, the Penn State administrators were the Cardinals orchestrating the cover-up, and the fanatical Penn State football fans were the parishioners who didn’t want to hear about anything which might negatively impact their sacred religion.

    In some ways, these presumptions made sense. However, in this situation they led everyone to a massive rush to judgement which, driven by emotion and not facts/logic, has created a never-ending domino effect of catastrophic injustice.

    I fully realize that to people who have only followed the headlines for the past five-plus years they must think that any claim that the “Penn State” case is a myth has to be based in some level of insanity. However, what I have learned that this whole case is the personification of the “Big Lie” theory where the larger the deception, if told over and over, the more likely it is to be believed.

    The most amazing thing about this injustice is that it isn’t even a remotely close call and I am absolutely certain that my assessment (which I came to rather slowly, and only after enormous investigation) is correct. I am hardly the only person to have come to this conclusion, I’m just the only one stupid enough to express it loudly in public so that I can endure the wrath of people who know basically nothing about the facts.

    To be very clear, I am NOT a conspiracy theorist. In fact, I despise conspiracy theories. Ironically, the prosecution and the news media are the ones who in the Penn State story believe in a massive, nonsensical, and completely contradictory conspiracy for which there is literally no evidence (when, after eight years of investigation and scrutiny, there should be tons of it).

    Here are just some of the questions that those who claim Paterno and Penn State covered up for Sandusky’s crimes simply can’t come close to answering:

    If this was a cover-up, why didn’t any of the three previously-respected administrators, despite enormous pressure, flip on each other? Why have most of the major charges against them been dropped? And why have they still not even faced a trial all this time later?

    Why was Mike McQueary, a lowly graduate assistant at the time of his report to Paterno, not rewarded with the wide receiver’s coaching job on the staff, which had just opened up only three days before he decided to meet with the head coach (and which he would end up getting three long years later)? Why did he not remotely allege being part of a cover up in his lawsuit against Penn State? How can you have a cover up which doesn’t remotely include/reward the only witness?

    How was the top secret government security clearance of former president Graham Spanier (who would have had to have at least approved any cover up) investigated thoroughly by the FBI after the scandal hit and found to be unquestionably worthy of that clearance being fully renewed?

    If Paterno was in on a long-time cover up of Sandusky (nonsensically after his assistant coach had already retired) why did he testify to a grand jury in a way which allowed that be perceived?  Why did he, after finding out that Sandusky was under a grand jury investigation (and thus the “cover up” was in the process of crumbling), invite book author Joe Posnanski to shadow him for the ensuing year? How does any of this make a bit of sense, or is it remotely consistent with him being a criminal mastermind?

    If Paterno knew, or even suspected, that Sandusky was a pedophile and forced his “retirement” in 1999 (a notion contradicted even by the extremely biased Freeh Report’s findings), then why would Sandusky EVER have been offered the head coaching job at Virginia at the end of 2000 after two very highly publicized interviews? There were many connections between the staffs at Penn State and Virginia (including Joe’s son Jay, who had been a graduate assistant at Virginia who was married to a UVA alum) and even a whiff of suspicion would have been easily communicated and prevented that from happening, but it was not, because there was none.

    If Paterno supposedly was told about Sandusky in the 1970s (as completely unsubstantiated, un-vetted, overtly absurd stories from Penn State’s Sandusky settlements claim) and kept it all to himself for nearly forty years, then why did he bother to immediately report Mike McQueary’s story to his administration in 2001 and voluntarily testify about it a decade later? The 1970s stories render the media’s current McQueary storyline impossibly insane, and yet they somehow want to accept that both narratives, despite their inherent contradictions, are somehow true, when in reality, neither one is.

    If the McQueary episode was so horrific, why did he misremember the date/month/year in which it happened? Why has no one (not even his own father) ever testified that what Mike told them at the time of the episode was worthy of being reported to police? Why did Mike email the Attorney General’s office after Sandusky’s arrest to say that his words in the leaked Grand Jury report were “twisted”? 

    Why did the only person who ever claimed to be the boy in the shower that night go on the record to say (empathically, as a married Marine) numerous times, including on the day Paterno was fired, that Sandusky was the greatest thing that ever happened to him and that McQueary was not telling the truth? Why did no one ever testify at trial to being the McQueary “victim,” despite it being probably the most publicized case of alleged child sex abuse in the history of the country, if not the world? 

    Why did the prosecution need to lie to the jury and tell them that the identity of this boy was “known only to God,” when they knew that someone had indeed claimed to be that person, but that they simply didn’t like their story?

    If Sandusky himself is so obviously guilty, why, despite no realistic hope of not dying in prison, has he always maintained his innocence (which is extremely rare in similar cases)? Why, when the prosecution theory of the case included him naming his book “Touched” because he wanted to get caught, has he (despite my own best efforts in prison, as guided by former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, to provoke it) never confessed?

    Why, despite years of exhaustive investigations has there never been even ONE shred of pornography connected to him (which is seemingly impossible in a case like this, especially while there has been pornography found in the email of the prosecutors and the investigators), or any other direct evidence of abuse?

     Why did not one trial accuser ever claim to have been sexually abused in their first version of their story? Why did not one trial accuser, all of whom appear to be heterosexual, ever claim that they were given money, drugs, or alcohol to ply their abuse, all of which allegedly occurred between 11-15 years old? 

    Why did not one accuser of any kind produce even the slightest bit of evidence that they ever told anyone at all about this before Penn State very publicly put $100 million on the table? Why have twelve people extremely close to “Victim 1” Aaron Fisher (the only accuser in the case for two years, and the only trial accuser to make himself known publicly) told me on the record, against their self-interest, that they don’t believe Fisher was abused by Sandusky?

    In many ways this case is far too complex to deal with adequately in one column. What I have discussed here is merely the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. The bottom line is that, just like with the “Billy Doe” case, what the general public has been told about the entire Penn State story is a myth. The truth is both far more inters"ting and, in some ways, even more disturbing.

    John Ziegler is a columnist for “Mediaite,” hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues, is documentary filmmaker and runs the website You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at

    0 0

    By George Anastasia

    It was a lesson in political pragmatism delivered by the defense attorney for beleagured State Senator Larry Farnese at the opening of Farnese' corruption trial.

    You don't pay a bribe with a check, lawyer Mark Sheppard told the U.S. District Court jury that will decide Farnese's fate, and you don't pay a bribe for one vote when you need 30.

    "This isn't how bribery is done," Sheppard said. "This isn't how criminals act."

    In a brief but pointed opening statement that outlined the defense strategy in the trial, Sheppard asked the jury to use "common sense" in evaluating the charges against his client and co-defendant Ellen Chapman, a Democratic Party ward committeewoman.

    The two are charged with conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud in what prosecutors said was a bribery scheme to insure Farnese's election as ward leader in Philadelphia's eighth ward back in 2011. Authorities allege that Farnese donated $6,000 from his campaign fund to help underwrite a study abroad program for Chapman's daughter. In turn, the prosecutors said, Chapman agreed to vote for Farnese in the ward election.

    "Senator Farnese paid a bribe in exchange for her vote," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis said in his opening to the jury this morning, later adding that Chapman willing sold her vote.

    That quid pro quo is at the heart of the government's case against Farnese, 48, and Chapman, 62. The trial, before Judge Cynthia Rufe, is expected to last about a week and will provide an inside look at the workings of ward politics.

    Few of the facts in the case are in dispute. But the defense has argued that the government misintrepreted and misconstrued the actions of both defendants.

    "This case will offend your sense of justice...your sense of right and wrong," Stuart Patchen, Chapman's lawyer, said in his initial remarks. Both Patchen and Sheppard argued that the ward vote and the financing for the study abroad program were two separate and unrelated issues.

    The government, on the other hand, says they were interwined and were the crux of what they contend was a quid pro quo "bribery scheme."

    The jury heard testimony this afternoon from FBI Agent Chad Speicher who handled the investigation. His testimony focused on a series of emails and phone calls during the alleged conspiracy.

    Two key witnesses in the case, Theodore Mucellin and Stephen Huntingdon, are expected to take the stand when the trial resumes Wednesday morning. Mucellin, who is testifying under a grant of immunity, is a political consultant who worked for Farnese and who, the government contends, took part in the conspiracy by helping to expedite the loan-for-vote scheme.

    Huntingdon is a ward committeeman who planned to run against Farnese for ward leader in 2011, but dropped out of the race. Huntington is expected to testify about a tearful phone call he received from Chapman in May 2011 in which she told him she was shifting her support to Farnese. He has told authorities that his impression was she had shifted her support because Farnese was going to help with the study abroad financing.

    In fact, the defense argued, Farnese did agree to help afer learning that Chapman's daughter Hannah, then a student at the University of Pennsylvania, had been accepted in a summer study abroad program in Turkistan but lacked the money -- $14,000 -- needed for tuition and other expenses.

    The program was run by Bard College in New York.

    The defense pointed to emails in which Farnese put Chapman in touch with potential scholarship and grant programs run by PNC Bank, Comcast and Verizon. Ultimately, Farnese decided to use the discretionary fund from the Friends of Farnese, his poitical campaign fund, to donate $6,000 to the Bard program. The donation was made by check and included in the memo field the name of the study program as well as Chapman's daughter's name.

    There was never any attempt to hide what was happening, Sheppard told the jury. Nor, he said, was there ever a bribe.

    "If you're gonna bribe somebody, you gonna do it by check?" he asked the jury.

    "This was never a bribe. There never was any discussion of it being a bribe."

    Both he and Patchen argued that Farnese was providing a "constituent service" that had nothing to do with courting Chapman's vote. What's more, Sheppard said, Farnese was eventually elected unanimously by acclaimation at a ward meeting in the fall of 2011.

    The government contends that the mere agreement between Chapman and Farnese was a crime, regardless of the vote. Prosecutors said Chapman had violated her fiduciary responsiblity as a committeewoman and was guilty of "honest services fraud."

    FBI Agent Speicher testified that a review of the hundreds of donations made by the Friends of Farnese indicated that the $6,000 donation to Bard College was by far the largest. Most were for $1,000 or less, he said. He also pointed out that only four donations were made to institutions outside of Pennsylvanis and that the other three were each for $250.

    Chapman's attorney said the donation was a story of "a mother, a daughter and a state senator" and how an elected official tried to help someone in his district. Sheppard hit on that same theme.

    "There was never a this for that," he said of the donation. "It was a good deed....Don't let them (the government) make this into something dirty."

    George Anastasia can be reached at

    0 0

    Is That All There Is?
    By Ralph Cipriano

    Stephen Huntington is a retired lawyer who, back in 2011, aspired to be the Democratic leader of the city's 8th Ward.

    Today, Huntington told a federal jury about the call he got from a distraught Democratic committee woman, explaining why she couldn't vote for Huntington as ward leader.

    "Ellen was crying," Huntington told the jury. She was "very emotional."

    The committee woman, Ellen Chapman, supposedly told Huntington that she was going to vote for  state Senator Larry Farnese as ward leader. Why? Because Farnese was lining up a $6,000 donation so that Chapman's daughter could study abroad.

    "I felt sorry for her," Huntington explained about Chapman. "I regarded her as a mother who was concerned about her daughter's education. Who can argue with that?"

    The answer to Huntington's question: an army of government prosecutors and FBI agents, who saw in a committee woman's tears and a $6,000 educational loan from a state senator a federal conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud through a bribery scheme. The end result was a 13-count federal indictment where Chapman and Farnese are both facing jail time.

    The government indicated today that it was close to being done in presenting its case, after two days of often tedious testimony. Judge Cynthia Rufe announced that she was going to give the jury the day off tomorrow, rather than let them brave the traffic nightmare in Center City expected from President Trump's visit.

    The judge, however, told the lawyers in the case that she wasn't taking the day off. And that the defense had until 11 a.m. tomorrow to submit their motions, which may include a motion to dismiss this turd of a case.

    The judge said she wanted to give the government plenty of time to be able to respond to the defense motions. So maybe, just maybe, the judge will perform an act of mercy and pull the plug on this case rather than waste any more of the taxpayers money.

    Before Huntington came to the witness stand today, the government called its star cooperating witness, Theodore Mucellin, a former political consultant who claimed he was still a friend of Farnese's.

    Mucellin explained how Farnese told him he was going to try to find someone else to underwrite the $6,000 donation to pay for study abroad for Chapman's daughter. But if he couldn't find another sponsor, Mucellin told the jury, "We were gonna cut the check."

    Mucellin told the jury how Chapman told him, "I have a deal with the senator, and I'm gonna honor it."

    On cross-examination, Mucellin said that it wasn't unusual for Farnese to come up with money to pay for educational expenses of kids in his district. Farnese came from a family of teachers, Mucellin said, and when it came to education, "He cared a great deal about it."

    In today's sleep-inducing court session, there was plenty of inside baseball. Such as Mucellin telling the jury that his wife worked for the U.S. Attorney's office. And that it was one of his wife's friends in the U.S. Attorney's office who found him a defense lawyer after the FBI knocked on his door.

    When the feds showed up to question him, Mucellin told the jury, it was two days before doctors induced labor on his wife, who was expecting a child.

    Then, Mucellin received a target letter from the feds, explaining that he was looking at jail time. That's when Mucelin got very interested in becoming a cooperating witness to testify against his old pal, Larry Farnese, in exchange for a government grant of immunity.

    If the judge doesn't grant a motion to dismiss, the trial is expected to resume Friday.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    A Democratic committeeman from the 8th Ward got his dander up today when a prosecutor asked if state Senator Larry Farnese offered him money in exchange for his vote to make Farnese ward leader.

    "Don't be silly," Sam Hopkins, a 20-year veteran of the ward, yelled at the prosecutor on cross-examination. "It's just not done."

    A minute later, Hopkins indignantly asked the prosecutor, "Where are you from?"

    The defense was putting on its case today in the federal fraud trial of the state senator. Farnese is charged with allegedly buying the vote of Ellen Chapman, a Democratic committee woman who is his co-defendant, by lining up a $6,000 scholarship for Chapman's daughter.

    In the eyes of the government, that $6,000 scholarship, which came from a political action committee, was a bribe. But Farnese's lawyers have characterized it as a good deed, the type of thing that the state senator routinely does for other constituents in his district.

    Chapman's daughter, Hannah Feldman, was the first defense witness of the day. She told the jury that she was a University of Pennsylvania freshman short on cash back in 2011 when she was trying to raise money to pay for a study abroad program in Kyrgyzstan that cost $24,000.

    "There hadn't been a study abroad program in that region," Feldman told the jury. That's why she wanted to go. To get into the program, which was being offered by Bard College, Feldman had to take a semester off from Penn, and write an essay on why she deserved to go. That essay won her a $10,000 scholarship, but was still $14,000 short.

    That's when her parents enlisted the help of the state senator, whom she referred to on the witness stand as "Larry."

    "Lucky for me both my parents know him," she emailed another college student about "Larry," so "access wasn't a problem."

    Feldman was connected. Her mother was a committee woman in Farnese's ward. Her father, David Feldman, another Farnese constituent, is a prominent member of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club.

    Besides being connected, Hannah Feldman was a fast-tallker on the witness stand as she read emails into the record that were trial exhibits.

    "That was impressive," Mark Sheppard, Farnese's lawyer said, after Feldman stopped talking.

    "I can go faster if you want," Feldman said. "My mom joked I could be an auctioneer."

    Judge Cynthia M. Rufe told the witness she was "glad we have a tape-recorder" in the courtroom, because Feldman was talking too fast for a court reporter.

    The defense today called as witnesses several members of the Democratic committee from the 8th Ward, where Farnese was accused of buying Chapman's vote to become ward leader.

    But Stephen Stringer, a retired lawyer, said that it was obvious that "Larry Farnese had this nomination locked up," so he didn't have go votes.

    Did you ask for any money for your vote, the prosecutor asked.

    "I did not," Stringer said.

    Sam Hopkins, the Democratic committeeman, testified that he was one of a group of volunteers who made phone calls to all 60 committee members, to see who they were supporting for ward leader.

    The results of the straw poll: Farnese had "all but approximately 10 votes" locked up, Hopkins said.

    The job of ward leader doesn't come with any salary.

    "Nobody seems to want it," Hopkins said about the post. Our ward, Hopkins told the jury, "is not a hotbed for political candidates."

    "Except for Larry," he added.

    Jovida Hill was another former committee woman from the 8th Ward who testified today in Farnese's defense.

    In her view, Farnese did not have a serious competitor for the job of ward leader, a post that became vacant when former ward leader Stephanie Singer stepped down.

    "He was our state senator," Hill said about Farnese. And he was honest.

    "He's never lied to me," Hill said.

    "There was no question Larry was the heir apparent," Avi Eden, another committeeman, told the jury.

    Eden testified that Farnese wasn't the type of politician who did anything underhanded. In fact, Eden said, people worried that Farnese was too nice a guy.

    "Many of us are surprised that he [Farnese] survived this long in politics," Eden said.

    The last witness of the day was Valerie Singleton, told the jury about how for the past three years, Farnese has been a big brother to her grandson.

    "He's very honest," she said about the state senator.

    After the defense ran out of witnesses, the judge adjourned court until 9:30 a.m. Monday. The judge announced she was taking under advisement a defense motion to dismiss the case.

    In court Thursday, according to Jeremy Roebuck of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the judge told lawyers on both sides that the argument over whether to dismiss the case was "terribly close."

    The judge is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss after the defense puts on its final witnesses Monday.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    Four lawyers squared off in a federal courtroom today to debate the Larry Farnese case in closing arguments that amounted to two hours of tedium.

    As previously reported, the government sees a $6,000 study abroad scholarship that the state senator lined up six years ago for the daughter of a Democratic committee woman as a sinister plot. The feds have targeted Farnese and Ellen Chapman, the committee woman he did a favor for, with a 13-count indictment that charges conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and honest services fraud through bribery. As well as violations of the U.S. Travel Act, which presumably forbids the daughter of a Democratic committee woman from Philadelphia from traveling abroad as part of a sinister criminal conspiracy.

    On their end, the defendants' lawyers view the feds as Big Brother, overstepping their bounds by invading the 8th Ward to criminalize politics as usual. Meanwhile, the constituents of the First Senatorial District, who have seen this movie before, are left to wonder whether their third straight state senator in the past 40 years will soon be heading off to jail.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Heberle got things stared today by telling a jury that Ellen Chapman "sold her vote and Larry Farnese bought it."

    "He wanted to consolidate his power," the prosecutor said about Farnese's quest to become ward leader. "He wanted it so badly he was willing to bribe, cheat and lie to make it happen."

    On May 18, 2011, Farnese made 52 calls to Democratic Committee members in the 8th Ward. At 1:34 p.m. he called Ellen Chapman, the 27th person on his list, and talked for eight minutes, Heberle told the jury. Two minutes later, Chapman was on the phone to her ex-husband, presumably talking about the deal she had just struck with Farnese, the prosecutor said.

    Nineteen minutes later, Heberle said, Chapman called another committeeman, Stephen Huntington. Chapman, Huntington testified at trial, was in tears when she told him she couldn't support him for ward leader because she just cut a deal with Farnese.

    Or, as the feds would have you believe, a deal with the devil.

    "She knew she had just done something wrong," Heberle said. "She had just accepted a bribe."

    It was a "quid pro quo, this for that, money for a vote," Heberle said.

    "Quite simply, this was a crime of opportunity," Heberle told the jury. But it was against the law, the prosecutor argued. Chapman, he said, "cannot simply sell her vote to the highest bidder."

    When Chapman sold her vote, the prosecutor argued, the local Democratic committee was defrauded because they had to a right expect "honest services" form Chapman.

    Instead, the prosecutor said, the government had presented "overwhelming evidence" of a bribery scheme.

    Elizabeth Toplin, arguing on behalf of Chapman, stated what happened between the state senator and the committee woman wasn't a bribe. Farnese had just agreed to "help her [Chapman] find a scholarship" for her daughter, Toplin told the jury.

    And besides, she said, Farnese didn't have to buy votes.

    "They wanted a state senator for ward leader," Toplin said about the members of the Democratic committee in the 8th Ward. Larry had the job of ward leader sewn up "without Larry making a single phone call," the prosecutor reminded the jury, as she quoted the testimony of Sam Hopkins, another Democratic committeeman.

    Toplin talked about how the government had the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. She defined reasonable doubt as something that would make you pause or hesitate.

    Such as pondering the actions of Chapman, a woman so honest that when the FBI showed up and asked for her phone, Toplin said, she just gave it to them.

    To convict Chapman, Toplin told the jury, they would have to find that Chapman was a Democratic party official. Even though a committee person is not a party official, Toplin said, but a member of the party's lowest rank.

    Next up was Mark B. Sheppard, Farnese's lawyer.

    "Senator Farnese didn't need to bribe Ellen Chapman," Sheppard told the jury. "He had no intention of bribing Ellen Chapman."

    As he did in his opening statement, Sheppard implored the jury to use their common sense to see through the government's overblown indictment.

    "The government's theory," Sheppard argued, rises and falls on the suggestion that Farnese was "so desperate" to become ward leader that he decided to commit a crime.

    It was as if Farnese got up one day and decided, "I'm gonna become a felon today," Sheppard told the jury.

    "Does that make sense," Sheppard argued. "This was not a bribe," Sheppard said. Farnese was merely helping a constituent.

    When Farnese became ward leader, Sheppard said, it was a job "they couldn't give away." And when he came to Chapman's aid, he was trying to help a "very deserving young lady" who "wanted to work for the federal government, of all things," Sheppard said.

    Sheppard made more appeals to the jury's common sense.

    "If you need 27 votes" to become ward leader, Sheppard said, "You don't bribe one person."

    And if you're setting up a criminal conspiracy, Sheppard told the jury, "Criminals don't file public records . . . Criminals don't pay bribes with checks."

    "The government made this case somehow into 13 different charges," Sheppard said. But, "If you're bribing someone you pay them with a sack of cash."

    Next, Sheppard brought up criminal intent.

    There was "No evidence that Sen. Farnese thought he was buying a vote," Sheppard said. He urged the jury to "Let him [Farnese] go back to doing what he's does best, helping people."

    On rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis told the jury that Ellen Chapman was a Democratic party officer who owed her constituent honest services.

    The Democratic party, Kravis said, had "entrusted her with  getting out the vote." Chapman, the prosecutor said, was "elected by her neighborhood to be their voice."

    Instead, Kravis said, she sold her vote for money.

    "Did Ellen Chapman want to vote for Larry Farnese for ward leader," Kravis asked. "The answer is no."

    Then he sat down.

    Earlier in the day, Judge Cynthia M. Rufe head arguments from the defense to dismiss the government's case before it ever went to the jury.

    "The government's case never made any sense," Sheppard told the judge. "That's not criminal intent," Sheppard said about the alleged bribery plot, "That's politics."

    In order to convict the defendants, Sheppard argued, the government was asking jury to speculate on what happened between Farnese and Chapman, without hearing directly from either defendant.

    Both Farnese and Chapman told the judge that they would not be testifying in their own defense.

    "Government has stepped into an area where they really had no business being," Sheppard told the judge. Sheppard argued that if Farnese is convicted, it would "disenfranchise the voters" who elected Farnese as their state senator.

    But Assistant U.S. Attorney Kravis told the judge that "Senator Farnese entered into a corrupt agreement that amounts to bribery."

    The judge responded that she would continue to reserve judgment on the motion to dismiss.

    Before she adjourned court for the day, the judge said that beginning at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, she would begin charging the jury. And then it will be time for deliberations.

    0 0

    By George Anastasia

    A federal jury in the quid pro quo bribery case against State Senator Lawrence Farnese and Democrat Party Committeewoman Ellen Chapman began deliberations late this afternoon, but called it a day after less than an hour behind closed doors.

    The panel of seven women and five men are scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.

    The jury got the case after hearing Judge Cynthia Rufe outline the laws that applied in the 13-count federal indictment pending against the two defendants. Among other things, the judge told the jurors that the events at the heart of the case were not in dispute, but the intentions of the two defendants were.

    She said the jury would have to decide whether there was criminal intent.

    The case is built around the allegation that Farnese used his campaign fund to donate $6,000 to help finance a college study abroad semester for Chapman’s daughter Hannah in 2011. At the time she was a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Prosecutors alleged that Farnese made the donation in exchange for Chapman’s promise to support him in his bid to become leader of the city’s 8th Ward Democratic Committee. The defense argued that the donation and the ward leader election were two separate issues, pointing out that Farnese was elected unanimously and did not need Chapman’s vote.

    Defense attorneys argued that the donation was constituent service and a "good deed."

    Prosecutors contended that Farnese paid a bribe to "buy" Chapman's vote and that Chapman willing sold it. 

     Farnese, a boyish looking 48-year old state legislator, is the third consecutive state senator from Philadelphia's First Senate District to face corruption charges. The late Henry “Buddy” Cianfrani and Vincent Fumo were convicted. Each served prison sentences. 

    Farnese was re-elected in November, just months after the indictment was announced.

    He and Chapman, 62, are charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and violating the travel act (a somewhat esoteric statute that prohibits the use of the mail or travel to further a criminal act).

    George Anastasia can be reached at

    0 0

    By George Anastasia

    The quid pro quo bribery case against state Senator Lawrence Farnese and Committeewoman Ellen Chapman is now in the hands of a federal jury.

    The panel of seven women and five men deliberated for about an hour later this afternoon before retiring for the day. The jurors are scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.

    The jury got the case after hearing Judge Cynthia Rufe outline the laws that applied int he 13-count federal indictment pending against the two defendants. Among other things, the judge told the jurors that the events at the heart of the case are not in dispute, but the intentions of the two defendants were.

    She said the jury would have to decide whether there was criminal intent.

    The case is built around the allegation that Farnese used his campaign fund to donate $6,000 to help finance a college study abroad semester for Chapman’s daughter Hannah in 2011. At the time she was a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Prosecutors alleged that Farnese made the donation in exchange for Chapman’s promise to support him in his bid to become leader of the city’s 8th Ward Democratic Committee. The defense argued that the donation and the ward leader election were two separate issues, pointing out that Farnese was elected unanimously and did not need Chapman’s vote. 

    Defense attorneys argued that the donation was constituent service and a "good deed."

    Prosecutors contended that Farnese paid a bribe to "buy" Chapman's vote and that Chapman willing sold it. 

     Farnese, a boyish looking 48-year old state legislator, is the third consecutive state senator from Philadelphia's First Senate District to face corruption charges. The late Henry “Buddy” Cianfrani and Vincent Fumo were convicted. Each served prison sentences. 

    Farnese was re-elected in November, just months after the indictment was announced. 

    He and Chapman, 62, are charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and violating the travel act (a somewhat esoteric statute that prohibits the use of the mail or travel to further a criminal act). 

    George Anastasia can be reached at

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano

    The government saw an international conspiracy in a $6,000 scholarship that state Senator Larry Farnese arranged six years ago for the daughter of a Democratic committee woman who wanted to study abroad in Central Asia.

    But a jury didn't see it that way. After a week-long trial, a jury today found Farnese and Ellen Chapman, the Democratic committee woman who was his co-defendant, not guilty on all 13 charges in an overblown federal indictment that alleged conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, as well as violations of the U.S. Travel Act.

    For Farnese, it was the end of a 14-month ordeal that began with a grand jury investigation. The news that the FBI was snooping around Farnese's 2011 election as ward leader hit The Philadelphia Inquirer last April. The federal indictment of Farnese and Chapman was announced a month later.

    "I always believed that this day would come," an emotional Farnese said today. "I'm an attorney and an elected official and so I never lost faith in the system. In fact, what happened today just reaffirms my faith in the system."

    "I lost my dad about six months before this started," Farnese, an only child, recalled. "It was a difficult 13 months but my Mom and I, we had each other. And I know my father was looking down
    on me today."

    "I thank God," Farnese said. "You don't get through this without prayers."

    And then Farnese thanked a lot of other people, including the judge, the jury and his lawyers.

    "I thank the jury for putting their time and effort into this," he said. "I thank Judge [Cynthia] Rufe for presiding over this. I thank Mark Sheppard and Arianna Goodman who stood by me. They were amazing lawyers and they believed in me from day one."

    "I am completely exonerated," he said. "Now, I get to go back and do what I love doing, and that is representing the people is the first [Senatorial] district."

    Farnese, who, after the trial took his mother out for a late lunch at Buddakan, Third and Chestnut, barely had time to eat because his cell phone was flooded with calls from all over the state.

    "All the friends that he didn't know he had, all the people who ignored him for the past 14 months because they thought he was dead, they're all calling him up now to congratulate him," a friend cracked.

    Farnese's lawyers were elated.

    "I'm grateful to the judge and the jury that they were able to see through this and see what I saw all along, that there was never a crime here," Mark Sheppard said.

    Asked if the federal prosecutors were guilty of an overreach, Sheppard said, "They had a job to do," before adding, "Now Larry can get back to what he does best, helping people."

    It was helping people that got Farnese in trouble with the feds. They viewed the scholarship that Farnese arranged through a political action committee as a bribe that bought the vote of Democratic Committeewoman Chapman in the election of a ward leader in 2011.

    Farnese, who was unopposed in that election, won the job of ward leader by voice vote. Chapman wasn't even in the room when the vote went down, but the feds still believed that she had sold her vote.

    During the trial, Sheppard called as a witness Lawrence J. Tabas, an expert on Pennsylvania election law. Tabas testified that it was "quite common" for candidate committees in Pennsylvania to pay for scholarships for students in their districts. Tabas then went through dozens of examples where other state legislators had done exactly that.

    U.S. Attorney's Office Declines Comment
    Although the case ended happily for the defendants, there were some anxious moments at the federal courthouse before the verdict came in.

    Before the jury ever got the case, the judge became aware that a couple of jurors were upset because in her closing argument, one of the defense lawyers, Elizabeth Toplin, who represented Chapman, had mentioned all of the jurors' names while she was imploring them to acquit her client.

    The judge's solution was to question all the jurors behind closed doors, in the presence of all the
    lawyers in the case. The judge wanted to see just how upset the jurors were, and if they could remain impartial before they began deliberations. One juror who, apparently, in the view of the judge wasn't gong to be impartial, was dismissed from the jury.

    And then the next day, the jury came back with their verdict of acquittal on all the charges.

older | 1 | .... | 24 | 25 | (Page 26) | 27 | 28 | .... | 34 | newer