In 2005, district justice Ruth C. Dietrich from central Buck’s county Perkasie was supposed to retire she wanted to continue her job on the bench so she applied as substitute in the minor judiciary of the state.
Her first assignment was in Philadelphia’s Traffic Court and it was quickly clear she was not in Perkasie anymore.
As a witness in the Traffic Court trial, Dietrich, age 79, told the jury how former Judge Willie Singletary explained to her the concept of consideration.
One day, he brought her a paper citation and requested for favorable decision, However, Dietrich testified that she rolled the paper and gave to the court administrator telling him that the offender can attend a hearing like everybody else.
Anthony Wzorek, Assistant U.S. Attorney, asked Dietrich if honored Singletary’s request for consideration.
Dietrich replied that she did not given in to the request because it was illegal.
Wzorek asked if it makes any difference if money doesn’t change hands and Dietrich answered in the negative.
Dietrich was the first witness for the prosecution as the trial of the seven started before a jury of 12 with U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel.
On Wednesday, Dietrich will return to the witness stand where she will be questioned by Singletary’s lawyer and others.
Aside from Singletary, age 33, on trial are former Traffic Court Judges Michael Lowry, age 58; Robert Mulgrew, age 57; Michael J. Sullivan, age 50; and Thomasine Tynes, age 70.
Mark A. Bruno, age 50, district justice from West Chester subbed in Traffic Court and Robert Moy, age 56, businessman in Philadelphia who had a translation service for Asian immigrants were the other two accused. Prosecutors alleged that Moy accepted hundreds of dollars in cash promising that since he knew two judges; traffic tickets would be dismissed.
Tuesday’s session was mostly consumed by the opening statements of both prosecution and defense.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise S. Wolf again reminded the jury that Traffic Court was immerged in a “culture of ticket-fixing,” with two kinds of justice: one for friends of judges, ward politicians, and savvy business owners who got VIP red-carpet treatment,” with their tickets erased and the other for the rest.
Wolf said that the government’s case would just focus on 50 tickets from the year 2008 to 2011 that clearly established a conspiracy between judges who dismissed tickets written to their friends, or at the request of politicians and business owners.
Although, there was no money, no gifts, and no bribes given only that they knew the judges, or somebody they knew the judges. Wolf said still the alleged ticket-fixing scheme was detrimental to the state and city significant revenue because of fines that were never paid.
Defense panel painted a poignantly different view of the much-maligned court, and concluded that the judges were victims of an error-prone system that made them downgrade or dismiss most of the cases without looking at the offenders’ political pedigree.
Louis R. Busico asTynes’ lawyer said that the case of the prosecution was a “fact pattern in search of a crime.”
Most in the defense panel said that judges of the Traffic Court have to use discretion in hearing cases as Philadelphia police do not have to appear in court to vouch for the tickets they wrote. If tickets are found faulty or have missing information, the only option for judges were to dismiss or downgrade them.
Busico stated that the prosecutors call it consideration, but it is their evil way of saying the discretion which police do all the time.