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- 06/11/17--14:29: Danny Pro Scores With The Godfather's Olive Oil
- 06/13/17--04:03: Case Against Merlino Losing Steam
- 06/16/17--06:55: Manufactured Evidence: Victim No. 1 In The Sandusky Case
- 06/16/17--11:36: Big Trial Featured On Lions Of Liberty's Felony Friday Podcast
- 06/20/17--19:01: Leadoff Witness: Mama's Boy Seth Was Ripping Off Mama
- 06/22/17--16:33: In The Federal Case Against Rufus, Where's The Beef?
- 06/23/17--14:49: Man Who Allegedly Bribed Rufus Doesn't Have Much To Show For It
- 06/26/17--18:01: Deputy Police Commissioner Comes To Court To Bury Rufus
- 06/27/17--17:41: Feds Pound Away At Deadbeat D.A.
- 06/28/17--16:47: What Was Rufus Thinking?
- 06/29/17--15:07: D.A. Leaves Court In Handcuffs
- 07/02/17--11:54: The Man-Child In The Men's Room
- 07/14/17--05:20: Bob Costas And Sara Ganim Star In Jerry Sandusky's Appeal
- 07/17/17--16:33: Penn State Candidate For Chairman Carries Plenty Of Baggage
- 07/20/17--10:32: Is Mark Dambly Wearing A Wire?
- 07/23/17--02:47: Big Trial On With State College's Morning Guys
- 07/27/17--10:48: The Dangerous Misleading Narrative Of The Keepers
- 07/29/17--08:36: Mob Talk Sitdown Video Looks At The Case Against Joey Merlino
- 08/05/17--06:43: Feds Highlight Murder Talk In Merlino Tape
- 08/12/17--13:18: Twelfth Juror Stars In Chaka Fattah Appeal
- 08/14/17--14:39: Let's Make A Deal -- Bernard Shero Getting Out Of Jail Early
- 08/17/17--07:09: Billy Doe Prosecutor: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Investigation
- 08/17/17--05:00: Detective Joe Walsh Responds To ADA Blessington
By George Anastasia
He's battled the feds in court and rival mobsters on the streets.
Right now he appears to be ahead of the game. And if things continue to unravel in a massive but flawed federal racketeering case in New York, it looks like Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino will add another one to the win column.
Read more here:
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Rolling Stone obviously aren't going to do anything to correct the fake news story they've promulgated about "Billy Doe."
He's the lying, scheming altar boy who falsely claimed he was raped as a child by two priests and a schoolteacher, and has since been outed as a fraud.
But today, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin ripped Billy Doe as a "rape faker," and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of a yet-unretracted fraudulent 2011 story about Billy as a "lying liar with a laptop." Malkin also took Rubin's "progressive editors" at left-wing Rolling Stone to task for promoting "'rape culture' propaganda at any cost."
The entire column tying the U.Va. scandal together with the Billy Doe scandal is worth a read here. Malkin calls for higher penalties against "rape fakers," but so far Billy Doe AKA Danny Gallagher has only been rewarded for his lies with a $5 million payout from the Catholic Church. While Bernie Shero, the schoolteacher who was one of the victims of Gallagher's false accusations, remains in jail doing 8 to 16 years for a crime that never happened.
While we're slamming Rolling Stone, let's not give The Philadelphia Inquirer a pass. They've published 59 false Billy Doe got raped stories and editorials in the past seven years. But now that Billy's been outed as a fraud, the Inquirer betrays the mission of journalism by remaining purposely silent.
Fisher was the son of Dawn (Fisher) Daniels, who was impregnated early in 1993 when she was 17 by her boyfriend Michael. Aaron was born on Nov. 9, 1993, and his biological father saw him only a couple of times, then disappeared completely by the time he was one year old. His mother consequently gave him her maiden name, Fisher, as his last name.
She had a glazed, happy look on her face, with explanatory captions: “Drunk as hell…lol; me at the saloon…who knows who that guy is…lol,” and a photo of her posterior, showing the top of scanty underwear, explaining “my thong, tha thong, thong, thong…look at that ass."
When Dawn Daniels began to think Jerry Sandusky might have abused her son, she alerted Aaron’s high school. Then, after her son made some extremely vague allegations, Daniels took Aaron Fisher to Children & Youth Services, where intake case worker Jessica Dershem interviewed the teenager. Aaron did not reveal any overt sexual abuse. He only stated that Sandusky had cracked his back by hugging him with both of them fully clothed. Dershem then referred Fisher to Mike Gillum . .
Disappointed with the insufficient details, Dershem called her supervisor, Gerry Rosamilia and complained that she had an uncooperative fifteen-year-old in her office who was not disclosing sex abuse. She later said that she “sensed he was holding back.” Rosamilia told her to send him to Mike Gillum, a psychologist who had a contract with Clinton County, and who conveniently occupied an office upstairs in the same building.
When Gillum came down to the CYS office to get Aaron Fisher, he got this first impression:
“He had on a pair of raggedy jeans and some beat-up sneakers. His blond hair was scruffy and on the longer side, and he just looked disheveled, but it wasn’t the way he was dressed that stunned me. He was so extremely anxious, and moving around a lot, pacing the floor, in a really tight area in the lobby outside Jessica’s office, but looking down at the floor. His agitation was so high that he was wringing his hands.”
That was how Gillum described Aaron Fisher in Silent No More, a 2012 book written by Aaron Fisher, Fisher's mother, and Gillum, although the book is mostly written in Gillum's voice.
Fisher was obviously feeling pressured. He later recalled in Silent No More: “The truth is, I only agreed to go to his office because I wanted Jessica to stop asking me questions, and she said that Mike was the alternative, since I wasn’t answering her.”
Mike Gillum escorted Fisher into his office, where he began to reassure and disarm his young client, building the foundation for a trusting relationship that might enable future disclosure of sex abuse. Gillum rescheduled his other clients and spent the day focusing entirely on Aaron Fisher. Gillum wrote up a report for Jessica Dershem based on this initial confidential counseling session.
Fisher never told his mother exactly what was supposed to have happened to him. "Even now, these years later, he hasn't told me any details,” Daniels wrote in Silent No More. “Knowing what little I know, I can only imagine. And it makes me shudder."
At first, Fisher was equally uncommunicative with Mike Gillum, but Gillum immediately assumed that he really had been sexually abused. "I really think I know what you must be going through even though you won't tell me," he said. "You know...if someone touched you in your private parts, well, that's really embarrassing and hard to talk about because you're probably very scared.... It's my job and purpose to protect you and help you."
Gillum apparently believed that memories too painful to recall lay buried in the unconscious, causing mental illness of all kinds -- among them, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and alcoholism. His duty as a counselor was to entice clients whom he suspected had been subjected to abuse to reveal this abuse or to raise buried memories to the surface, where healing could begin.
Fisher’s agitated behavior during his first meeting was a red flag and a certain indicator of child sexual abuse in Gillum’s mind. “He looked at me straight in the eye, and you could see the pain in his eyes, you could see how uncomfortable he was, he was physically shaking at times, his voice was cracking.”
Later, in 2014, when I interviewed Mike Gillum in his office, he denied that Fisher had repressed memories, though Gillum admitted that he believed in the Freudian theory and had helped other adult clients recall previously “repressed” abuse memories.
The Courage to Heal, the "bible" of those who believe in repressed memories of sexual abuse, was prominently displayed on his bookshelf. In Fisher’s case, however, he said that it was more a matter of “peeling back the onion,” and that “Aaron did what a lot of people do during abuse. He would dissociate with his body. Aaron would freeze up and stare into space so that he wasn’t even there. Many rape victims report the same thing. They kind of pretend it’s not happening.”
I was impressed by Gillum’s sincerity during our interview. He certainly had no intention of encouraging false allegations. He truly wanted to help his clients, and he clearly had helped many of them who really had been abused. Yet it was also clear that his presumptions and methods, especially in the case of Aaron Fisher and other alleged Sandusky victims, might lead to well-rehearsed but illusory memories.
Like many other repressed memory therapists I have interviewed, Gillum emphasized that he took care not to lead his clients, even though that was precisely what he was doing. “You have to be careful not to put words in their mouth,” he said. “You try to take your time to get through the layers of information.”
Before he began seeing Mike Gillum, Fisher did not think of himself as a victim of sexual abuse. In Silent No More, Gillum wrote, “It didn’t even hit him that he was a victim until he was fifteen.”
Fisher verified this, writing, “It really wasn’t until I was fifteen and started seeing Mike that I realized the horror." Although Fisher showed signs of mental distress that got more serious over the course of his therapy, Gillum did not question himself or his therapeutic approach. Instead, he blamed it all on the supposed abuse and the uncertainty over whether the allegations were going to result in an arrest.
Gillum explained in Silent No More how he cued and prodded reluctant clients such as Aaron Fisher.
"If I'm lucky, they just acknowledge spontaneously without too much prodding," he wrote. But otherwise, he asked many Yes or No questions. "It's like that old kids' game of Hide the Button, where the kids say yes when you get closer and no when you're just on a cold trail."
This is classically bad technique for interviewing those suspected of being abused. It is highly suggestive, and it is often clear from the inflection of voice or body language (leaning forward expectantly, etc.) what answer is appropriate. And when No isn't acceptable, the interrogator just keeps asking until he or she gets a Yes.
"Although they give me information," Gillum said, "they don't feel held accountable because I'm guessing, but my guesses are educated." Gillum compared delving into the unconscious to “peeling back the layers of an onion,” and he knew what he would find at its rotten heart.
To Gillum, Aaron Fisher seemed immature, scared, and not very bright. "Aaron was beginning to open up, not in words, but his body language relaxed some. Though I knew he was fifteen, I couldn't get over how young he looked -- and his mental function and maturity appeared to be that of a twelve-year-old as well."
Finally, Gillum got him to answer Yes to his more and more specific questions. "He finally admitted that the man had touched his genitals and kissed him on the mouth, and he was painfully uncomfortable as he told me."
Gillum kept at it for three hours that first day with Aaron Fisher. "The whole time I was with him, I wasn't really taking notes, even during that first session. I wrote my notes up afterward. I did write down some trigger words, though."
After two hours, Gillum claimed that Fisher "told me that oral sex had occurred. Even then he didn't tell me on his own; I asked him and he said it had.... I was very blunt with him when I asked questions but gave him the ability to answer with a yes or a no, that relieved him of a lot of burden." In a later interview, however, Gillum said that it took him six months to get Fisher to say that he was subjected to oral sex.
Fisher confirmed that he said very little. "As long as I told him that something happened, I didn't need to go into any detail. I just needed to tell him if something sexual happened, like touching or oral sex, and he would ask me so all I had to do was say yes or no…. Mike just kept saying that Jerry was the exact profile of a predator. When it finally sank in, I felt angry," Fisher wrote in Silent No More.
This was the beginning of the process of turning Jerry Sandusky into a monster in Aaron Fisher's mind, a process all too familiar to those who know about repressed memory therapy. Indeed, one of the books about the process, by Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters, is called Making Monsters.
Three years later, Mike Gillum would join the board of an organization called “Let Go Let Peace Come In,” whose website is filled with repressed memory references and assumptions, and he would go on to counsel four other alleged Sandusky victims. But until then, Gillum spent the next three years reinforcing Fisher’s abuse narrative.
At that point, the theory of repression had been denounced as a fiction by memory scientists for nearly two decades. Nevertheless, Michael Gillum was convinced that Fisher had buried memories that must be exhumed, like peeling back the layers of an onion, and he explained it all to him, though he apparently avoided using the term “repressed memories.” Instead, he talked about “compartmentalizing” memories.
After this tutelage, Fisher asserted that "I was good at pushing it [memories of abuse] all away... Once the weekends [with Jerry] were over, I managed to lock it all deep inside my mind somehow. That was how I dealt with it until next time. Mike has explained a lot to me since this all happened. He said that what I was doing is called compartmentalizing…. I was in such denial about everything."
And for once Aaron Fisher had someone who believed him no matter what. Once Fisher entered therapy with Gillum, nothing he said would be doubted or scrutinized for its historical truth. The chair in Gillum’s office would become Fisher’s sanctuary. For an adolescent who had a widespread reputation among classmates, neighbors, and teachers for deceit, this was a welcome change.
“Aaron would consistently lie and scam,” his history teacher Scott Baker told an investigator. Another teacher, Ryan Veltri, said that “Aaron was untruthful, conniving, and would blame other kids to save himself.” Next-door neighbor Joshua Fravel claimed that Aaron Fisher was “a conniver and always made up stories. He lied about everything. He would say just about anything if it got him what he wanted.”
Even after Sandusky’s conviction for multiple counts of abuse, many people in his hometown continued to disbelieve Fisher. “There are…people in my community [who] said I was a liar,” he complained in 2014. “They never apologized and still say I’m a liar.” Fisher said that the hardest thing for him was not the alleged abuse by Sandusky, but “the failure of almost everyone in his community to believe him,” as he told a reporter.
Gillum saw himself as Fisher's savior and protector. "At the end of that day I promised Aaron that I would be with him throughout this whole ordeal. I said I would see him through from beginning to end and meet with him every day if that's what it would take to make him whole again." Indeed, as Fisher said, "I saw Mike every day for weeks, and I called his cell whenever I needed him. I still see him every week, and he's still always at the other end of the phone."
Again, this is classically bad therapy, encouraging an over-dependence on the therapist. I have written about this kind of therapy at length in my books about memory, most recently in Memory Warp, to be published in October, 2017. The therapist becomes the most important person in the client's life, and the client will go to great lengths to please the therapist. The relationship develops into an unhealthy pattern where, in order to continue to elicit sympathy and attention, the client must produce more and worse memories of abuse.
From then on, Gillum was the main driver behind the abuse allegations. When Aaron first spoke to the police, on Dec. 12, 2008, Gillum was upset because they wouldn't let him sit in on the interview. At that point, he had been seeing Fisher every day for three weeks. "I had prepared Aaron as best I could for this interview," he explained. "Aaron was scared and didn't want to tell his story, but we had talked about it extensively and he knew this was something he had to do."
Gillum was absolutely certain that Jerry Sandusky was a sexual predator who had abused his client, and that it was his job to pressure Fisher into giving a detailed account of the abuse. Gillum never talked to Sandusky, but that probably would not have made any difference.
It clearly never occurred to Gillum that he might be pressuring a troubled, vulnerable young teenager into making false allegations. Jessica Dershem, the CYS caseworker who was present during this first police interview, told Gillum that during the interview, "Aaron was reticent.” Still, he was now talking about fondling and kissing on the mouth, which he had not alleged initially. Fisher denied that oral sex had occurred. "They could have asked him the proper questions in the right way to ascertain the extent of the abuse," Gillum complained.
Fisher’s statements about what occurred between himself and Jerry Sandusky were to change dramatically from November of 2008 until June of 2011. Indeed, his own conception of his experiences would be altered permanently as well. When first interrogated, he told the authorities that Sandusky cracked his back. His clothes were always on. He denied that Sandusky ever went below his waistline, even though he was asked multiple times throughout the interview. He told them that nothing else occurred.
By December 12, 2008, Fisher had been questioned three times by authorities (the school, child protective services, and the police), yet he told them that nothing had happened that could be considered criminal. He told the state troopers that Sandusky had never touched his genitals, and when asked if oral sex occurred, he denied it. But he was never going to be questioned by the authorities alone again. Michael Gillum would be constantly by his side.
Jerry Sandusky was first called in for questioning on Jan. 15, 2009. As Gillum observed in these two paragraphs from Silent No More, Sandusky denied that he had sexually abused Aaron Fisher, though he admitted hugging and “horseplay:"
"I went from nightmares about Jerry abusing me to nightmares about Jerry having people come after me and kill me and my family and take things from me," Fisher wrote in Silent No More. "They were so graphic in detail that even after I woke up I could recite everything that happened and everything that was said.... Those nightmares were my reality."
"Later I found out that Trooper Rossman and some agents in the attorney general's office went out scouring neighborhoods, just like cops do in the movies. They worked a fifty-mile perimeter." Eventually, the police would also begin to question other Second Mile children, particularly those named in Sandusky's 2000 book, Touched.
"Once Aaron took the stand, Jonelle... pushed him a lot harder that second time." To Fisher’s credit, he managed through tears to be more of his own advocate and narrator, until he literally collapsed." He began to perspire, went pale and sank to the floor. Then he vomited.
He said that he had been repeatedly molested in the basement, yet he willingly continued to return for additional rounds of abuse for three years. The only explanation he gave for not confiding in his mother was that he was afraid she might not believe him and that he was embarrassed and scared. He frequently used the line, “I couldn’t.” During his alleged abuse, he couldn’t move. He was “froze.” He couldn’t talk. Understandably, the jury accepted this highly emotional testimony and found Jerry Sandusky guilty of all the charges concerning Aaron Fisher.
The "Lions of Liberty" are a bunch of freedom-loving libertarians who sponsor a "Felony Friday" podcast.
On today's podcast, Ralph Cipriano of Big Trial joins host John Odermatt to discuss the parallels between the sex scandals that rocked the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Penn State.
The podcast can be heard here.
He was supposed to be the designated "responsible person" charged with taking care of the finances for his elderly mother's nursing home care.
But to hear nursing home administrator Kathleen Defriece tell it, Rufus Seth Williams, the district attorney of Philadelphia, was anything but responsible.
Instead, Defriece said, Williams was irresponsibly spending Mom's money. Income that was supposed to go toward paying the costs of Mom's nursing home care. But Williams wouldn't admit that it was him who was spending the money; instead, he blamed it on Mom, Defriece said. And whenever Defriece called Williams to confront him, he blew her off.
Defriece was the prosecution's leadoff witness today at the opening day of the history-making political corruption trial of Rufus Seth Williams, Philadelphia's sitting district attorney, who's refused to step down from office.
Of all the charges against Williams in the 29-count federal indictment, the lowest blows involve Williams allegedly stealing $23,000 originally intended for his own mother's nursing home care. And so when the bell rang today, that's the soft spot the prosecutors began pounding away at, those nasty allegations about ripping off Mom.
In February of 2012, Williams's 80 year-old mother Imelda checked into the St. Francis Country Home in Darby, where patient care runs about $10,000 a month.
A few months later, Defriece was called in to check out the financial application on behalf of Imelda Williams.
And what was missing, asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer.
"Everything," Defriece said.
"We had nothing," she said. "I became somewhat alarmed."
The problem was that Seth Williams had signed his mother Imelda up for medical assistance. And he was required to turn over all of her income -- minus $45 a month -- to the nursing home to pay for Mom's care.
But when Defriece got a look at Mom's account, she saw a $500 withdraw here, and a $600 check written there.
And when she called Williams up at the office to talk about it, "He was not helpful," she said. "He acted like this was our problem."
The money in Mom's account, Defriece explained to Williams, "cannot be spent." Flowing into Mom's account was about $2,000 a month. The money included two pensions and Social Security benefits.
When Defriece asked Williams for more financial information, "He told me to come get it," she said. But the D.A. didn't realize "I don't have time to go over there," she said.
The St. Francis nursing home had 260 residents, Defriece said. In addition, she was responsible for five other nursing homes also owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
This was another problem. While Williams was dropping his mother off at an archdiocese nursing home, and dodging his financial responsibilities for putting her there, his office was crusading against that very same Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
That's right, from May 2, 2012 to June 23 of 2012, while the administrators of St. Francis were chasing Williams for not paying the bills for Mom's care at the archdiocese nursing home, Williams was trying Msgr. William J. Lynn and Father James J. Brennan for allegedly endangering the welfare of children.
When she was examining Mom's account, Defriece saw bills for Old Navy, Lord & Taylor, and Sallie Mae.
"I highly doubted his mother was shopping at Old Navy," Defriece told the jury. But that's what Williams told her, that his mother insisted on buying presents for his daughters, presents that came from Old Navy and Lord & Taylor.
When Defriece called Williams up, he was "very nonchalant" about the missing money from the account, she said.
"The charges are not acceptable," Defriece said she told Williams. He would "kind of schmooze up to me," she said. When he came to the phone, which wasn't often.
"I was spending so much time hunting him down," she said. "He really didn't give a darn."
While Defriece was offering up her not-very-flattering assessment of Seth, his lawyers were objecting. But Judge Diamond was overruling almost every objection, to the point where Seth's lawyers were shaking their heads.
When Defriece brought up purchases on a Lord & Taylor charge card, Williams asked the nursing home administrator what he should do about it. She advised Williams to cut up Mom's credit card.
Williams, Defriece said, never accepted responsibility for the purchases. He always blamed his mother for the spending. And then he would say "he had to talk to his mother" about it, Defriece said.
There were a "lot of red flags" about the Imelda Williams' account, Defriece said. She began writing emails notifying higher ups at the archdiocese about those problems. The superiors included a nursing home administrator, a nursing home controller, and the CFO of the archdiocese.
"He's basically ignoring us," Defriece wrote her bosses about D.A. Williams. She complained about "a lack of cooperation" on the part of the D.A.
In response, one administrator wrote in an email that his "evil side" was suggesting that Defriece "threaten to make his [the D.A.'s] behavior known to the media," but it never happened.
Defriece suggested that perhaps one of her male superiors should talk to Williams because he wasn't taking her seriously. She was also worried about consequences of harassing Philadelphia's top law enforcement officer at a time when he was prosecuting Catholic priests.
"I don't want to get arrested for harassment," Defriece wrote in one email complaining about Rufus Seth Williams. But she wasn't getting anywhere chasing Williams for money, and her nursing home was getting stiffed.
"Clearly, he is not taking responsibility," Defriece wrote her bosses about Williams.
Eventually, Imelda Williams ran up a tab of $28,000 at the nursing home, a tab that grew to $36,000. Meanwhile, Rufus Seth Williams, the alleged "responsible person" who was supposed to be taking care of Mom's account, "couldn't be bothered with it," Defriece told the jury.
"The bleed was going to keep going," she said. "I knew it was a huge problem."
Defriece finally solved her problem by going to Imelda Williams, and getting her to sign over her all her income to the nursing home, minus $45 a month. But the nursing home was left with a $8,800 tab for previous missing income that had never been turned over.
"Did he [Williams] ever pay that bill," Zauzmer asked.
"No, he did not," Defriece said.
When Defriece sent bills to the D.A. for the money he owed the nursing home, Williams ignored them.
"I do not anticipate that he [Williams] will even open the bill," Defriece wrote her superiors in frustration. She confided to her bosses that she "wasn't too comfortable" about chasing Williams.
"I just wanted to do my job, and not go chasing after the district attorney for money," she testified. She worried that as the bills piled up, "the fact that he [Williams] spent her [Mom's] income will get lost," Defriece wrote her bosses.
Defriece said she had little to show for her ten months of efforts to try and get Rufus Seth Williams to pay his mother's nursing home bills.
By December, 2012, the unpaid tab at St. Francis stood at $12,000.
Did the nursing home take the hit on that, the prosecutor asked.
"Yes, we did," Defriece said.
Sadly for Williams, monkeying with Mom's money was nothing new. Back in 2009 in Philadelphia Election Court, Williams got in trouble for using his mother's credit card to pay for his plane fare, rental car and hotel accommodations when he attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and failed to report it as income.
Back in 2009, Williams' actions got him briefly kicked off the ballot as a candidate for D.A. He obviously never learned his lesson.
On cross-examination today in federal court, Thomas Burke, Williams' defense lawyer, asked Defriece if the financial forms that Williams had to sign for his mother's care were "overwhelming."
"It can be," she conceded. They were talking about 40 to 50 pages of forms that Williams had to fill out concerning Mom's care.
Defriece was still on the witness stand when Judge Paul S. Diamond sent the jury home for the day.
After the jury left the room, prosecutor Zauzmer complained that Juror No 11 was dozing.
"Want to make your presentation more interesting," the judge suggested.
Earlier, when it was time for opening statements Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri portrayed Williams, the city's chief law enforcement officer, as a guy who always had his hand out for money.
"He's been asking for and taking bribes," Gauri said about Williams. In exchange, Williams would provide the "power and influence of his office."
"Whenever Seth Williams had a chance to put his hand in someone's pocket, he did," Gauri said. His goal was always to "line his pockets."
"He was living way beyond his means," the prosecutor said. "He never missed an opportunity to steal money."
That's why Williams would accept checks, gifts, and airline tickets from a couple of wealthy businessmen who have become cooperating witnesses, the prosecutor said. When Williams wasn't stealing money from his political action committee, or driving around city-owned vehicles that he had no right to use, the prosecutor said.
"Seth Williams was constantly on the take," the prosecutor said. "He committed those crimes so he could live beyond his means. He took bribes and stole money."
With Seth, it's all about the money. Which is why he's refused to step down as D.A., even though he's under indictment, and no longer has a license to practice law. So he can still draw that $170,000 salary.
When Thomas Burke stood up to defend Williams, he went on offense.
During his seven and a half years in office, Burke said of Williams, the D.A. prosecuted 500,000 cases. And "not one single case was tainted" by the financial transactions described in the indictment, Burke told the jury.
"No case was compromised under Seth Williams," he said.
Obviously, Burke never heard about Billy Doe. But he was on a roll.
What the feds wanted to find was evidence that Seth Williams fixed a case, Burke declared. Or a witness who could testify about a fixed case.
But after a government investigation that produced some 200,000 documents, "I'm here to tell tell you that witness doesn't exist," Burke said. "This investigation, ladies and gentlemen, was a search for a crime," he said.
That's why the government indictment includes five alleged schemes bundled together, Burke told the jury Because none of those cases "could stand on their own."
But Seth Williams has his flaws, his lawyer conceded to the jury.
"He made bad mistakes," his lawyer said. "He exercised poor judgment."
"He can't keep his finances straight," Burke admitted. Williams also has a "messy personal life."
But while he did accept gifts from a couple of wealthy friends, Burke said, the favors that Williams did for his friends did not constitute "official acts."
To prove its case against Williams, Burke said, the government has to prove "quid pro quos," a Latin phrase meaning "this for that." As in, you give me this, and I'll give you that.
To convict Williams, Burke said, the government has to prove that the relationships Williams had with his wealthy friends were "transactional."
But in reality, they were real friendships, Burke said. "These guys texted each other like a couple of school girls."
Many times, Burke said, Williams offered to help his friends, but wasn't able to do anything.
"If you're looking for back room deals and cases being dismissed," Burke told the jury, "You're going to be disappointed.
"They can prove the this," Burke said about the alleged quid pro quos. "But they won't be able to prove the that."
The case resumes at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.
By Ralph Cipriano
The feds trotted out one of their star cooperating witnesses against Rufus Seth Williams today.
Mohammad Ali is the Bucks County business man who was allegedly bribing the Philadelphia District Attorney with gifts that included a $205 Louis Vuitton tie, a $3,000 chocolate-colored sofa from Raymour and Flanagan, $4,000 vacations to Punta Cana, and a $7,000 "loan" that was never repaid.
But after the soft-spoken and deferential Ali got through telling his story, he sounded more like the victim of a shakedown who was getting robbed blind. Anybody doing the math would have to wonder what Ali got in return for the money and gifts that he was showering Rufus with. To many courtroom observers, Ali looked like a chump who got played.
It all added up to a puzzling day in court. Rufus Seth Williams, the district attorney of Philadelphia, is not on trial for being a sleaze ball or shakedown artist. If he was, he'd be convicted already. But in a case that hinges on quid pro quos, the feds appear to still be searching for one.
Ali had millions of dollars moving in and out of his accounts. That's why the feds had him under surveillance every time he walked through an airport. But in the end, the feds clipped Ali on a tax rap for not paying $163,000 in back taxes. They also got him to plead guilty to bribing Seth Williams. But they never did nail him for money laundering.
On the witness stand, Ali had to be told over and over again by the judge to speak up. During his testimony, Ali referred to the D.A. as "boss,""boss man," and "Mr. Seth."
Ali's story was that he met Williams at one of the D.A.'s campaign events in 2010. Ali said he wanted to cozy up to Rufus because for a simple reason: "status." He wanted to be "friends with the D.A.," he said.
So Ali donated $2,500 to Williams' political action committee. That got the D.A.'s attention. What was Ali trying to do, the prosecutor asked again, to reiterate that talking point to the jury.
He was trying to "get close to him," Ali said about the D.A. Because he figured that "someone in power" might be useful if "you ever needed anything."
Ok, whatever. But Ali, by his own account, had several problems that he wanted Rufus Seth Williams to help him with. There were those annoying security searches at the airport, where the feds would detain Ali up for up to two hours. While they took his phone away for up to two weeks so they could search it.
As far as Ali was concerned, he was the victim of "racial profiling," he told the jury.
The immigration status of Ali's wife was another problem when she got turned down for citizenship. Ali was also angry about a former employee who had stolen $20,000 from him.
So Ali began showering Rufus with gifts like a Burberry watch, and trips to Punta Cana.
Why was he doing these things, the feds asked?
"Part of it was to be friendly," Ali testified. "Part of it was to get close to the D.A."
OK, we got it.
In court, the judge could have rapped the knuckles of the prosecutors, like he often does the defense lawyers, every time they got repetitive.
But Judge Paul S. Diamond is an unashamedly pro-prosecution judge. It's easy to tell by the objections from the defense, 90 percent of which are overruled by the judge.
The judge has admonished lead defense lawyer Thomas Burke for standing up when he makes an objection.
Today, when Burke got excited about cross-examining a homeland security officer, the judge told Burke, "don't fight with the witness" and "lower your voice."
But for the prosecutors, with Judge Diamond, it's been clear sailing.
Why, the prosecutor asked, was Ali testifying against Rufus?
"To get a reduced sentence," Ali said. He's looking at up to eight years in jail.
So what did the D.A. do to help Ali?
Williams, Ali said, made a phone call to the Bucks County D.A. to get after that former employee who stole $20,000.
Williams also arranged a meeting with Congressman Bob Brady's staff to help out Ali's wife with her citizenship problems.
Certainly Rufus could argue that these were just constituent services he would have done for
The prosecutor took pains to show how Ali went from being a complete stranger to Rufus in just eight months to becoming Rufus's new best friend while they took vacations together.
Ali and Rufus always traveled first-class, staying at 5 1/2 star resorts in Punta Cana. Two royal ocean-front suites. Palm trees. Private beaches. Swiss massages.
"Did you offer to pay," the prosecutor asked.
"Yes," Ali said.
Rufus was more than happy with the accommodations.
"I am not picky," he texted Ali.
"You are a good man Seth," Ali wrote back.
Did Williams ever offer to pay, the prosecutor asked.
"No," Ali said.
When it came to Ali's airport problem, "It was Seth who was trying to help me,"Ali testified.
That help, Ali told the jury, involved Williams making a call from the D.A.'s office to a high-ranking police official, Joseph Sullivan, to see if he could help Ali.
So when Ali made his next overseas trip, thanks to Seth Williams, a "police officer was there waiting for me," when Ali arrived at the Philadelphia airport.
But even with a police escort, Al was detained for a secondary screening. This time, however, it took only 10 minutes, instead of up to two hours.
Were you happy with that, the prosecutor asked.
"Of course," Ali replied.
Ali said he also asked Williams to help him with the drug case of a friend who was facing prison time.
"Boss man, sorry to bother you, remember a few months back, I asked you if you can help with a case for a friend of mine" who was a DJ at a night club, Ali texted Williams. "He has a court tomorrow and he is looking at 1.5-3 years in jail plus 6 years probation! Is there anything you can do for him?"
"I will look into it," Williams wrote Ali. Then the D.A. asked if the DJ had already pleaded guilty to the drug charges filed by the Philly D.A.'s office.
The answer was yes.
"If he pleaded guilty, and from the sentence it seems that there is a mandatory sentence," Williams texted Ali, "There is very little I can do the day before without it looking extremely suspicious . . . "
So Williams did nothing. While he continued to take the money and the free vacations and the sofa.
So Rufus is great at shakedowns. But where's the quid pro quo?
The day in court ended with Ali still on the stand. Tomorrow, when court resumes at 9:30 a.m., Ali will face cross-examination.
By Ralph Cipriano
When Thomas Burke stood up this morning to cross-examine Mohammad Ali, he wanted to make sure that the jury not only understood what the prosecution's star cooperating witness was charged with, but also what Ali wasn't charged with.
Ali, a Bucks County businessman, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, to the tune of $163,000. He also pleaded guilty to bribing Rufus Seth Williams with gifts that included free vacations to Punta Cana, and a $3,000 chocolate-covered sofa from Raymour And Flanagan.
But the feds had been investigating Ali for years for money laundering, as they tracked more than $200 million going in and out of his accounts while the jet setting Jordanian native flew around the world to China, South America and Iran. That's why Ali was subjected to secondary security screenings every time he walked through an airport.
"Did you have to plead [guilty] to money laundering?" Burke, Seth Williams' lawyer, asked Ali.
"No," Ali said.
Burke went through Ali's cooperating deal with the government. Ali was looking at eight years in the slammer, but was eligible for a reduced sentence if the government was happy with his testimony against Seth Williams.
Burke got Ali to agree that he was under a lot of pressure from the feds to finger Seth. But while Ali agreed he had to sing the government's tune, he kept repeating that the bottom line of his cooperating deal was that he must testify truthfully against Seth Williams.
"Who determines the truth," Burke asked. "The government," he said, pointing toward the prosecution table.
"Correct," Ali said.
"This for that," Burke said. He was implying that the real quid pro quo of the case against Williams was Mohammad Ali agreeing to testify that he bribed Seth Williams in exchange for a reduced sentence.
But Ali had his own version of his relationship with Williams.
"Seth was my friend," he said. "I expected things from him." And, Ali said, Williams expected things from him.
He did say it was a friendship.
"I liked him," Ali said about Williams. "And I think he liked me."
But the big question hanging over the D.A.'s federal corruption trial is whether the favors Williams did for Ali constituted official acts. While Williams was accepting free gifts and free vacations from Ali.
The old quid pro quo, this for that.
Burke elicited from Ali that the biggest problem he faced was the one and two hour delays he was subjected to every time he got caught in another secondary security screening at the airport. That's the thing he really wanted Seth to help him with. In Ali's view, he was being racially profiled. And that it had been going on since 2001.
In March 2013, Williams allegedly convened a meeting between Ali and a high-ranking police official to assist Ali in avoiding secondary security screenings when he returned from an overseas trip to Philadelphia International Airport.
To the feds, that constitutes an official act on behalf of Williams. Waiting in the wings to testify today was Deputy Police Chief Joseph Sullivan. He supposedly is the high-ranking police official who was asked by Williams to assist Ali in avoiding security screenings at the airport.
If Sullivan sticks to the government's script, he will say that he felt pressured to help Rufus's pal, and that he was uncomfortable with doing it.
But even with a police escort, Ali was still subjected to a secondary security screening at the airport. Only this time it lasted 10 minutes instead of two hours.
But in subsequent trips, Ali wound up being detained again for longer screenings.
Ali said he came to understand that nobody could help him when it came to getting through an airport.
"I realized it's my name," he said.
Did Seth Williams help you get through airports, Burke asked.
"The problem still exists," Ali conceded.
Burke asked Ali about the time he asked Williams for help on behalf of a friend who was facing a jail sentence on a drug charge.
What happened with your friend, Burke asked. Williams couldn't help him, right?
"He was sentenced to jail," Ali admitted.
Burke asked Ali about a $7,000 loan he gave Williams, a loan that Williams never repaid.
"Was that a bribe," Burke asked.
"It was a loan," Ali said.
So, Burke said, summing up, did Williams help you get through airports?
"No," Ali said.
Did he help your friend with his drug charge?
"No," Ali said.
Did Williams help your wife when she was turned down for citizenship?
"No," Ali said.
Over at the defense table, Rufus Seth Williams was looking like a bad investment. But he'll take that deal it if it keeps him out of jail.
Meanwhile, the judge sent the jury home early for the weekend. So Deputy Chief Sullivan was sent home, but is expected to return Monday.
Also waiting in the wings is the government's other top cooperating witness, Michael Weiss, the owner of Woody's, a Philadelphia gay bar. Weiss is expected to testify about free airplane tickets he provided for Williams between 2012 and 2015 to San Diego, Florida and Las Vegas.
Among the other gifts Weiss gave Rufus is a 1997 XK8 Jaguar convertible.
Those gifts were allegedly made in exchange for Williams appointing Weiss, a convicted felon, as a special advisor to the D.A.'s office in 2012. And also for Williams to write a letter in 2014 to California officials on Weiss's behalf. The letter was in favor of Weiss's application to continue as an officer and corporate stockholder of a business that held a California liquor license.
Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the second week of a political corruption trial that's expected to last three weeks.
Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Sullivan testified in court today about an awkward lunch he had back in 2012 at the Union League with District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams and his Muslim buddy, Mohammad Ali.
"It didn't feel right," Sullivan said about the district attorney's attempts to extract favorable treatment from the police department to benefit Ali whenever he was coming through the Philadelphia International Airport.
"It made me uncomfortable," Sullivan testified about lunch with Seth and Mohammad. So Sullivan went straight to the FBI.
But Rufus Seth Williams was too dumb to take the hint.
Sullivan's relationship with Mohammad Ali got started in 2012 with a phone call from the district attorney. Williams called Sullivan to complain about an Islamic constituent who was getting hassled every time he went through the airport, Sullivan told the jury.
"It's very important we have good relationships with the Islamic community," Sullivan testified. He took the complaint to his counterpart at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, and asked him to look into it.
"I made it clear this was an official request, not a favor," Sullivan said.
Williams, Sullivan said, was willing to vouch for Ali's character. At first, Sullivan said, Ali's complaint of unfair treatment seemed founded. Ali had a common Islamic name, and Sullivan was told that an inquiry about Ali was "probably sitting on a desk waiting to be closed out."
Sullivan suggested Ali apply for a global entry program that allows frequent fliers to bypass airport security screenings. Ali followed Sullivan's advice but his application was denied.
On another occasion in February 2012, Sullivan testified, Williams called him to request that a police officer stand by when Ali came into the airport, to get past a secondary screening.
It was an "uncommon" request, Sullivan said. But a police officer showed up, and Ali texted Sullivan that his trip through the airport was "very smooth."
Ali did get stopped for a secondary security screening, but this time, it only took ten minutes instead of the usual two hours.
"I thank you again," Ali texted Sullivan.
But then a top official from Homeland Security "grabbed" Sullivan, the deputy police commissioner said, and told him "very seriously" that "there was an issue with Ali and he needs me to stay away from it."
Sullivan said he called District Attorney Williams to let him know the police wouldn't be doing any more favors for Mohammad Ali.
But Seth Williams didn't take Sullivan's advice.
Sullivan said he was subsequently invited by Williams to the Union League, to have lunch with him and Ali.
"He wanted to discuss something with me," Sullivan said.
Since the lunch was during business hours, Sullivan decided to go, but he made it a very public affair. Sullivan said he wore his dress uniform, and had his driver park conspicuously out in front of the Union League.
"It was a public lunch not a private lunch," Sullivan told the jury.
"It felt a little bit uncomfortable," he said. Asked by the prosecutor if he was a member of the Union League, Sullivan replied, "I don't make that kind of money."
He was there 45 minutes.
"I believe I had soup," Sullivan told the jury.
At the luncheon, Sullivan said that Ali told him, "He loved this country. He didn't understand why he was treated this way and that there was nothing that could be done about it."
But while he ate his soup, Sullivan didn't feel right about hobnobbing with the swells at the Union League.
"I felt like it was some type of performance that I was a part of of," the deputy police commissioner told the jury.
Sullivan was expecting some new information from Seth Williams, but lunch at the Union League turned out to be just a rehash.
But it made Sullivan so uncomfortable he immediately told the FBI about it. When the FBI warned him about Ali, Sullivan said he figured he had to tell Seth Williams.
So, Sullivan said, he called Williams and warned him a second time that "He needs to stay away from Mr. Ali."
"I was angry at the time," Sullivan said, so he told Williams forcefully that he would have "nothing further to do with Mr. Ali." And he told Williams he should do the same.
Sullivan said he did not appreciate being put into the "company of people who could call my character into question."
What was the D.A.'s reaction to the warning, the prosecutor asked.
"He thanked me," Sullivan said.
But the D.A. didn't take Sullivan's advice.
The prosecutor asked Sullivan if he knew that Williams was "accepting things of value."
No, he didn't, Sullivan said.
Had he known, "I would have gone to the FBI sooner," Sullivan said.
On cross-examination, Sullivan explained that he had a relationship with a person of another race and was "familiar with the problems they face" in terms of discrimination. That's why initially, he took Ali's complaint of discrimination seriously.
But it turned out to be a mistake.
"I was misinformed," Sullivan said.
On cross, Thomas Burke, the D.A.'s defense lawyer, handled the deputy police commissioner like he was a live grenade. So Sullivan got a chance to reiterate his talking points.
"I was trying to let him [Williams] know that it was a bad idea" to try and help Ali, Sullivan said. "I told him to stay away from Mr. Ali. I told him that very forcefully, and that it was coming from the FBI. We should not be involved in anything to benefit Mr. Ali."
When he was done testifying, Sullivan went outside the courthouse and held an impromptu press conference on the sidewalk, for the benefit of TV reporters.
Once again, Sullivan stuck to his talking points as he continued to do his best to bury Rufus.
"I just felt that something wasn't right and I felt that the best course of action was to run it through my counterparts at the FBI," Sullivan told the reporters.
Meanwhile, inside the courthouse, the next star government witness was Michael Weiss, owner of Woody's, a Center City gay bar. Weiss, the government charged, was bribing Seth Williams for years with free vacations and a free Jaguar convertible.
Weiss, however, was not a chatty witness. In fact, the judge described Weiss as almost a hostile witness, so he allowed the prosecutor to ask Weiss leading questions.
"I've seen reluctant witnesses," Judge Paul S. Diamond said. "If he [Weiss] could be anywhere else in the world," the judge said, before Weiss came back into the courtroom again after a break.
"Ah, there he is," the judge said.
So the prosecutor was reduced to dragging Weiss through numerous text messages left on his cell phone. The text messages showed that while Weiss was asking Seth for favors, Weiss was happily arranging free plane trips for Williams.
There were three trips to Florida, a trip to Las Vegas, and another flight to San Diego. Weiss also provided Williams' girlfriend with a 1997 Jaguar XKE convertible.
"Dude, I never want to be a drag on your wallet," Williams texted after Weiss offered to fly Williams and his girlfriend to Key West. "But we are always up for an adventure."
Meanwhile, Seth Williams was appointing Michael Weiss, a convicted felon, as his special advisor. And writing letters of recommendation on behalf of Weiss to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Where Weiss had an application pending to continue as an officer and shareholder of a bar, even though he had been convicted on a felony rap.
When a member of Weiss's condo board didn't believe Weiss was a special advisor to the D.A., Weiss got Williams to write a letter stating that Weiss was a special advisor. On Weiss's request, Williams agreed to backdate the letter to make it look like it was an announcement when Williams first gave Weiss the honorary position.
When Weiss's liquor license was pending out in California, Weiss wrote out a letter for Seth Williams to send to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. In the letter Weiss wrote for Williams to sign, Williams praised Weiss as an "honorable and trustworthy" community leader who was a "model citizen."
But before the prosecutor could ask Weiss to read the final letter that Williams sent, the judge, who was glancing at his watch, and clearly bored by the testimony, decided it was a good time to break for the day.
Weiss will face cross-examination when the case resumes tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 14A at the federal courthouse.
In a text he sent to his car mechanic, District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams revealed the real reason why he was putting his beloved 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible up for sale.
"I love that car," Williams texted his car mechanic, Armond Salloum. "But my girlfriend wants me to sell it because I had another chick in it."
So Salloum, a high school classmate of the D.A.'s -- Central High Class of 1985 -- put the Jag up for sale. But Williams, who already owed Salloum money for a used battery and spark plugs, defaulted on a promise to bring the title to the car over to Salloum's car lot, plus a picture of the D.A.'s ex-girlfriend's driver's license.
The car, of course, didn't really belong to Williams or his ex-girlfriend, Stacey Cummings. It was borrowed from Michael Weiss, another buddy of Rufus's who owned a Center City gay bar. So the sale never happened.
"The car is still parked at the garage," Salloum testified. Rufus not only left Salloum hanging, but also Weiss. Not to mention whatever he did to piss off his ex-girlfriend.
The subject of Rufus Seth Williams the deadbeat D.A. was the theme of today's testimony during the second week of Williams's political corruption trial. Besides defaulting on a deal to sell the Jaguar, another prosecution witness described how Williams was spending his mother's money while she was in a Catholic rest home, but blaming all that spending on Mom. Cummings is also on the witness list. Maybe she will testify about why she slashed her former boyfriend's tires, and what was the deal with that other chick in the Jaguar.
Armond Salloum was the last witness of the day. He described how his old high school buddy Rufus Seth Williams was so hard up for cash that he was ready to dump the Jag on webuyanycar.com.
"It was a quick dump site," Salloum explained. Williams was offered $3,000 by the website for the Jag that he borrowed from Weiss, but never returned.
Salloum thought that Williams could get more for the Jag, possibly as much as $4,995, the price that the D.A. was hoping to sell for.
"It's a fair price," Armond testified. But Salloum said that Williams was willing to take as little as $3,500.
"He was taking a beating on that," Salloum told the jury.
But on cross-examination from defense lawyer Trevan Borum, Salloum agreed with another witness's characterization of the Jag, which frequently needed repairs, as "a piece of junk."
"That's typical of Jaguars," Salloum said.
Salloum told the jury how he was questioned about the Jag by the FBI. Salloum said he didn't understand the significance of the Jag to the feds.
"That's two of us," Borum cracked, as he ended his cross-examination.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer was offended by Borum's joke, telling Judge Paul S. Diamond that he thought Borum's remark was inappropriate.
Judge Diamond, however, told Zauzmer to strap on his big boy pants.
"This is a trial," the judge lectured the thin-skinned prosecutor. "Stuff happens."
Earlier in the day, a lot of stuff was happening with Michael Weiss, the owner of Woody's.
Weiss, who had a grant of immunity, previously had testified for several tedious hours about his friendship with Williams. Only Weiss was so reluctant a witness that the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Moran, was reduced to poring over a thick stack of print-outs of numerous text messages exchanged over the years between Williams and Weiss.
But getting answers out of Weiss was like extracting molars. On cross-examination, however, from defense lawyer Thomas Burke, Weiss seemed to loosen up.
"Very good friends," was how Weiss explained his relationship with Seth Williams. Asked if was plying Williams with cash and free airplane tickets, Weiss replied, "I don't believe I bribed anybody."
So why did he donate 16 free roundtrip airplane tickets to Seth Williams, Burke wanted to know.
"Because he asked," Weiss said.
Did he donate those tickets because he was such a generous guy, Burke asked.
"That's not for me to day," was Weiss's humble answer.
On the witness stand, Weiss described how his birthday and Seth Williams's birthday were only a week apart. On a text message to his old pal, Weiss had written, "What does Little Sethie want for his birthday?"
That got some laughs from the jury.
On cross-examination, Burke pointed to several text messages to show how close the two pals were.
"Love you guys," Weiss had written to Williams and his girlfriend. "We love you guys also," was the D.A.'s response.
Love was in the air as Burke asked Weiss about Christmas parties where Weiss and his brother donated gifts to disadvantaged children.
"Who did you get to play Santa," Burke wanted to know.
"Seth," Weiss replied.
Burke entered into evidence several photos of Williams's daughters playing with Weiss's niece.
On redirect, the prosecutor asked Weiss to explain how his felony conviction on a tax rap changed his life.
Weiss began a long speech where he talked about how, for the first 45 years of his life, he had always tried to do the right thing.
"Can you just answer the question," the exasperated judge told the witness.
"It had a very severe mental effect on me," Weiss told the jury.
The storyline the prosecutor seemed to want to present to the jury was that Weiss was so upset about his conviction and status as a felon that he was willing to do all kinds of favors for Rufus Seth Williams, after Williams made Weiss a special advisor to the D.A.'s office.
So you gave Williams 16 free round-trip airplane tickets, the prosecutor said. Plus a Jaguar and cash. In exchange for official favors from Williams that included letters sent on the D.A.'s official stationery to Weiss's condo board, to prove Weiss was a special advisor. And another official letter the D.A. sent to the California Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control, to help Weiss hang on to his ownership of a bar, despite his status as a convicted felon.
Earlier, Weiss had defended the free tickets he gave the D.A. by saying he always did favors like that for his friends, who included several elected officials.
The prosecutor asked Weiss to name how many other elected officials he had bought round-trip airline tickets for.
After a long pause, Weiss could only come up with one name -- state Senator Larry Farnese, who will probably be subjected to another federal investigation.
"I believe that's it," Weiss told the jury.
The prosecutor asked if the gift to Farnese came with any strings attached.
Weiss replied that he told Farnese the same thing he told Williams when he was giving him one free ticket after another -- "I asked Mr. Williams that he report it," Weiss said.
But did he, the prosecutor asked.
"I did not check up on him," Weiss said.
The prosecutor pounced.
Would you have given the D.A. all those free round-trip airplane tickets, the prosecutor asked, "If you knew he [Williams] wasn't going to report it?"
"No," Weiss admitted.
The next witness was John Chapman, a former nursing home administrator for the St. Francis Country House, where the D.A.'s 80-year-old mom, Imelda Williams, was admitted as a patient in 2012.
Chapman told the jury that he remembered Imelda Williams as a "very sweet lady."
Prosecutor Zauzmer reviewed emails where the administrators at St. Francis were discussing what to do about Rufus Seth Williams, who was designated the "responsible person" for his mother's finances, but wasn't paying her nursing home bills.
It was Chapman who wrote that "his evil side" told him that the nursing home administrators should make the D.A.'s behavior "known to the media."
"It was a joke," Chapman told the humorless prosecutor.
"Unbelievable," Chapman wrote in a subsequent email exchange when another nursing home administrator explained how Williams blew her off when she called to alert the D.A. about an unpaid tab at the nursing home.
"I felt that he's putting it all on his mom, instead of acting like a responsible party," Chapman told the jury.
Chapman explained how he left a message for Williams to call him about an unpaid bill at the nursing home that was up to $11,886. The bill got so high because rather than turn over money from his mother's two pensions and her Social Security benefits, as he was required to, Williams was spending Mom's money.
Chapman told the jury how he was very firm on the phone with Williams when the D.A. called him back, using what Chapman described as "my dad voice."
Chapman said he subsequently wrote to Williams, asking for permission to speak to Imelda Williams directly, to get her to sign over her pension and benefits to the nursing home. But Williams didn't respond.
"No, he never gave me permission to speak to his mom," Chapman said.
On cross-examination, Burke tried to get Chapman to agree that his nursing home was at fault for not taking the time to explain all the financial rules of elderly care to Rufus Seth Williams.
But the judge interrupted Burke's questioning.
"Please," the judge said, "You're asking the same questions multiple times with multiple witnesses."
Chapman wasn't buying it, and he kept bringing up the money the D.A. owed the nursing home.
"That's because you guys screwed up the whole admissions process," Burke said.
"No we did not," Chapman said. "I wouldn't say that."
The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Prosecutors told the judge that they expect to wind up their case by Friday.
Then the big question will be whether Rufus Seth Williams will take the stand in his own defense.
By Ralph Cipriano
As he sat at the defense table watching the evidence pile up against him, District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams couldn't be blamed for thinking about what might have been.
Today in court, the feds brought in a former campaign official from the D.A.'s political action committee to testify against him, along with an official from the city Board of Ethics.
The testimony was about as exciting as watching an audit in progress. But the feds were effective as they continued to pile up points on the scoreboard. And, over at the defense table, Rufus Seth Williams was left to ponder why he didn't take the deal the feds offered him before trial, which multiple sources described as 20 months to two years in jail, for just a violation of the Travel Act.
Instead, Philadelphia's sitting district attorney is looking at up to 20 years in the slammer, for multiple counts of bribery, extortion, honest services fraud and wire fraud. As he faces a pro-prosecution judge who, the minute after the jury announces a conviction, will not blink an eye before he orders the marshals to take the defendant out in handcuffs.
The first witness of the day was Francis Cassidy, the general manager of the Sporting Club at the Bellevue.
Cassidy told the jury about executive members of the Sporting Club such as Rufus Seth Williams paid an initiation fee of $550, plus monthly dues of $184.
This matters in the political corruption case against Williams because the D.A.'s bills at the Sporting Club were being paid by his political action committee, the Friends of Seth Williams. And at the beginning of court today, Judge Paul S. Diamond instructed the jury that the state's campaign finance laws prohibit spending PAC money on purely personal expenses.
On the witness stand, Cassidy described how Rufus's PAC paid for a deep tissue massage and a deep pore cleansing facial for the D.A. plus gratuity at $209. A "revitalizing deep tissue massage for Rufus cost the D.A.'s PAC $141.50.
And the D.A.'s "fitness insanity program" with a personal trainer for Rufus cost $180.
The D.A.'s fitness kick shed 60 pounds off his frame. A trim, muscular D.A. proudly adorned the cover of the Sporting Club's "Belong" magazine, published quarterly in 5,000 copies that were on display at the club for up to 6 months, Cassidy said.
The next witness was Lisette Gonzalez, the former executive director of the D.A.'s PAC.
Gonzalez told the jury how she signed up to raise money for the D.A., provided she could keep 20 percent. Gonzalez explained how she was on unemployment at the time, so she went to work for the D.A.'s PAC at just $1,000 a month, plus a cut of what she raised.
So she could continue to collect her unemployment benefits.
Gonzalez told the jury how she questioned the biggest monthly expenses the PAC had, namely the D.A.'s monthly tab at the Union League, and Sporting Club. And a $2,674 birthday party that Williams threw at the Union League for his girlfriend.
Gonzalez told the jury how she didn't attend the birthday bash because she thought it was a "personal expenditure."
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Thomas Burke tried to suggest that a trimmer district attorney was more electable. But Gonzalez wasn't buying it.
There were many bigger candidates who run and win, she told the jury.
"I can't agree with that at all."
The last witness of the day was Michael Cooke, from the city's board of ethics.
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Moran, asked Cooke exciting questions such as, "What is a campaign finance report?" And, "What is a contribution?"
Cooke described how the D.A.'s lawyer, Samuel Stretton, tried to explain why Rufus Seth Williams didn't report some $160,000 in gifts.
"There's not really a good answer, it was a mistake, and we're trying to fix it now," Cooke quoted Stretton as saying.
Cooke also testified how the city ethics board asked Williams and his lawyer if they had been soliciting things of value from people who were seeking official action from the D.A., and that the answer was no.
Would it have been important for you to know whether those gifts were solicited or not, the prosecutor asked Cooke.
"Yes," he said.
Court resumes tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Then, thanks to the July 4th holiday, the Seth Williams trial will take a five-day hiatus, beginning with no court on Friday, and continuing through until Wednesday, when the prosecution is expected to wind up its case.
By Ralph Cipriano
Rufus Seth Williams glanced nervously over his shoulder at the two U.S. Marshals suddenly lurking behind his chair at the defense table.
Judge Paul S. Diamond held up a 14-page guilty plea agreement.
"I have a guilty plea from the highest law enforcement officer in the city who betrayed and sold his office," the judge said. "I am appalled by the evidence I heard yesterday."
The judge talked about that evidence. How the district attorney of Philadelphia, under penalty of perjury, had handed in six amended financial statements that the judge said were "riddled with falsehoods." Then, the judge announced he was revoking bail because he didn't believe the defendant had any credibility left. The marshals put the cuffs on Williams and led him out of the courtroom in disgrace as his ex-wife began crying.
For Rufus Seth Williams, it was all over. No more chauffeured rides around the city with his big, burly bodyguards in brand new black SUVs. No more deep-tissue massages and deep-pore facials at the Sporting Club. No more cigars at the Union League.
Williams, who waited until today to resign as D.A., was off to jail. Specifically, an 8 x 10 cell in the Special Housing Unit on the top floor of the federal prison at 7th and Market. It's a place where, for nearly the next four months, Williams will wear an orange jumpsuit, and be in solitary confinement in his cell for 23 hours a day on weekdays, and 24 hours on weekends. Until he is sentenced by Judge Diamond on Oct. 24th.
The day began with a palpable buzz on the 14th floor of the federal courthouse. The phones of reporters lit up with text messages. The rumor was that the political corruption trial of Rufus Seth Williams, about to start its eighth day, was going to end abruptly.
Because early this morning, around 1:30 a.m., Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer got a phone call from Thomas Burke, the D.A.'s lawyer.
The D.A., who had been talking with his lawyers all night as the evidence piled up against him, was ready to cut a deal.
When court began at 9:30 a.m., the prosecutors and FBI agents were seen smiling and chatting. Over at the defense table, lawyers Burke and Trevan Borum were looking grim. And Rufus Seth Williams was nowhere to be found.
Nearly 90 minutes later, court finally began. The judge announced a guilty plea had been agreed to by the lawyers in the case. The judge asked Williams a set of embarrassing questions to make sure the defendant was in his right mind.
In answer to the judge's questions, Williams said the only drugs he was talking was a prescription for high blood pressure and a baby aspirin.
He did say he was under the care of a psychologist "to deal with the stress of everything going on with my trial. Williams told the judge he was "very satisfied" with Burke's representation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Zauzmer stood up and read the deal in court. Williams was pleading guilty to count one of the indictment, a violation of the U.S. Travel Act where Williams traveled to a Punta Cana resort with businessman Mohammad Ali, with the intent of taking a bribe.
Ali, a suspected money launderer, was bribing Williams with two free vacations in Punta Cana, and a free $3,000 sofa, in exchange for an official act. The act: Williams agreed to "look into" the guilty plea of a friend of Ali's on a drug arrest, but wound up doing nothing to keep the friend out of jail.
But Williams did get the two free vacations and the chocolate-colored sofa.
"I am merely a thankful beggar and don't want to overstep my bounds in asking," Williams had texted Ali, when he accepted the offer of a second free trip to Punta Cana, "but we will gladly go."
In exchange, the government agreed to drop counts 2 through 29 of the 29-count federal indictment, although the catch was Williams had to admit that all the allegations against him that were contained in those counts were true.
Williams admitted to taking more bribes in the form of $9,000 in cash and a check from Ali. And Williams admitted to taking more bribes from Michael Weiss, the owner of Woody's, a Center city gay bar. The bribes came in the form of 16 round-trip airplane tickets to San Diego, Las Vegas, and Florida, along with other gifts that included a 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible.
In exchange for the bribes, Williams admitted he did officials acts on Weiss's behalf. Such as naming Weiss, a convicted felon, as a special advisor to the D.A.'s office, and giving him a badge. And writing a letter on the D.A.'s official stationery to the California Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control, in support of Weiss' application to hang onto the ownership of a San Diego bar, despite his felony tax conviction.
Williams also admitted he stole $13,000 in income from his mother that was supposed to go to a Catholic nursing home where his mother was a patient. And Williams admitted to pocketing a $10,000 check that friends of his mother donated, to pay for his mother's nursing home expenses.
So Williams was looking at a sentence of 5 years, followed by probation for three years, along with a fine of $250,000 and $64,840 in forfeitures.
As part of the plea bargain, Williams agreed finally to resign as district attorney.
Is that effect immediately, the judge asked.
"Humbly, sincerely, and effective immediately," Williams replied.
The judge gave Williams a chance to speak.
"I'm just very sorry for all this trouble," Williams said.
It was time to argue over bail.
Burke claimed that Williams was no flight risk because he was "deeply in debt," and "he doesn't even have a car."
Williams talked about his close attachments to his three daughters, aged 29, 17 and 13. He also told the judge he was close to his ex-wife, and shared joint custody of his two youngest daughters.
Williams told the judge he had no more than $150 to $200 in his bank account, despite an annual salary of $170,000.
Williams owned no credit cards. The only car at his house, he told the judge, was a 1991 Ford Crown Victoria formerly owned by his father that hadn't been driven in eight years.
Asked by the prosecutor how he was going to get around, Williams replied, "I have about four bicycles at my home." And his house, which is up for sale, the defendant said, was located three blocks from a SEPTA station.
Asked by the prosecutor how he was going to survive without an income, Williams said, "I'm gonna try and figure that out."
But the judge had a different idea, namely sending Williams off to jail in handcuffs.
And that was just the start of it.
Over at the holding tank at the SHU, Williams will be strip-searched, subjected to a body cavity search, and then fingerprinted.
A doctor will check him out. Williams will be handed a "roll," prison talk for a blanket, sheet, towel and a bottle of shampoo.
For at least the first 10 days, Williams will be allowed no phone calls. Then, he will be allowed one 15-minute phone call a month. And one visit a week, where he will have to talk through a glass.
His 8 by 10 cell at the SHU features a shower, desk, frosted window. And a combination toilet and sink. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, Williams will be handed a razor, and allowed to shave.
His weekly snacks are limited to three Snickers bars. Three small packets of cubed chicken breasts. Two honey buns and one box of Ritz crackers.
Once a day, the correctional officers will knock on Williams cell and ask him if he wants an hour of recreation. If he accepts, Williams will spend an hour in a 6 x 12 steel cage where he can walk in circles, do pushups and sit-ups.
"You're like a fucking dog in a kennel," was how one former SHU inmate described it.
"What you saw today," said one longtime friend of Williams who witnessed the spectacle of the former D.A. being led away in handcuffs, "was a man hitting rock bottom."
It was not a pretty sight.
By Ralph Cipriano
When you cover a trial, you run into everybody in the men's room.
The prosecutors, the defense lawyers. Even the defendant, Rufus Seth Williams.
Talk about an uncomfortable situation. There I was face to face at the sink with the guy I've been ripping for the past six years.
I've called the D.A. out for publishing an irresponsible grand jury report about the Catholic Church that was riddled with more than 20 factual errors; a grand jury report that passed off as gospel the fraudulent fables told by "Billy Doe."
I've castigated the D.A. for not prosecuting perpetrators of domestic abuse, because it might lower his conviction rate at election time.
And his response for six straight years has been to stonewall me.
So. while covering his political corruption trial, the day after I called him a sleaze ball and a shakedown artist in print, when I ran into him in the men's room, I did not expect Rufus Seth Williams to thank me for my work.
But he did. What he was happy about was that I had publicly expressed skepticism about the relatively paltry official acts that the feds had accused him of selling his office for. In exchange for the free gifts he was taking as a "thankful beggar," such as free airplane tickets, a chocolate-colored sofa and a beat-up old Jaguar convertible.
Imagine meeting you here, he said with a big smile. To my surprise, he actually wanted to talk. He told me that his defense lawyers, Tom Burke and Trevan Borum, were old friends who had stood by him. Two guys he had met back in 1992, on the first day they all reported to the D.A.'s office as brand new assistant district attorneys.
The next day of the trial, I wrote about Mohammed Ali, the shady businessman who was allegedly bribing the D.A. Ali had more than $200 million in his bank account, and the feds had him under surveillance as a suspected money launderer. But the feds never charged Ali with money-laundering after he agreed to become a cooperating witness against the D.A. That was the real quid pro quo in the case, Tom Burke told the jury.
Seth liked what I wrote so much this time that he actually came over in the courtroom, addressed me by name [for the first time in six years], and shook my hand.
On trial for his life, Rufus Seth Williams figured he still he had the touch. One on one, with somebody who'd been ripping him for six years, he thought he was still such a charmer that he could play me.
Amazing. I wound up thinking to myself, and not for the first time, that this wasn't a mature individual I was dealing with. This was a man child, a flimflam artist, the worst kind of con man who actually believes his own B.S.
Someone who never accepts responsibility for his actions. Someone who always blames others. Someone who doesn't even consider, let alone understand, the consequences of his actions when it comes to hurting other people.
Even when he sends an innocent priest off to jail, where he dies, as in the case of Father Charles Engelhardt.
Rufus Seth Williams is somebody who thinks he can always con anybody, no matter what.
From that angle, the trial of Seth Williams was an immensely satisfying public spectacle. Because for perhaps the first time in his life, the man child was held responsible for his actions. Even though in his last moments on the public stage he was still playing everybody, doing his crying act about not having any money left, and no car, only a bicycle to peddle around with.
But this time he didn't get away with it; this time, a judge refused to buy it.
"I don't believe you," Judge Paul S. Diamond told the man child. You have no credibility, the judge said. That's when the judge ordered the marshals to take Williams into custody.
And the man child, who had had been coddled all his life, now has almost four months to sit alone in his 8 x 10 cell at the SHU. Where, without any cell phones or computers to distract him, and only a few visitors, he can ponder the consequences of his actions.
So on one end, it was satisfying to see the man-child not get away with it. Keep in mind that eight years ago, Rufus Seth Williams, then a candidate for D.A., was hauled into the city's Election Court and kicked off the ballot, after he got in trouble for playing with his mother's credit cards and screwing up his campaign finances.
He learned nothing. Instead, over the next eight years, he kept doing the same things. And taking money and freebies from lowlife friends like Mohammad Ali and Michael Weiss. And thinking he would get away with it forever.
My overriding thought is how on earth did this irresponsible man-child get to be the highest law enforcement officer in Philadelphia? How many people knew he was a fraud, but said nothing?
That's when this trial becomes a nauseating spectacle. Because the media and the government can now pretend that the corruption of Rufus Seth Williams has been hermetically sealed; confined to a few sordid relationships with a couple of sleaze ball business guys.
And that when it came to justice, somehow this completely corrupt individual who would sell his office and steal from his own mother always did the right thing.
And now, thanks to a chain of events set in motion by the corruption of Rufus Seth Williams, Larry Krasner, a Black Lives Matter ideologue, is about to take over as our new D.A.
And plunge the city further into lawlessness.
It's not enough that Rufus Seth Williams staged a with hunt of the Catholic Church, and used a fraudulent victim to send four innocent men to jail.
It's not enough that Williams smeared six narcotics officers and irresponsibly freed more than 800 drug dealers, so they could collect millions of dollars in cash from the taxpayers, and commit more crimes.
It's not enough that Williams wouldn't prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, even though the cops had suspects in custody, because he was worried about lowering his conviction rate.
Now, the city of Philadelphia is prepared to sink even lower with Larry Krasner as our D.A.
We're replacing a criminal with a lawyer who has dedicated his life to setting as many criminals free as possible.
And the media and the government get to pretend that the only thing Seth Williams did wrong was help himself to a few free vacations, a free sofa, and a beat-up old Jaguar.
Everybody's off the hook. While we're getting ready to sink even lower into the abyss.
For years, Penn State alumni have clamored for a federal investigation of The Second Mile charity founded by convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
It turns out that the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI have already conducted a federal investigation of The Second Mile. It's an investigation that's apparently been closed since at least 2014, with the result that no charges were ever filed.
In response to FOI requests filed by Ryan Bagwell, a former newspaper reporter and unsuccessful candidate for Penn State trustee, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C. released some 1,000 pages of documents from the closed files of The Second Mile probe.
What's the bottom line?
"It's a big nothing burger," said John Snedden, a former NCIS and FIS special agent who just got through reviewing the documents. "There was an investigation and there was nothing to pursue, and no charges were filed."
Most of the notes in the released files appear to be FBI interviews conducted in 2012 with Second Mile board members in both the State College office and other regional offices. The interviews described how Second Mile board members reacted to the Sandusky revelations dating back to as early as 2010 and 2011.
"Not a single person admitted to knowing about Sandusky's crimes prior to the presentment," Snedden said. Two people claim to know about "missing donor money," but nothing else is said about that subject in the rest of the released files.
The documents released by the feds are heavily redacted, but there are many references to Second Mile board members circling the wagons. References were made in the documents to false allegations being made by a "disgruntled mother" and a "disgruntled kid."
The documents are more noticeable for what they don't say. Such as in the issue of jurisdiction involving the Sandusky investigation. If, for example, in their investigation of The Second Mile, if the feds any found any evidence of a federal crime, such as Sandusky crossing state lines with sex abuse victims, "They would have taken it [the investigation] away from the state for prosecution," Snedden said.
"But they [the feds] didn't do any of that," Snedden said after reviewing the documents. "There's no indication they did that."
Instead, the attorney general pursued the Sandusky investigation, and the feds pursued The Second File.
"Sadly, neither focused on political vindictiveness and corruption, which is exactly what happened here," Snedden said.
Snedden has his own experience with a previous secret federal investigation into the Penn State scandal. In 2012, working as a special agent for the Federal Investigative Services, Snedden did a background investigation of former Penn State President Graham Spanier, to see if Spanier's high level security clearance should be renewed by the government.
As part of that investigation, Snedden investigated whether Spanier had orchestrated a coverup of Sandusky's crimes. Snedden's investigation concluded that there was no cover up at Penn State, because there was no sex crime to cover up. As far as Snedden was concerned, Mike McQueary, the guy who witnessed a naked Sandusky allegedly abusing a boy in the Penn State showers, was not a credible witness.
Spanier's clearance was renewed as the result of an 110-page report that Snedden wrote back in 2012, a report that was declassified earlier this year.
"I see a lot of interviews with a lot of different people, a wide range of positions in the Second Mile hierarchy," Snedden said. "And I don't see any people admitting to knowing anything concrete about Sandusky."
In the interviews, there are quotes from woman who "had always heard positive things about the organization. She had never heard anything bad about TSM founder Jerry Sandusky."
Another woman interviewed by the FBI described Sandusky's "nondescript entrance and presence" at a March 25, 2011 "Celebration of Excellence" event in Hershey.
"Sandusky was not acknowledged during the event formally by TSM," the woman told the FBI.
"On March 31, 2011, the Patriot News published an article about the grand jury investigation" of Sandusky," the woman told the FBI. "The article was everywhere and everyone was talking about it."
"She didn't recall seeing any evidence of financial improprieties or anything otherwise questionable," the FBI 302 stated. "She did not personally observe any misuse of donations."
"The general mood of the room was that of denial," the woman told the FBI. "Everyone appeared to be in support of Sandusky and TSM."
In another 302, an unidentified witness said, "He did not observe any inappropriate behavior." On the same form, someone, possibly Sandusky himself stated the complainant "was a disgruntled kid, not associated with TSM. He was not aware at the time that the allegation was sexual in nature"
Another 302 notes that one board member was "shocked after reading the indictment." In addition, "four or five board members in particular were upset that they were never notified. The exchange was heated."
In the 302s, there was discussion of an earlier 1998 allegation that Sandusky had abused another youth in the shower, but "the allegations were considered 'unfounded.'"
There is also discussion in the 302s about an alleged allegation involving the Clinton County Children and Youth Services[CYS].
"CYS did have a safety plan in the event a child was a victim of sexual abuse," the 302 stated. "They did not need to enact their safety plan for SANDUSKY's case because the allegation was not founded and all actions taken by CYS were 'by the book.'"
Bagwell said he has filed multiple FOI requests as part of his Penn State Sunshine Fund. Bagwell, a former newspaper reporter who is now a web developer, said he filed his requests because he was seeking primary source documents from the Sandusky investigation.
"What frustrated me about everything since the very beginning was a complete and utter lack of transparency," Bagwell said.
Bagwell, himself a former journalist, said the press coverage of the scandal has been "abysmal, reactionary and sensationalistic," as well as "factually incorrect." Bagwell said he hopes the newly released documents will have a calming effect on Penn State Nation.
"Penn Staters are still screaming for an investigation for years of The Second Mile," Bagwell said. "Well, it turns out there was an investigation."
By Ralph Cipriano
That's how much advance notice Jerry Sandusky got from his lawyer, Joseph Amendola, before he engaged in a disastrous nationally televised interview with Bob Costas.
Amendola also did nothing to prep Sandusky for talking with Costas, Sandusky's appeal lawyer say. That disastrous 2011 interview was replayed in court by the prosecutors, who proceeded to rip Sandusky for talking to Costas, but not the jury. Sandusky was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
The idiocy of the Costas interview was described in a 257-page post-hearing brief filed Thursday in Centre County Common Pleas Court by Sandusky's appeal lawyers, Alexander H. Lindsay Jr. and J. Andrew Salemme, of Butler, PA.
Lindsay and Salemme argue that Sandusky deserves a new trial because Amendola foolishly chose to go on national TV and give up his client's right to remain silent and not convict himself. Amendola went on Costas's TV show in a misguided campaign to cultivate "friends" in the media, Sandusky's appeal lawyers write. Amendola told a judge he embarked on his campaign because at the time the media was saying that his client was "worse than Adolph Hitler."
Even with the language barrier, however, it's doubtful that Hitler would have been as flat on his feet as Sandusky was during the Costas interview.
In the interview, Costas asked Sandusky if he was sexually attracted to young boys.
Sandusky repeated the question a couple of times, before saying, "I -- I love to be around them . . I -- I -- but no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys."
In their appeal brief, Sandusky's lawyers argue that the Costas debacle wasn't all Jerry's fault. It was editing by NBC that made it appear "that there was repetition of the infamous question and answer regarding Mr. Sandusky being sexually attracted to young boys," the lawyers write.
Amendola admitted that the Costas interview presented at trial had the "same effect as a police interview," except that Amendola was powerless on TV to stop the questioning, Sandusky's lawyers write.
In their brief, Sandusky's lawyers quote another criminal defense attorney, James Bryant, as saying he would have only agreed to the Costas interview if they put "a gun to my head."
That interview "killed" Sandusky, Bryant said. Especially when it was played at trial.
At trial, Sandusky's lawyers said, the prosecutors "sought to fix a bias and hostility against Mr. Sandusky in the jury's minds based on the fact that Mr. Sandusky was willing to talk to the media about his case, but he did not take the stand to talk to the jury directly."
Sandusky's lawyers cited the Fifth Amendment that says no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."
Except if he voluntarily decides to waive that privilege, by going on national TV.
Prior to the Costas interview, Sandusky's lawyers write, Amendola told Sandusky that only Amendola would be interviewed by Costas. And that if Sandusky was interviewed, the only thing he would have to say was that "he was innocent."
The short notice to Sandusky was disclosed by the host of Rock Center, Sandusky's lawyers say.
"Bob Costas, himself, provided an interview in which he recalled that Mr. Amendola only contacted Mr. Sandusky 15 minutes before the interview," Sandusky's lawyers write.
Sandusky originally wasn't even supposed to appear on the show. At the time, in his campaign to win friends in the media, Amendola had promised to do his first interview with Costas. But then the lawyer gave an interview to CNN.
An NBC producer "voiced strong displeasure" after the CNN interview, Sandusky's lawyers write.
"In order to make up for this and ingratiate himself with the media again, Mr. Amendola convinced Mr. Sandusky to do the interview" with Costas, Sandusky's lawyers write. Aamendola told Sandusky the Costas interview would provide a "golden opportunity" to proclaim that he was innocent.
In their appeal brief, Sandusky's lawyers also fault Amendola for failing to move to quash the grand jury charges against Sandusky because of illegal grand jury leaks.
Amendola was aware that former Patriot News reporter Sara Ganim "had the name and phone number of an agent involved in the investigation and was providing it to potential witnesses," but did nothing to investigate, Sandusky's lawyers write.
Ganim wrote the first story about the supposedly secret Sandusky grand jury investigation, on March 30, 2011, so somebody in the know was obviously leaking grand jury secrets to her. In that article, Ganim cited a prior 1998 investigation into another Sandusky shower incident. Somebody had obviously leaked to Ganim a police report from the prior 1998 case that had turned up no crime, and was supposed to be expunged.
In their brief, Sandusky's lawyers write that Ganim "approached the mother of accuser 6," Deb McCord, according to the testimony of State Police Corporal Joseph Leiter, and gave the mother the name and phone number for an investigator assigned to the attorney general's office.
Ganim, according to the brief, had a message for McCord:
"Debra, it's Sara from the Patriot. I just want to pass along this agent's name and number. The Attorney General has expressed interest in helping you."
After the initial Ganim article, Ronald Petrosky, a retired Penn State janitor, came forward to accuse
Sandusky of another shower incident.
At the Sandusky trial, prosecutors were allowed to present hearsay evidence via Ronald Petrosky that another retired janitor, James Calhoun, had allegedly "observed Jerry Sandusky molesting a child in the Lasch Building shower."
Sandusky's appeal lawyers fault trial lawyer Amendola for not telling the jury that 13 months prior to the trial, Calhoun had given a taped interview to a state trooper where he denied that it was Sandusky he saw in the shower having sex with a boy.
At trial, however, Sandusky was found guilty of abusing "victim 8," identity unknown. Sandusky's appeal lawyers also faulted Amendola for not objecting when prosecutor Joseph McGettigan told the jury that the identity of Victim No. 2 -- the boy Mike McQueary had allegedly witnessed being anally raped in the showers by Sandusky -- was "known only to God."
At the time, the prosecutors knew that Allan Myers had claimed to be the boy in the showers with Sandusky, and had not denied it, Sandusky's lawyers write. Myers told state troopers that he and Sandusky were snapping towels in the shower, which could have accounted for the "slapping sounds" heard by McQueary.
Myers told corporal Corporal Jospeh Leiter and Trooper James Ellis in 2011 that "The grand jury report says Coach McQuear=ry said he observed Jerry and I engaged in sexual activity. This is not the truth and McQueary is not telling the truth. Nothing occurred that night in the shower."
But Amendola was so incompetent he never presented Myers's statements to the jury, Sandusky's appeal lawyers write.
In their brief, Sandusky's lawyers also hit Amendola for not presenting any expert witness testimony "regarding repressed or false memories" of the alleged victims.
Amendola knew about recordings "showing suggestive police questioning and learning that therapy was used to enhance the memories of the accusers," Sandusky's lawyers write. Yet, Amendola did not challenge "the reliability of the accusers or present expert testimony on suggestive questioning" by police and therapists.
In their brief, Sandusky's lawyers quote the testimony of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a renowned expert on memory.
In an appeal hearing, Loftus testified that Aaron Fisher, Victim No. 1 in the Sandusky case, "had a therapist who appeared to have convinced his patient that he had repressed memories of abuse."
Aaron Fisher "did undergo a type of repressed memory therapy . . . designed to get people to remember things that somebody thinks they have repressed or forgotten," Loftus testified.
There is "no credible scientific evidence" to support the theory of massive repression of traumatic memories, and subsequent recovery of those repressed memories, Sandusky's lawyers write.
The theory of repressed memory "is so controversial that in many other jurisdictions, accusers who claim to have repressed meormies that have been recovered, the cases are even dismissed because of the controversial nature of that theory," Loftus testified.
In their brief, Sandusky's lawyers quote Silent No More, the book written by Fisher with his therapist, Mike Gillum.
Prior to therapy, Fisher "never acknowledged any sexual abuse" by Sandusky, his lawyers write. Fisher's book "suggests Gillum used suggestive questioning to ferret out Mr. Sandusky's alleged abuse," Sandusky's lawyers write.
The lawyers quote Fisher from Silent No More: "Mike [Gillum] just kept saying that Jerry was the exact profile of a predator. When it finally sank in, I felt angry."
The Sandusky brief also cites "pervasive and virulent" publicity during the Sandusky case. The trial attracted 240 reporters and 30 TV trucks.
As a Penn State student, Mark Dambly wound up in jail for five days in 1979 after he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Then he got mixed up in an infamous multimillion dollar cocaine ring, a retired investigator says, but beat the rap by wearing a wire and cooperating with the government.
These days, Dambly is campaigning to become chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees, an election scheduled for Friday.
But Dambly's most recent legal problems include getting hit with a subpoena last year in the federal probe of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawloski. Pawloski's being investigated for bribery and kickbacks; Dambly's connection is he's the Allentown mayor's top financial contributor.
With all the problems at Penn State, the question is, do they really need a guy with as much baggage as Mark Dambly as board chairman?
No, says Maribeth Roman Schmidt, executive director of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
"I think it's common sense," she wrote in an email, to favor candidates "who haven't been associated with scandal or illegal activity."
Blogger Ray Blehar agrees.
"Mark Dambly, if elected chairman of the board, will do nothing but perpetuate the poor university governance that the Penn State community has experienced since November 2011," Blehar wrote in an email.
Dambly, the president of Pennrose Management, could not be reached by email or telephone for comment on this story. A spokeswoman this afternoon said that Dambly had been in meetings all day and might be able to respond in a week.
Presumably after the election on Friday.
The Dambly file begins in 1979, on the weekend of a Penn State-Temple football game, with an incident where three students got beaten up during a fight in the Pugh Street parking garage.
Dambly was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. If convicted, he faced a fine of $2,500 and a year in jail. That's when Dambly hired R. Bruce Manchester of Bellefonte, PA as his lawyer.
On Nov. 17, 1979, Manchester sent Dambly a letter telling him that he had been offered a plea bargain by the Centre County District Attorney's Office that included pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, spending five days in jail, and paying a $200 fine.
"By pleading guilty you will have a police record which may have to be disclosed on various occasions in the future," Manchester wrote Dambly. "You stated to me on Wednesday the 28th that your career goal is to be a real estate broker."
Manchester informed Dambly that he would have to disclose his criminal record in order to apply for a real estate license. But Dambly wasn't forthcoming about the arrest when confronted in recent years by a TV reporter.
In 2012, Dambly was a Penn state trustee who had supported criminal background checks for university employees. Reporter Gary Sinderson of WJAC Johnstown Channel 6 confronted Dambly in a video posted on youtube.com and asked if Dambly had been arrested in 1979.
"I'm not aware of that," Dambly responded twice on camera. As he was walking away, in unreleased video recorded by the TV station, Sinderson asked Dambly about his alleged association with members of the cocaine ring.
"I don't recall that either," Dambly said.
When asked by his fellow trustees during an executive session about the disorderly conduct arrest, Dambly replied that it was "undocumented."
In 2013, Dambly filed an application in Centre County to have his 1979 guilty plea for disorderly conduct expunged.
TV reporter Sinderson asked Dambly about the infamous "Dr. Snow" yuppie cocaine ring run by Larry Lavin, then a student at the University of Pennsylvania dental school. The ring operated between 1978 and 1984.
In 1986, a judge sentenced three dentists to jail for their roles in the ring that the FBI said at the time was the largest known cocaine distribution enterprise in the history of the Philadelphia area, grossing up to $5 million a month.
A retired investigator who worked the Lavin case and sought anonymity said that former FBI Agent Leo Pedrotty, who died last year, was Dambly's handler after he decided to wear a wire to get himself out of a legal jam.
"Pedrotty was responsible for placing the recording equipment on Dambly and monitoring the results as Dambly secretly recorded conversations about the massive drug operation," the investigator wrote. "In exchange, Dambly would not be prosecuted and there would be no asset forfeiture action."
In the Dr. Snow case, Lavin, convicted of not paying $545,000 in taxes, served nearly 20 years in prison before he was released in 2005.
The judge also sentenced Brian Cassidy, like Dambly, a graduate of Conestoga High School and Penn State, to 12 years in prison. The other Conestoga/Penn State alum implicated in the cocaine ring was Kenneth J. Kasznel, who pleaded guilty and became a cooperator.
One of Dambly's former customers wrote TV reporter Sinderson a letter, saying that Dambly "used to supply me and dozens of others with pot and cocaine."
"Mark graduated from PSU a mid level pot and cocaine dealer, then went back home in the Phila burbs and got his masters degree in large quantity drug dealing," wrote the former customer, who was subsequently interviewed by the investigator.
"If we needed a 1/4 or half pound of the white . . . Dambly was our guy," the former customer wrote.
Dr. Snow himself did not remember Dambly.
"I really do not recall a Mark Dambly," Lavin, the star of a recent National Geographic channel documentary about his Dr. Snow days, wrote in an email.
But people keep asking him about Dambly, Lavin said.
"This is the third time over the years that someone has asked this," Lavin wrote. "Obviously there is always the possibility he [Dambly] did things under someone involved with me, but I have no knowledge of him."
Dambly rankles many Penn State loyalists because of the way he ripped Joe Paterno in a TV interview, after the Jerry Sandusky scandal hit, and Paterno was fired.
"Although legally, I believe he [Paterno] did what he had to do," Dambly said, "Morally, I don't believe the standards he set for his own student athletes, he didn't live up to those standards for himself."
As far as Dambly's critics are concerned, he doesn't live up to the standards for chairman of Penn State's board of trustees.
"His apparent failure to recall a five-day period of incarceration in the Centre County prison for a violent crime casts great doubt on his credibility, and appears to be just the tip of the iceberg," wrote former NCIS Special Agent John Snedden, also a Penn State alum.
If you're a Penn State trustee, and you're going to talk to Mark Dambly about his impending election tomorrow as chairman of the board, should you pat him down first?
Yes, say two former investigators.
"My first question [for Dambly] would be, 'Hey, you still wearing a wire?'" said John Snedden, a former NCIS and FIS special agent who's a Penn State alum.
"Once a snitch, always a snitch," said another former investigator who worked the infamous "Dr. Snow" cocaine ring of the 1980s and said that Dambly wore a wire to get himself out of trouble with the feds.
With Dambly currently the subject of a federal subpoena in the Allentown pay-to-play corruption case, Snedden said, there are only two remaining possibilities left in the investigation where nine people have already copped pleas.
"At this stage of the investigation it is very likely that he is either THE subject or he is cooperating with the investigation," as in wearing a wire, Snedden said.
"Penn State needs to determine his specific involvement in all his alleged criminal endeavors so they can specifically identify the LOSS EXPOSURE he brings to Penn State," Snedden said.
Dambly has not responded to requests for comment about his alleged involvement in the Dr. Snow cocaine ring, and the five days in jail he spend back in 1979 as a Penn State student after he got nailed for disorderly conduct.
But Dambly is all ready for his impending coronation tomorrow as the new chairman of the Penn State board of trustees.
Meanwhile, a new arrest involving Dambly has surfaced. Dambly was arrested on May 27, 1987 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving at an unsafe speed, failure to keep right, and possession of marijuana. He was released on $500 bail.
The 1987 arrest, as well as his earlier 1979 arrest, have been expunged.
The other mystery in this latest Penn State scandal -- besides the insanity of why Penn State would want somebody with as much baggage as Dambly as the face of the franchise -- would be why The Philadelphia Inquirer is sitting on this story.
Every scrap of information your Big Trial correspondent published on Monday about Mark Dambly was in the possession of a couple of reporters at the Inquirer, but they haven't written a word. Maybe they're waiting for an editor to give them permission to write about Dambly.
After he becomes chairman of the board.
|He's Moved On To Pay-To-Play|
Isn't that great? The July 19th radio interview about Dambly can be heard here. The July 20th radio interview can be heard here.
“When I was young, I made some mistakes. I deeply regret those actions," Dambly said. "I’ve learned from those mistakes, and I’ve moved on to live a productive life, both personally and professionally."
It is true that Sister Cathy Cesnik, 26, an attractive, popular English teacher, was murdered and probably raped on November 7, 1969. Only three days later, another young woman, 20, was killed two miles away in a very similar fashion. It is quite likely that the same unknown person killed both of them, but the murderer probably didn’t know that Cesnik was a nun, because she had just begun working at a public high school and had permission not to wear her habit.
As part of her prayerful memory process, Wehner visualized how Father Maskell had taken her to see Cathy Cesnik’s body, and that her face had been crawling with maggots. Maskell must have known that she would immediately repress the memory, just as she allegedly forgot her rapes every time the door clicked shut as she was leaving his office. When Maskell’s body was exhumed in 2017 (he died in 2001), his DNA did not match the DNA at the murder scene.
As background, readers should know that the late 1980s and 1990s featured the height of an epidemic of false memories of childhood sexual abuse, fomented by this misguided, pseudoscientific form of psychotherapy. The theory behind this fad stemmed from Sigmund Freud’s work a century beforehand, in the 1890s.
“It’s not unreasonable to interpret Eva’s dreams as tapping into repressed memories of her experiences with Maskell,” Ellis told Mandelbaum, the reporter. (Ellis is still practicing in Maryland, and he still promotes dream interpretation, writing: “Dreams can be viewed as the dreamer’s attempt to ‘work through’ or resolve some conflict that they are experiencing in reality.”)
On the contrary, reputable memory scientistshave found that years of traumatic events are impossible to forget and that false memories of abuse are frequently produced through suggestion and influence. Rogers erroneously concluded: “The science is firm that traumatic events can cause memory loss, and that these memories may resurface years or decades later.” I am sure that she sincerely meant well, but from her photo, Rogers is a young Millennial who was swayed by the series and accepted the myth of repressed memory hook, line, and sinker. I fear that she is representative of a new generation who will be vulnerable to these dangerous theories.
--Mark Pendergrast is a science writer and independent scholar and the author of many books (www.markpendergrast.com.) He discusses The Keepers in his forthcoming book, Memory Warp: How the Myth of Repressed Memory Arose and Refuses to Die (October 2017).
The author notes that he submitted a shorter version of this investigative expose of the popular Netflix series to Slate, Vice, Discover, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, and other publications, to no avail.
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said, “that the mainstream media have no interest in debunking sex abuse allegations, even if they are based on psychological myths.”
|The Mob Talk Boys Are Back|
He's beaten the feds in court more often than they've beaten him.
Still he's spent close to half his adult life either in jail or on supervised release.
Today Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, 55, is prepping for another battle. Mob Talk, the one-time weekly feature on Fox 29 in Philadelphia, has a new life as Mob Talk Sitdown. Our first video report takes a look at how the case against Skinny Joey is shaping up.
Click below for the full report:
|"Leave the gun . . . "|
It was just a couple of guys talking . . . about how to commit a murder.
And the feds got to listen in.
Snippets of a conversation recorded by a cooperating witness show Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and Eugene "Rooster" Onofrio casually discussing how to whack somebody.
"It's easy to kill somebody," said Merlino, according to a tape cited in a recent filing by federal prosecutors in a case against Merlino and Onofrio that is winding its way toward trial in New York.
"It's simple," said the New York wiseguy.
"You're my friend," Merlino said, picking up the conversation as cooperator John "JR" Rubeo listened and the body wire he was wearing for the FBI picked up every word. "You trust me. I tell you, 'Listen, drive me home right now.' Get you in the car. I shoot you in the fuckin' head and it's over."
For more on the story and the potential impact of the tape check out the latest Mob Talk Sitdown at:
While former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah sits in jail, his lawyers are trying to get him a new trial.
Their best shot involves pro-prosecution Judge Harvey Bartle III, and his ham-fisted ejection last summer of Juror 12 from the Fattah case, simply because that juror had the temerity to disagree with the government.
Fattah's appeal was filed earlier this month in the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, in the matter of USA v. Chaka Fattah, Sr.
Any appeal is a long shot, but if the Court of Appeals signs off on Judge Bartle's decision to remove a dissident juror merely because he was a dissident, what's the point of having a jury trial when it involves a Philadelphia politician accused of corruption? We might as well just pronounce the defendant guilty upon indictment, and send them straight to jail. So we can spare the taxpayers the cost of a lengthy trial, and stop wasting time with any nonsense about constitutional rights.
And since that newspaper has had an unholy alliance with prosecutors since the days of Harry Karafin, any allegations of corruption are treated as proven facts by the Inquirer the minute the indictment is released by the U.S. Attorney's office. Or the minute the allegations in that indictment are leaked to the Inquirer, in advance of the official release, for additional damaging pretrial publicity.
Regardless, the Inquirer keeps a permanent slot on their front-page open for the next breathless story about official corruption emanating from those beacons of light at the U.S. Attorney's office.
The end result: by the time a defendant finally goes to trial, especially a Philadelphia politician accused of corruption, he's already been convicted in the media. No matter what crazy theory the prosecutors are running with.
The game is so out of whack here in Philadelphia that the prosecutors can take a couple of milquetoasts, say Chaka Fattah and Herb Vederman, and convince people that they're dangerous racketeers. Yes folks, in the Fattah case, the congressman and his diminutive aide were prosecuted under the RICO Act, as if they were John Stanfa and Skinny Joey Merlino.
It doesn't matter how goofy the prosecution theories are. Here in Philadelphia, the Inquirer can be counted on to run with it without expressing a critical thought. All that's needed on the criminal justice railroad that runs through Philadelphia is a rubber stamp from the jurors.
What went wrong in the Fattah case was that Juror 12, a former U.S. Army paratrooper from Lancaster County, didn't think that the government had proved his case. A white guy from Amish country didn't think there was any evidence to convict a black congressman from Philadelphia of corruption.
Fattah was accused of orchestrating a plot to pay for his campaign expenses with a $1 million loan borrowed from a wealthy campaign contributor. But before he sent a guy off to jail, Juror 12 wanted some proof. And when he looked a the evidence, what did he discover?
|Herb the Racketeer|
One of those cooperating witnesses was Thomas Lindenfeld, a former political consultant to Fattah who got jammed up by the feds.
According to the evidence presented in court, Lindenfeld "lied to his wife, his family, his business partners, and those close to him," Juror 12 said. " So why would I believe anything he said to save his own skin? If you're gonna lie to them, why wouldn't you lie to me?"
Sounds reasonable. Juror 12's problem was once he looked at the evidence, and formed an opinion on whether the government had proved its case, he wasn't going to change his mind.
That became a problem with the rest of the jurors, some of whom thought just the allegations printed in the indictment amounted to proof of criminal activity. That, of course, would qualify them for jobs as Inky reporters and editors.
Stepping into the breach was Judge Bartle, a former state attorney general, who was determined to make sure that justice was done in his courtroom. The right kind of justice. Standing in Judge Bartle's way was the U.S. Constitution.
"The trial court abused its discretion by inserting itself into the jury deliberations and then dismissing a juror who did not view the evidence as the rest of the jury did," wrote lawyers Samuel W. Silver and Bruce P. Merenstein in a 64-page appeal brief. "The constitutional rights to due process, impartial juries, unanimous verdicts, and guilt only upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt all serve to protect a criminal defendant from the overwhelming pressure that can be brought to bear on a lay jury."
In their brief, Fattah's lawyers said that the judge's decision to question any jurors in the Fattah case was "improper and prejudicial.'"
"Barely a half-day into the jury's deliberations, the trial court questioned five jurors about those deliberations and then dismissed a juror who, according to some of the other jurors, would not view the evidence the way they did and would not vote with them to convict the defendants," the lawyers wrote.
The judge had "no basis to question the jurors in the first place," the lawyers wrote. The judge's interviews with the jurors, and a couple of jurors' notes revealed "nothing more than healthy disagreements over the merits and normal deliberations among jurors in a criminal case," the lawyers wrote. "Thus, the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing the dissenting juror and a new trial is required to remedy this error."
"The results of the trial court's questioning of the jurors confirmed that there was no legitimate grounds for removing Juror 12," the lawyers wrote. "The foreperson testified that Juror 12 wouldn't change his vote and that it was 'everybody pretty much against this guy.' The foreperson clearly was frustrated that no matter how much other jurors argued with Juror 12, he would not interpret the evidence the same way as they did, and that he insisted on reviewing the evidence very closely."
And when the judge interviewed Juror 12, it was his undisputed testimony that "while he pointed to evidence to justify his dissenting vote, other jurors rejected his arguments and 'pointed to the indictment.'"
"When he [Juror 12] reminded the other jurors that the indictment was not evidence and pointed to the jury charge that was supposed to guide their deliberations, the other jurors ignored him and simply insisted on taking another vote," the lawyers wrote.
Juror 6 conceded to the judge that Juror 12 was 'participating in the process' and was reviewing the evidence. He was just "being obstinate," Juror 6 told the judge. "He's being different."
In Judge Bartle's courtroom, this was a problem. Hopefully, the appeals court will remind the judge that you can't toss a juror off a case for weighing the evidence and following his conscience.
|The Philly D.A.'s Office In Action|
Like the Pope used to be, prosecutors think they're infallible.
And when they screw up, or get caught playing dirty, they don't apologize.
But today in Common Pleas Court, the nearest thing to a correction just happened -- Judge Ellen Ceisler signed off on a deal struck between the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and Bernard Shero's lawyers to let Shero out of jail nearly a dozen years early.
Shero, 54, is the former schoolteacher doing 8 to 16 years for his 2013 conviction by a jury on charges that included rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault. But Shero's conviction comes with a big asterisk -- the alleged victim in the case was Danny Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," the former altar boy who has since been outed as a complete fraud.
Shero, 54, has already done 4 years, 6 months and two weeks in jail for crimes that never happened. He has another 11 1/2 years to go on his maximum sentence. But as soon as tomorrow, he'll be walking out of State Correctional Institution in Houtzdale, thanks to a deal finalized today during a half-hour teleconference between the prison and Judge Ceisler's courtroom at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia.
Wearing a maroon jumpsuit, inmate Shero was on camera in Judge Ceisler's courtroom, answering questions posed by the judge, his lawyer, Jeff Ogren, and a couple of assistant district attorneys.
|Danny Gallagher, The D.A.'s Star Witness|
Shero had an appeal for a new trial cooking under the Post-Conviction Relief Act, and reading the tea leaves, the throughly corrupt Philadelphia District Attorney's Office got the distinct impression from a prior hearing that Judge Ceisler was about to rule against them.
Shero's lawyers were pursuing a new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. Their star witness: Joe Walsh, the retired detective who was the District Attorney's lead investigator on the Billy Doe case. Walsh came forward to say that Danny Gallagher was a liar who admitted that he just "made up stuff."
In a 12-page affidavit, Walsh wrote that he caught Gallagher telling so many lies that the detective repeatedly told the prosecutor in the case, former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, that her star witness wasn't credible, and that the evidence he had gathered contradicted Gallagher's crazy stories. Sorensen's response, according to Walsh: "You're killing my case."
With a killer witness like that in the defense's corner, the D.A.'s office was justifiably concerned about losing the PCRA hearing, and Shero getting a new trial. So they cut a deal. In exchange for Shero's freedom, the former schoolteacher had to undergo the humiliation of a half-hour hearing, where, in front of his family, he pleaded no contest to three charges: involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, a first-degree felony, and two first-degreee misdemeanors, endangering the welfare of a child, and corruption of a minor.
Shero, who admitted he had taken Zoloft before today's hearing, had to sit there while an assistant district attorney read the alleged facts of the case. All of those facts were lies -- that Shero, Gallagher's homeroom teacher, back when Gallagher was an 11-year-old altar boy, allegedly raped Gallagher while driving him home from school.
Detective Walsh, the lead investigator on the case, has already stated that he didn't believe it ever happened. Gallagher's stories about the alleged rape also varied so wildly that he wouldn't have been a credible witness to any honest district attorney.
But the D.A. pushing the Danny Gallagher rape story was Rufus Seth Williams, a man so corrupt he admitted to stealing from his own mother, in addition to taking bribes and selling his office. And now Williams is sitting in solitary confinement at the federal prison at 7th and Market, awaiting his sentencing on Oct. 24th.
But Danny Gallagher's lies lived on the courtroom of Judge Ceisler today as the assistant D.A.'s read Gallagher's fictional rape stories into the record. And Shero had to plead no contest to it if he wanted to ever get out of jail.
Most men in his position would have pleaded guilty to the Kennedy assassination. Shero also had to give up his rights to a new trial, and any other appeals he may have wanted to file.
In return, the D.A. cut his sentence to time served. Shero will be on probation for the next 10 years. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
When the prosecutor asked Shero if he understood the term so this plea bargain, Shero replied, "I believe it's clear."
The judge also wanted to know if Shero understood the rights he was giving up.
"I'm good, ma'am, thank you," Shero replied.
For her part, the judge granted Shero a new trial under his PCRA appeal, in exchange for Shero immediately taking the plea bargain offered by the D.A.'s office.
Judge Ceisler told Shero that his family was in the courtroom, including his father, Bob, his mother Bonnie, and his sister, Robin.
"They've been fighting for you" for years, the judge said. She told the defendant he had her "best wishes" for "the next chapter of your life."
"Good luck, Mr. Shero," the judge said as she ended the hearing. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," the judge told Shero's family.
After the hearing was over, Jeff Ogren, Shero's defense attorney, acknowledged that Shero was initially against pleading no contest to anything. His position has always been that he's an innocent man.
But Ogren's position was simple: "If he [Shero] did nothing, he'd be coming out in a million years," Ogren said.
So they struck a deal so the D.A. could still pretend that Danny Gallagher was a rape victim and that Rufus Seth Williams' historic prosecution of the Catholic Church was still legitimate.
Even though Danny Gallagher is a fraud and Rufus Seth Williams is a criminal. But at least Bernie Shero will soon be a free man.
In Philadelphia, this is what passes for justice.
And if you're a prosecutor, it means you never have to say you're sorry. Even when they catch you putting a witness on the stand that you know is a fraud.
By Ralph Cipriano
Bernard Shero got out of jail yesterday. "He's home and we are so happy!!!" his mother wrote in a text.
But the question remains: Why did the scandal-plagued Philadelphia District Attorney's office decide to let a convicted child rapist out of prison 11 1/2 years early? The D.A.'s office isn't talking, but the facts are they only did it after one of their own, retired Detective Joseph Walsh, came forward with damaging accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.
When the D.A. cut their deal with Shero, Walsh was one of the witnesses scheduled to take the stand this fall in another hearing before Judge Ellen Ceisler on Shero's petition for a new trial under the Post-Conviction Relief Act. Now, thanks to that deal the D.A. cut, Walsh won't be making any appearances on behalf of Shero. But the D.A.'s office isn't out of the woods just yet.
Msgr. William J. Lynn, the lead defendant in the so-called "Billy Doe" sex abuse case, is still scheduled to be retried, pending a couple of appeals in state Superior Court over some pretrial rulings in the Lynn case. And unless the D.A.'s office cuts another deal with Lynn, retired Detective Walsh will be taking the stand as the monsignor's star witness, to give another dissertation on the prosecutorial misconduct in the D.A.'s office that he witnessed up close and personal.
A recently released court transcript reveals the D.A.'s defense against Walsh's accusations, and it basically amounts to a comedy skit that was openly met with disbelief by an incredulous judge. But the transcript also contains some damaging admissions from the lead prosecutor about the so-called Billy Doe "investigation." It's a primer on the the legal perils of trying to defend a case after one of your own team members has come forward to blow the whistle.
Memo to interim D.A. Kelley Hodge : it might be high time to cut a deal with Msgr. Lynn and spare the scandal-plagued D.A.'s office further embarrassment. Before this entire travesty goes up in flames on a national stage, namely a retrial of Msgr. Lynn.
Before the D.A.'s office moved to shut down the circus over Shero's PCRA petition, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington tried to shoot his way out.
At a June 8th PCRA hearing before Judge Ceisler, Blessington decided his only defense was to attack Detective Walsh's credibility, but the volatile prosecutor wound up inflicting more damage on the D.A.'s office than he did on Walsh.
Blessington, the lead prosecutor in the Lynn case, got things rolling by trying to imply that the D.A.'s office couldn't wait to cross-examine Walsh at a future PCRA hearing.
"I had a pile of information to cross-examine Joe Walsh with, who by the way, was not brought in to investigate the case," Blessington declared. "The investigation had been completed. There had been an arrest. He was brought in for trial preparation."
Blessington further alleged that if there was any prosecutorial misconduct during trial prep, it was Walsh's fault.
"So Detective Walsh, who, by the way, if there is a violation here, he is the violator," Blessington declared. "No one is going to make him this violator and this hero; if there was egregious miscarriage of justice based upon a failure, it was Joe Walsh's -- Detective Walsh's failure. Let's not lose sight of that."
George Bochetto, a lawyer defending Shero, pointed to a 12-page affidavit filed by Walsh in Common Pleas Court that detailed the prosecutorial misconduct that he witnessed.
"The affidavit," Bochetto told the judge. "He [Walsh] was pleading with the Commonwealth's lawyers about these problems. I was urging them to re-look at this and reconsider this, and they kept saying that you are trying to kill the case."
Bochetto then pointed out that if Blessington is right about the misconduct being Walsh's fault, "It doesn't matter" because "Walsh is part of the Commonwealth." Bochetto then proceeded to attack the rest of of Blessington's argument.
"We do not concede to the Commonwealth's characterization that was just about trial prep," Bochetto said.
"This is Mr. Walsh who was brought in after the indictment to try to go get the evidence that would support the story of Danny Gallagher," Bochetto said. "And this was a series of meetings over time where Detective was trying to A, understand what Danny Galalagher was saying, and B, square it with what he could objectively find as facts."
"And that's where the tension began to grow and grow, which eventually led to the prosecution saying that you are trying to kill my case," Bochetto said.
"This was an attempt to build the prosecution's case," Bochetto told the judge. "Many of these things of Detective Walsh's decidedly and profoundly upset about not having been disclosed, took place not as trial prep, but as an investigation."
What Blessington referred to as trial prep was a session that lasted some three hours before the Lynn trial where Detective Walsh repeatedly questioned Danny Gallagher the lying scheming altar boy about nine key factual discrepancies in his testimony. And Gallagher's responses, according to Walsh, varied from putting his head down and saying nothing, to claiming he was high on drugs, or to inventing new stories of abuse.
And none of this was ever disclosed to the defense. This is the prosecutorial misconduct alleged by Detective Walsh. It was serious enough in the Lynn case to prompt Judge Gwendolyn Bright to announce from the bench that Lynn would have gotten a new trial because of that prosecutorial misconduct, if an appeals court had not already granted him a new trial.
At the PCRA hearing on the Shero case before Judge Ceisler, Bochetto got in a few more licks.
"Detective Walsh is part of the Commonwealth's team," Bochetto pointed out. "Detective Walsh comes forward, issues an affidavit, gets on a witness stand and testifies under oath that the Commonwealth improperly withheld a lot of this information, and particularly Danny Gallagher's reactions and explanations as to what was going on and the inconstancies, was all withheld."
"And I, Detective Walsh, am going to step forward as a former decorated member of the Commonwealth, their team, and say this is wrong," Bochetto said. "This should not have taken place."
Jeff Ogren, another lawyer for Shero, pointed out that Burt Rose, Shero's trial attorney, said "over and over that we had no idea Danny Gallagher was tested so strongly by the detective on all these inconsistencies, so we never knew what his reactions were."
"Judge, the only I was trying to say is, we disagree strenuously that this was simply trial prep," Bochetto said. "This was a lot more than trial prep."
Blessington blamed Walsh for any possible misconduct, saying the detctive had given several conflicting versions of how his trial prep went down with Gallagher.
The judge went along with the prosecutor's argument, and proceeded to hang him with it.
"Even though the Commonwealth might not have committed any prosecutorial misconduct, maybe the detective did," the judge suggested, referencing the possibility that Walsh didn't tell the prosecutors about what went down in his trial prep session with Gallagher.
Given that opening, Blessington decided it was a good time to take a shot at one of his own team members.
"What is also to consider is Detective Walsh's credibility," Blessington said.
Bochetto cut in.
"Let's say that Mr. Blessington is right" that it's Joe Walsh fault, Bochetto said. "I'd disagree with that severe of a characterization, but let's give him [Blessington] the benefit of the doubt for this argument."
Blessington should have kept talking. When your opponent is agreeing with you, he could be ready to stick a knife in your back.
"Whose problem is that," Bochetto asked the judge about any possible misconduct committed by Detective Walsh.
"It's certainly not Mr. Shero's problem," Bochetto said. "It's not our problem. It's the Commonwealth's problem. This is their investigator. This is the main guy who was putting the case together to put Mr. Shero in jail forever. If he [Blessington] wants to march Joe Walsh in and say at that time you said this and that time you said that, whose problem is that Judge?"
"If there were these types of shenanigans," Bochetto said, whether it was Walsh's fault, or the prosecution's, "we are not here to defend that," Bochetto said. "We are not here to justify it."
"It's a corruption of the system," Bochetto said. "It's not the way this system, particularly in a case of this significance, is supposed to work."
"If Mr. Blessington wants to march Mr. Walsh in here and say what's lacking credibility" is the detective himself, and "how he mishandled this, and how falsified his testimony here and there, and he [Walsh] was the main pillar of their investigation and prosecution of Mr. Shero, whose door step should that fall on?" Bochetto asked.
Blessington spoke up.
"And Detective Walsh, as I said, and I will repeat, he was brought in primarily for trial preparation," Blessington insisted.
That's when the judge got involved.
"Why didn't you bring him [Walsh] in to start questioning all the witnesses related to Shero and Engelhardt," the judge asked.
Here, Blessington made a statement that prompted an incredulous reaction from the judge, and the audience.
"He did that on his own apparently, Your Honor," Blessington said about the investigation conducted by Walsh.
"He did that on his own?" the judge responded in amazement. "In Hagler and Clopp and all these folks, he did that on his own?"
Louise Hagler was one of two archdiocese social workers who interviewed Danny Gallagher about his initial wild allegations of abuse, shortly after he called in on the archdiocese hotline to make a complaint. Donna Clopp was Gallagher's second-grade teacher at St. Jerome's.
Blessington began backtracking.
"I wasn't there when most of that was going on," Blessington said. "I was detailed to Harrisburg."
"But what I'm saying is, this representation of Joe Walsh as being the leading investigator, this defendant was arrested because a grand jury issued presentment recommending the charges against him," Blessington said.
"It was the grand jury that was responsible for the arrest, not Joe Walsh. He didn't come into it -- and I think [Assistant District Attorney Mariana "You're killing my case"] Sorensen would say that Joe is giving all these inconsistent statements, she's asking him to do other things that he is not doing."
"There may have been an agenda," Blessington added, on the part of Walsh. "I don't know. But what I do know, Your Honor, is there is a burden here on the defense to prove it. That's why his [Walsh's] credibility is at issue, it's their burden."
Here we have the spectacle of the lead prosecutor in the Msgr. Lynn case trying to destroy the credibility of his own lead investigator.
"I understand that," the judge said about the defense's burden. "But I'm kind of intrigued to hear that Walsh might have been kind of doing things on his own."
"I don't think anybody said, hey, Detective Walsh, go out and interview these people," Blessington continued. "I don't think anybody told him to do that . . . He testified twice, and he never said that he received any direction from any of the prosecution."
We interrupt this story to point out that this is an amazing declaration from the lead prosecutor in the Lynn case. Here, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington is stating that the prosecution didn't need to do any further investigation after a faulty grand jury probe led by a rookie prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mariana "You're Killing My Case" Sorensen, who had never previously prosecuted a traffic stop.
Here you have a case that rests solely on the completely uncorroborated accusations of Danny Gallagher. There is no medical or physical evidence to back Gallagher's claims that more than a decade earlier, he had been brutally raped by three different assailants -- two priests and a schoolteacher. And nobody saw or heard a thing. There is no witness to corroborate what Gallagher is claiming.
Here, Blessington is saying, we don't need no stinkin' investigation. We already have all the evidence that we need, the totally uncorroborated accusations of Danny Gallagher. That's all we need to indict a bunch of Catholic priests and a school teacher for sex crimes.
So, according to Blessington's INSANE argument, the D.A.'s office didn't need Detective Walsh to go out to the scene of the crime, where an alleged multiple rape spree occurred, and interview the only possible witnesses.
Danny Gallagher's teachers at St. Jerome's. The priests and nuns at the school and church, the sexton at the church who cleaned up after Mass and locked up the church. No, in a case where the fate of four men rests entirely on the credibility of a single accuser, we don't need to know what anybody who knew him thinks or saw or may have witnessed.
Detective Walsh conducted 21 interviews, mostly with nuns, teachers, and priests at St. Jerome's. He interviewed Donna Clopp, Billy Doe's second-grade teacher who described him as a "happy kid" who "liked attention." Clopp was also a member of the bell choir who pointed out that Danny Gallagher couldn't be telling the truth when he claimed to have been a member of the bell choir maintenance crew.
Gallagher had claimed that he was accosted as a fifth grader by Father Avery, after he was putting the bells away after a bell choir concert. But Clopp, as did several other teachers at the school, told Detective Walsh that only eight-grade boys were big and strong enough to lift the heavy tables and bells to set up for the concerts.
And that it was the bell choir members themselves who put away the bells and tables after the concert, not the eighth-graders who had already gone home for the night.
It was Detective Walsh who interviewed Margaret Long, the church music director, who confirmed what Clopp said. "I read the grand jury report," Long told the detective. "The information contained int the grand jury report concerning the bell choir could not have happened."
Because the bells and tables each weighed more than 30 pounds, and 10-year-old Danny Gallagher the fifth-grader only weighed 63 pounds.
It was Detective Walsh who interviewed James Gallagher Jr., Danny Gallagher's older brother, who was also an altar boy at St. Jerome's. James Jr. said he never saw or witnessed any abuse. He also contradicted his younger brother by saying it was the church sexton who put away the sacramental wine after Mass, and not the altar boys.
Danny Gallagher had claimed he was attacked by Father Charles Engelhardt, while he was putting away the sacramental wine after Mass.
Danny Gallagher also claimed that after he had been raped by Fathers Engelhardt and Edward Avery, he switched Masses with other altar boys to avoid his attackers. But James Gallagher Jr. told Detective Walsh that he never switched Masses with his brother, and furthermore, that switching Masses was hard to pull off because he would need the approval of his parents and the pastor.
The older brother also contradicted Danny's stories that Father Engelhardt locked all four doors to the sacristy when he allegedly raped poor Danny. But Danny's older brother told Detective Walsh one of those doorways in the sacristy led to the dressing room for the priests, and it was always kept open.
[No wonder the prosecution managed to basically hide Danny's older brother during the Engelhardt-Shero trial, even though the jury sent the judge a note asking why they didn't hear from him.]
But according to Blessington, there was no need to know any of that. Because we had already indicted and arrested three priests and a school teacher on false charges.
Let's return to the PCRA hearing on Shero, where Blessington was still attacking Detective Walsh.
"He [Walsh] didn't tell anybody about this [prep] session and he never expressed these misgivings until he says that . . .," Blessington said, until the judge interrupted him.
"What you're possibly saying is that his actions were very improper," the judge said. "And they [the prosecutors] didn't know about it. And I'm not saying that your actions were improper, but I'm saying he might be the one who tainted this, in all aspects."
"I'm not saying his [Walsh's] actions and investigation were improper," Blessington responded. "What I'm saying is, if he had all the information that he claims to have gotten as detailed in this affidavit, and he [Walsh] didn't tell anybody about it, if there is a violation, its his violation. That's all I'm saying.
"His violation," the judge repeated. But it still might have precluded a fair trial. We might be getting into an after discovered evidence situation here."
Here, Blessington repeated a false charge against Detective Walsh, first uttered by the judge in this hearing, but undoubtedly fed to her by somebody in the prosecution. The false charge: that Walsh was allegedly and improperly contacting Mike McGovern, Father Engelhardt's lawyer, before the trial where he and Shero were convicted of rape.
"As the court pointed out, he [Walsh] was feeding stuff to McGovern," Blessington said. "If McGovern had it, Shero had it. He is not going to hold things from his co-counsel."
This is a lie.
Detective Walsh pre-trial was not feeding Mike McGovern. How do we know this? As part of their PCRA investigation, Bochetto and Ogren contacted McGovern, a former assistant district attorney himself, and asked if this was true. And McGovern said no way, it never happened.
Walsh told Shero's lawyers the same thing.
Here's the proof: if Walsh had been feeding McGovern, Shero and Engelhardt would have never been convicted. Not if they had known all the stuff Walsh detailed in his 12-page affidavit.
If anybody needs proof of this, call a hearing, put McGovern on the stand, and Walsh, and see what they have to say about their so-called collusion.
It never happened. But what's amazing here is that Blessington is willing to repeat a lie to impeach Walsh. And who fed that lie to the judge in the first place?
Imagine if you're a defense lawyer in the Msgr. Lynn retrial and you've got the lead prosecutor and the lead investigator in the case against you going at each other like this. How do you lose the case?
At the PCRA hearing, Bochetto was enjoying the show.
"Judge, listen to what's going on here," Bochetto said. "On the one hand, Mr. Blessington" is "saying they [the prosecutors] had all this stuff" presumably on Walsh.
"But on the other hand," Bochetto said, "he [Blessington] is saying, Mr. Walsh was doing all this stuff on his own, and we didn't know about it. How could they have turned over what they didn't know about?"
"If there is evidence that the Commonwealth wasn't organized and didn't understand completely what Detective Walsh was up to, we get the benefit of that doubt, Judge," Bochetto said. "It's our constitutional right that was violated."
"If there is misconduct," Bochetto said, "I submit that Mr. Blessington's own statements here about Walsh, go a long way towards supporting the idea that there was something amok here."
"They [the prosecutors] didn't known everything that Walsh knew according to them," Bochetto said. "Walsh says that he turned it over and he was rebuffed. We say that none of that [information] came to us. So I just think that we need to keep our eye on the ball here."
Memo to Interim D.A. Kelly Hodge: Keep your eye on the ball here. The entire credibility of the Billy Doe prosecution, and what's left of the credibility of the D.A.'s office, is on the line here.
Your honorable predecessor, Rufus Seth Williams, the sponsor of the Billy Doe witch hunt, is sitting in solitary confinement awaiting his sentencing on political corruption charges Oct. 24th. What a legacy. And what a headache he's left you with, that pesky and now potentially embarrassing retrial of Msgr. Lynn.
To cut a deal with Msgr. Lynn, here's the bad news, Ms. Hodge: you don't have much leverage.
Unlike Shero, Lynn's not sitting in jail. He's already served 33 months out of his 36-month jail term. Unlike Shero, the monsignor ain't pleading guilty to nothing.
So cut a deal. Declare victory, drop all the charges, and forget about the retrial.
Before everybody over there at the D.A.'s office is exposed on a national stage for perpetrating a fraud on the Commonwealth, as well as justice.
Retired Philadelphia Detective