Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary’s decision to resign is best for the city’s courts.
Singletary, suspended for allegedly showing a phone-camera photo of his genitals to an employee, submitted his resignation by iPhone, said Common Pleas Court Judge Gary. S. Glazer, the acting administrative judge of Traffic Court.
Under state law a judge must resign directly to the governor, so Singletary would have to submit his resignation to Gov. Corbett, said Glazer.
The governor should immediately accept Singletary’s resignation.
Singletary has had a history of controversy.
The founding partner of a West Philadelphia church Singletary was elected in 2007 to the post that pays $85,000 a year even though his driver’s license was suspended because he had amassed $11,500 in traffic-related fines.
A video posted to YouTube shows Singletary seeking campaign donations at a 2007 biker rally that suggest campaign contributors would get favorable treatment in his court.
“There’s going to be basket going around because I’m running for Traffic Court judge, right, and I need more money,” Singletary said while campaigning in the primary.
The election of Singletary reveals the flaws in electing judges.
In many instances voters know little to nothing about the candidates when they vote for a judge. The current system is set up so that voters are often voting completely blind for unqualified people who only get elected because they paid off ward leaders and party officials.
Singletary’s resignation gets rid off one unqualified judge. How many more remain?
Traffic court judge accused of showing lewd photo to employee
The attorney representing Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary, who allegedly showed a photo of his genitals to a female employee, said he does not know why Singletary has been barred from entering the Traffic Court’s building on Spring Garden Street.
“I know what the rumors are,” said attorney William J. Brennan. “But, unlike a criminal case or civil case where they must serve a complaint … the administrative judges served certain memoranda on Judge Singletary and the memoranda tell him what he can and can’t do. But, we’ve seen no documentation indicating the basis for this action.”
According to reports published earlier this week, Singletary was ordered by Administrative Judge Gary S. Glazer to stay away from court after he showed photos of his genitalia to a female employee.
Brennan acknowledged that Singletary had been barred from the Traffic Court building. He declined to discuss the published allegation.
“I would be very foolish to comment on rumor or innuendo,” Brennan said. “If and when a complaint is filed I will respond accordingly.”
Sheriff’s deputies escorted Singletary from the building Dec. 22 after Glazer relieved him of his judicial duties. Brennan said Singletary is staying away from court while he reviews his options.
According to published reports, Singletary last week showed a photo of his penis to a female information technology worker. She reportedly filed a sexual-harassment complaint, which Singletary allegedly tried to block by confronting her in an attempt to force her to withdraw it.
Singletary can only be removed by the state Supreme Court or the Court of Judicial Discipline, so he remains an elected judge and continues to collect his $85,000 annual salary.
“He is still an elected judge,” said Brennan.
Glazer has recommended that the Supreme Court suspend Singletary and a complaint has been filed with the Court of Judicial Discipline.
Singletary’s suspension was Glazer’s first public act as administrative judge. Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille appointed Glazer last week to oversee Traffic Court operations as the state Supreme Court conducts an investigation into allegations of widespread corruption. The FBI is also investigating the court, looking into allegations that judges took bribes or accepted political favors for fixing tickets.
Singletary, 29, has been a controversial figure even before he was elected to traffic court, a seat he won in 2007. During his run, he was filmed at a campaign rally suggesting that campaign contributors would get special treatment when he was elected.
He received a reprimand from the state Court of Judicial Discipline for his remarks. But, the judges noted, in their 2009 censure, that he was not a lawyer, and had not been an elected judge when he made the comments.
Before that, he came under scrutiny because he owed approximately $11,500 for dozens of unpaid traffic tickets. The mass of violations led to the suspension of his driver’s license, which was restored just this year.
A Navy veteran, Singletary is also a pastor and established the City of Refuge Church in West Philadelphia. He served in the Persian Gulf during the invasion of Afghanistan.
The charges against Singletary are unrelated to the FBI investigation into allegations of longstanding and widespread corruption in traffic court that has so far drawn scrutiny of three court officials: Sullivan, former traffic court Judge Fortunato Perri and former director of operations William Hird.
Two of the nine judges indicted by federal authorities in a wide spread traffic ticket-fixing scheme pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and conspiracy this week.
Judge H. Warren Hogeland of Richboro, Pennsylvania and Judge Kenneth Miller of Brookhaven, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to participating with seven Philadelphia Traffic Court judges in a traffic ticket fixing scheme. Federal investigators contend that both defendants routinely gave breaks to the city’s politically connected, business associates, family members and friends.
Hogeland, 75, and Miller, 76, both pleaded guilty to mail fraud and Hogeland also pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Prosecutors say that both men have agreed to cooperate with federal authorities and could be called in to testify when the case goes to court. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Hogeland allegedly handled a traffic ticket issued to Miller’s son by declaring him not guilty without so much as a court appearance. Allegedly, Miller also declared another traffic violator not guilty without a court appearance. Federal prosecutors allege that as part of the wider scheme, traffic tickets were routinely “fixed” and violators were often found not guilty, or were found guilty of lesser offenses. In numerous cases, the violators never had to show their faces in court.
Both defendants are scheduled for sentencing on May 24 in federal court.
Indicted in the case are former Judges Thomasine Tynes, Willie Singletary and Robert Mulgrew, sitting Judges Michael J. Sullivan, Michael Lowry, Chester County Judge Mark A. Bruno, Senior Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Fortunato Perri Sr., Former Director of Records Judge William Hird and local businessmen Henry Alfano and Robert Moy. Attorney William Brennan said he is looking forward to mounting a vigorous defense for his client, Judge Willie Singletary.
“We’re pleased that the federal government doesn’t allege that my client took one dime from anyone and we’re looking forward to mounting a vigorous defense,” said attorney William Brennan. The defendants were placed on $20,000 bail and released on their own recognizance. They were placed on travel restrictions, had to surrender any firearms and their passports.
According to the indictment, the defendants either dismissed traffic tickets outright or found violators not guilty after a “show hearing.” They allegedly adjudicated cases in a manner manipulated to reduce fines and points on a driver’s record, and obtained continuances of trial dates to “judge shop” - meaning finding a judge willing to accede to requests for preferential treatment. The indictments allege that the indicted judges and their staff members kept the system of preference quiet, and took steps to keep it that way.
“Our judicial system requires that the finder of fact determine guilt or innocence impartially,” U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said. “Ignoring this basic rule of justice, the judges in this case allegedly routinely ‘fixed’ traffic tickets by giving preferential treatment to people with whom they were politically and socially connected. In addition to depriving the city of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of funds rightfully owed by traffic violators, their corrupt conduct also undermined the confidence that law abiding citizens have in the Philadelphia Court System. Those who seek to game the system by refusing to follow the rules need to be held accountable by the rule of law they swore to uphold.”
According to the 77-count indictment, the city’s local politicians, ward leaders and those connected to the Democratic City Committee often contacted traffic law violators who were seeking preferential treatment. The defendants themselves were also allegedly routinely contacted by family members, friends and associates looking for a break on their traffic tickets. The indictment further alleges that the defendants either handled the requests themselves or spoke with judges to whom a particular case was assigned, leaving potentially unsafe drivers on the roads and defrauding the city and state of funds related to fines.
“The citizens of Philadelphia expect and deserve public officials who perform their duties free of deceit, favoritism, bias, self-enrichment, concealment and conflict of interest,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge John Brosnan. “Everyone is entitled to the same treatment in Traffic Court, regardless of their personal relationships, regardless of political considerations, and regardless of the personal preferences of court officials.”
Traffic ticket-fixing has always been suspected in Philadelphia, but with the release of an investigative report commissioned by Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, what has been suspected was dragged out into a glaring spotlight.
At least 10 sitting or former Traffic Court judges could face disciplinary actions for their connection to what could be termed as an internal system of traffic ticket -fixing. The report details an alleged behind-the-chambers culture that turned a blind eye to the infractions of the well-heeled politically connected crowd, but enforced the laws vigorously when it came to the less fortunate.
The list of red-flagged judges named in the report includes state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, retired Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, Municipal Court Judge Joseph O’Neill Sr., former Judge Willie Singletary, who was already under investigation for allegedly sending explicit photos of himself to a staff member, and retired Judge Bernice DeAngelis.
The study conducted by Chadwick Associates, Inc. found that the judges named in the study “routinely made, accepted and granted third-party requests for preferential treatment for politically connected individuals.”
“In some cases, judges granted preferential treatment to violators whose identities or connections they knew even if no expressed request was made,” wrote William G. Chadwick in the report’s overview, which was sent to Common Pleas Judge Gary S. Glazer on Nov. 19. “These practices violated established standards of conduct for the minor judiciary, and resulted in a court with a two-track system of justice; one for the politically connected and another for the unwitting general public. These practices were facilitated via ex parte communications among judges, their personal aides and court criers, administrative employees of the court and politically active individuals outside the court.”
According to the report, Judges Michael Sullivan and Christine Solomon declined to be interviewed for the study. Judge Michael Lowry, on the other hand, cooperated and not only admitted to his participation in the system of preferential treatment, but implicated colleagues. Also named in the report were the offices of state Sen. Mike Stack, Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who were allegedly frequent requestors of special treatment but were not interviewed for the report.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Brady regarding the allegations. “Neither my staff members or myself have ever requested any kind of special privileges in Traffic Court. What we do if any staff member is ticketed for a violation is provide an attorney who is present with them at the hearing. I take issue with a court employee mentioning my name and having my name included in the report. We have attorneys who do this work pro bono. No one on my staff ever contacted any judge to ask for special privileges – and you can rest assured that we are looking into this. Also, no one conducting this study ever spoke to me. In fact, I was ticketed for running a red light in 2010 after leaving a meeting with Mayor Nutter at City Hall. The traffic light camera snapped a picture of my car and an officer flagged me down and gave me a ticket, which I paid. I still have the stub. I find this very disturbing.”
According to the report, requests for special consideration were made either to the judges directly, personal staff members or court criers. Interviewers allege that the system for accessing preferential treatment was partially centralized four years ago when William Hird, former director of courtroom operations, began acting as the point man for the requests. Chadwick’s interviewers said Hird would take phone calls about a particular case, access the computer files, print the court dockets and make handwritten notes on the sheet which was then delivered to the judge hearing the case.
“The special consideration granted by judges ranged from outright acquittals and dismissals to amendments of the citation downgrading the offense to a charge carrying fewer demerit points on the offender’s driving record,” Chadwick said in the report, stating that 22 employees admitted to having knowledge of the practice. “Some personals questioned whether the requests affected the outcomes of the cases, citing the broad discretion that judges have in making decisions. In addition, neither Judge Warren Hogeland nor Lowry, both of whom admitted participating in the practice, could identify a single judge who did not participate. They both related that DeAngelis, who was the administrative judge when they first sat in Traffic Court, discussed the practice with them and led them to believe their participation was expected. Judge Bob Mulgrew was less forthcoming but conceded that special consideration was a part of the culture at Traffic Court.”
Chadwick said in the report that his office’s review was able to identify 18 cases with a total of 26 tickets either involving Traffic Court employees or their family members with cases handled by Tynes, who retired from the bench on July 3, 2012 following a medical leave of absence. The report cited a particular case involving a judge from another court who allegedly ran a red light and was recorded by a traffic light camera.
“The evidence included three photographs clearly showing the car proceeding through a red light,” Chadwick wrote. “Hird came in to the courtroom and requested that Judge Tynes give the judge special consideration. Judge Tynes then walked the judge through a series of leading questions designed to elicit responses that would support a reversal. Following the hearing in which the conviction was reversed, Hird greeted the violator outside the courtroom and both left together. Court records reflect that on Aug. 3, 2011, Judge Tynes reversed a guilty verdict for Joseph J. O’Neill, Sr. for a red light camera ticket, citing weather conditions as the basis for the reversal.”
Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary may well be the poster child for why judges should be selected on a merit-based system and not elected by a public that doesn’t know them.
Singletary is the controversial 30-year-old judge who has been suspended without pay by the state Supreme Court after he allegedly showed a picture of his penis to a female staffer. Adding insult to injury, sources said Singletary had allegedly confronted the woman in an attempt to get her to withdraw the complaint.
In its order, the Supreme Court said Singletary is “hereby relieved of any and all judicial and administrative responsibilities as a judge of the Philadelphia Traffic.”
While Singletary has not had due process yet and should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, it appears that the courts have corrected a mistake made by voters by removing Singletary as a Traffic Court judge.
Singletary is no stranger to controversy.
Singletary, the founding pastor of a West Philadelphia church, was elected in 2007 to the post that pays $85,000 a year even though his driver’s license was suspended because he had amassed $11,500 in traffic-related fines. Singletary is not a lawyer and the job of Traffic Court judge does not require a law degree.
A video posted to YouTube shows Singletary seeking campaign donations at a 2007 biker rally that suggest campaign contributors would get favorable treatment in his court.
“There’s going to be a basket going around because I’m running for Traffic Court judge, right, and I need some money,” Singletary said while campaigning in the primary.
“Now, you all want me to get there. You’re all going to need my hookup, right?”
Voters know little to nothing about the candidates when they vote for judge. In many instances they are voting completely blind for unqualified people without minimum qualifications who only get elected because they paid off ward leader and party officials.
Consequently voters elect people like Willie Singletary who repeatedly exercise poor judgment while sitting in judgment of others.
Singletary’s election and time served as a Traffic Court judge has been a mockery of the courts system. He is exhibit A of why electing judges is a serious problem.
Singletary accused of showing lewd photo to co-worker
Willie Singletary, a Philadelphia Traffic Court judge who was recently suspended for allegedly showing a co-worker a photo of his penis, has resigned.
According to the Philadelphia Traffic Court, Singletary sent a letter of resignation to the head of Traffic Court, Common Pleas Judge Gary Glazer this week. In December, Singletary came under fire after allegedly showing naked photos of himself on his cell phone to a female government employee. He was consequently suspended without pay — and this was not the first time Singletary’s behavior came under scrutiny.
During his 2007 campaign, he was recorded on video promising voters favorable treatment in his courtroom, saying they would need his “hook-up.” He also had his driver’s license suspended because of more than $11,000 in unpaid traffic tickets.
According to previously published reports, Singletary was ordered by Administrative Judge Gary S. Glazer to stay away from court after he allegedly showed the photos to a female employee. Sheriff’s deputies escorted Singletary from the building on Dec. 22, after Glazer relieved him of his judicial duties.
The state Supreme Court has been conducting an investigation into allegations of widespread corruption within the Philadelphia Traffic Court system. The FBI is also investigating allegations that judges took bribes or accepted political favors in exchange for fixing tickets.