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January 31, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Indictments for corrupt Philly Traffic Court judges (Updated)

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – The Philadelphia Traffic Court has been criticized for having two tracks of justice – one for the politically connected and one for the public.

Today, it appears one of those tracks might lead to federal prison.

AND I WILL TRY TO FIX YOU: Philly Traffic Court judges are facing indictments over a “ticket-fixing” scandal, according to multiple media reports. A state senator says the only way to fix the court is to abolish it.

News reports Thursday morning indicate that at least three and as many as 11 people connected to corrupt dealings at the Traffic Court face indictment.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that three former judges on the court have turned themselves into the FBI on Thursday and expect to be charged with fraud and corruption, likely in connection to a probe the feds began in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia ABC affiliate reports that 11 individuals connected to the court will be indicted Thursday on charges of corruption and ticket-fixing and will appear in federal court.

One of the judges named in both reports is former Traffic Court judge Willie Singletary, whose story paints a not-so-pleasant picture of the court and its judges.

Singletary was removed from the court in 2012 after making comments on videotape (that later ended up on YouTube) in which he told campaign donors they would get his “hook up” in court.  He was later found to have “engaged in judicial misconduct” in December 2012 for an incident in which he showed a picture of his genitals to a female staffer at the court.

An internal review of the Traffic Court commissioned by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille in 2012 found rampant corruption and “ticket fixing” for politically-connected friends.  The Inquirer published that report in November after it was leaked to the paper.

Among the judges named in that report — though not named in any articles on Thursday’s indictments, so far — is sitting state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, who got his wife out of a ticket for driving the wrong way on a one way street in 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, intends to sponsor legislation to shutter the Philadelphia Traffic Court.  He says the court has demonstrated its lack of integrity time after time and the only way to clean up the court is to eliminate it.

The seven judges on the court are not required to be attorneys and are paid an annual salary in excess of $91,000.

Updated 3:38 p.m. – Nine people, including six current or former judges at the Traffic Court, were indicted in connection to the ticket-fixing scandal.

The full indictment can be viewed here.

In a statement, Pileggi said the sweeping nature of the indictments demonstrates that “Traffic Court is not worth saving.” He believes today’s announcement will accelerate the process of considering his legislation, which will be introduced this week.

Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin said the Traffic Court would remain open while the indictments worked their way through the legal system.

Contact Eric Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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