Democratic State Representative Jose P. Miranda, 34, and his sister, Michelle Wilson, 28, could face prison time if they’re convicted of the charges announced against them by District Attorney Seth Williams on Monday. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged the siblings with three counts each of conflict of interest, perjury and criminal conspiracy. They are expected to surrender to authorities on Tuesday morning.
“In 1903, after a long investigation into the political culture of Philadelphia, Lincoln Steffens wrote ‘Philadelphia was corrupt and contented.’ Thankfully times have changed,” Williams said. “For a long time it appeared that these types of cases would not be investigated nor prosecuted, but that is no longer the case. We will no longer abdicate our responsibility to investigate and prosecute corruption to other authorities. This grand jury and the District Attorney’s Office of Philadelphia and the good people of this city are no longer contented with political corruption.”
According to Williams, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Public Corruption Task Force began an investigation into Miranda in May of 2013. It followed a news report by the local Fox News station on a man named Timothy Duckett. Allegedly, Duckett was caught on camera working in his auto repair shop when he was supposed to be working in Miranda’s legislative office.
The investigating grand jury determined that Miranda allegedly hired Duckett as a “ghost employee” to run his legislative office in order to allegedly secretly pay Wilson. Williams alleges that Duckett was hired by Miranda in December of 2012 as a legislative assistant after the state representative attempted to hire his sister as chief of staff. The House Democratic Caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly notified Miranda that pursuant to the caucus’ rules and ethics code he could not hire a relative to work for his office. That is when Miranda allegedly contacted Duckett to work for him, with the sole purpose of funneling money to Wilson, who allegedly was the de-facto chief of staff.
Duckett, who was granted limited immunity, allegedly told investigators the he did not have to work 40 hours a week for Miranda’s legislative office, and he was directed to give a portion of his pay to Wilson. Miranda also allegedly told Duckett that he would only be expected to drive him to different locations when called upon. Duckett told the grand jury that Miranda allegedly informed him that he did not need to sign in or out of the office on sign-in sheets as was required of other employees.
Miranda’s political career started at 19 when he worked in City Councilman Darrell Clarke’s office as a community liaison. From there he transitioned to State Senator Shirley Kitchen’s office in the same capacity. He attended William Penn High School and furthered his education at West Chester University where he majored in political science.
When Democrat Jewell Williams gave up his seat representing the 197th House District to become Philadelphia Sheriff, Miranda ran a successful campaign to fill the vacancy left by Williams.
Wilson worked on her brother’s political campaign. After his victory in November 2012, and after being told that he would be unable to hire his sister as chief of staff because of the rules against nepotism, Williams said he decided to try and get around those restrictions.
According to investigators, after Duckett was paid on Feb. 19, 2013, Miranda allegedly told him to give $300.00 to Wilson. Duckett told Miranda he couldn’t afford his own expenses with a $26,000 a year salary. Miranda allegedly secured a $10,000 raise – the only one of his staff members to get such a raise, and between Feb. 20, 2013 and April 2, 2013 Duckett was directed to pay cash amounts to Wilson, who allegedly acted as her brother’s chief of staff. Duckett kept a ledger of the dates and amounts paid to Wilson, which she also signed, and which he later turned over to the grand jury. When questioned by the grand jury, Wilson repeatedly denied ever being paid any money by Duckett for any reason.
“There could have been a legitimate person who had this job,” Williams said. “Someone could have legitimately provided legislative and constituency services and assistance. Instead, it was just a way for Miranda’s sister to line her pockets. I’m not saying Mr. Duckett didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t violate the public’s trust. The grand jury and I believe that the people who deserve our prosecution is State Rep. Jose Miranda and his sister, Michelle Wilson. Mr. Duckett was giving a certain amount to the sister and was then asked to give over even more.”
Homicide detectives said they have arrested a suspect who allegedly gunned down a 19-year-old man earlier this month.
On Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at 5:50 p.m., police responded to a report of a shooting in the 6200 block of Grays Avenue. When they arrived at the scene, officers found the victim, later identified as Jahmeer Alphonso Jett, 19, from the same location, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to his body. Jett was transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where he was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. After investigating, detectives managed to identify a suspect, who was subsequently arrested. On Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, Kevin Davis, 26, from the 2600 block South 61st Street was arrested at his residence. Davis is charged with murder and related offenses.
Fourth defendant in traffic court ticket fixing pleads guilty
The United States Attorney’s Office said that a fourth defendant in an investigation into the Philadelphia Traffic Court has pleaded guilty.
William Hird, 68, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty today to allegedly taking part in a fraud scheme involving judges at the former Philadelphia Traffic Court. Hird, who was director of records at the time, pleaded guilty to 18 counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and lying to the FBI when questioned about ticket fixing at Traffic Court.
Hird is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the fraud conspiracy that the government alleges involved frequent and pervasive “ticket-fixing” at the Philadelphia Traffic Court. U.S. District Court Judge Robert F. Kelly has not yet set a sentencing date. Hird faces a possible advisory sentencing guideline range of 12 to 18 months in prison, before variances or departures.
Former Traffic Court Judge Fortunato Perri, Sr., pleaded guilty on March 13, 2013. Allegedly, Perri would receive traffic citation numbers, the names of offenders or the actual citations to arrange “fixing” the ticket and would allegedly convey the information to Hird. Hird, in turn, allegedly conveyed the request to the assigned judge or the judge’s staff. Federal investigators allege that Hird was loyal to Perri because Perri helped him move up the ladder to a high-level administrator at Traffic Court. Recorded conversations demonstrate that Hird acceded to Perri’s requests to “fix” certain tickets.
Federal investigators allege that as part of the scheme, tickets were “fixed” by either being dismissed, finding the ticket holder “not guilty,” or finding the ticket holder guilty of a lesser offense. In many cases, the ticket holder did not even appear in Traffic Court, yet their ticket was “fixed.” As a result, the ticketholders paid lesser or no fines and costs, and evaded the assessment of “points” on their driver’s record.
The investigation continues.
The city of Philadelphia has a standing offer of $20,000 for anyone offering information leading to the arrest and conviction of murder suspects.
As of Tribune press time the Philadelphia Police Department is looking for suspects in the following homicide cases:
On Sunday, Jan., 19, 2014, at 3:18 p.m., police responded to a report of gunfire in the 300 block of Stevens Street. When officers arrived at the scene they found two victims of a double homicide. On the second floor of a residence they found Donna Muller, 49 and her son, 22-year-old Richard Muller. Both victims were shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene at 3:31p.m. The motive is unknown and the investigation is ongoing.
On Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at 5:55 p.m. officers from the 12th Police District responded to a report of gunfire the 6200 block of Grays Avenue. Upon arrival the officers found 29-year-old Jahmeer Jett from the same location. Jett was laying on the street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where he was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. The motive remains unknown as of Tribune press time and the investigation continues.
On the same day at 6:10 pm 12th District Officers responded to the area of 6100 Buist Avenue for a report of a shooting. Upon arrival officers located Benjamin Collier, 29, from the 2600 block of South 61st Street. Collier had been shot multiple times by a still unidentified assailant. He was transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m. No arrests have been made yet.
Also on the same date at 10:40 p.m. officers from the 16th Police District officers responded to a report of a shooting inside a residence in the 4200 block of Parkside Avenue. Upon arrival, officers located Ernest Torrence, 49. Torrence had been shot multiple times in the head and torso. He was pronounced dead at the scene by responding medics at 10:46 p.m. No arrest has been made at Tribune press time.
Anyone with information regarding any of these incidents should call the Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334, 3335 or 3336.
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Donte Walker, 18, on Feb. 2 at the Criminal Justice Center, room 803.
Walker, of the 5600 block of Sydenham Street, has been charged with weapons offenses, conspiracy and related charges for the Jan. 17 incident at the Delaware Valley Charter High School in which two students were wounded by gunfire.
Investigators allege that they discovered additional video footage that shows the exchange of what appears to be a black handgun for cash just prior to the shooting. The male who handed off the handgun was identified as Walker, a former student who graduated in 2013.
After an exchange of money between Walker and the other still-unidentified male, the object was allegedly passed to Raisheem Rockwell in the gym, who was arrested on Jan. 18.
Investigators allege that Walker concealed the handgun and entered the school. Rockwell was reportedly going to be the target of an assault after school and may have requested the gun for that reason. Investigators discovered that as a former student, Walker was considered a guest in the school and did not have to pass the metal detectors.
Just before 3:30 p.m., students were inside the gymnasium when two were wounded by gunfire. An 18-year-old female student was shot in the left arm. The bullet exited her bicep and then struck a 17-year-old male student in the shoulder. Both were rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center for treatment and released. No one else was injured.
Killers sought by police
Homicide detectives are investigating several unrelated murders that recently happened in the city, bringing the number of killings to 23 since the start of 2014. The city has an open reward of $20,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any murder suspect.
The Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit is looking to identify the suspects who fatally shot Amber Long, 26, on Jan. 19.
The killing occurred in the city’s Fishtown section just after 10:30 p.m. in the 900 block of North Front Street. Long and her mother were walking when they were approached by two still-unidentified males who grabbed their purses. When one of the suspects grabbed Amber’s purse, he fired one shot striking her in the chest and fatally wounded her.
The offenders were last seen fleeing north on Front Street in a newer four door car, possibly a Chevy Impala. Amber was transported to Hahnemann Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
In an unrelated murder investigation, on Jan. 17, at 10:40 p.m., police from the 16th District responded to a report of a shooting inside of a residence in the 4200 block of Parkside Avenue.
Upon arrival, officers located Ernest Torrence, 49, inside the residence suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso. Torrence was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:46 p.m. No arrests have been made as of Tribune press time.
A pretrial hearing was held for Darrin Manning, the high school student who claims he was roughed up by police on Jan. 7, on Thursday morning at Philadelphia’s Family Court.
Manning, 16, has been charged with simple assault, resisting arrest and recklessly endangering another person. His next hearing is set for March 7, 2014. The charges stem from a confrontation with police on Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia, in which Manning claims he was injured by a female responding officer. The hearing was followed by an impromptu press conference by Manning’s mother, Ikea Coney, family members and supporters from the local chapter of the National Action Network, and his attorney Lewis Small outside 1801 Vine St.
“All we want is justice for my son,” Coney said. “My son has nightmares about what happened to him. He’s a good boy trying to get an education. He’s confused and hurt. He’s not handling this well at all and doesn’t sleep at night. He keeps wondering why the police did what they did. I haven’t even heard from the police about this and in fact, on the day they arrested him when I went to pick him up, some of them were laughing at me.
The Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the allegations that officers used an inappropriate degree of force during an incident on Jan. 7 at 15th Street and Girard Avenue. On that date, Manning, a sophomore at the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School was among those scheduled to play basketball against Frankford High at the Berean Institute. Manning became involved in a confrontation with Philadelphia police officers; an incident that his mother and attorney Lewis Small said caused an injury that ruptured his genitals.
Small said he is calling for a federal investigation and the charges against his client should be dropped.
“The police could have just asked Darrin where he was going — and that’s what they were supposed to do,” said defense attorney Lewis Small. “He would have told them he was going to play basketball. He’s not interested in arguing with the police or fighting with them. So the police acted totally inappropriately here. They assaulted him, figuring this was just another Black youth. They’ve not had the sensitivity training required, and they’re going to have to pay the price for this. We want the charges withdrawn, because they’re outrageous.”
Surveillance footage from the location is being reviewed and the police department is conducting an investigation. However, as of Tribune press time no complaint has been filed with Internal Affairs or the Police Advisory Commission.
“Obviously this is a serious issue and we are watching how this unfolds, but they have not filed a complaint with the commission, and I’ve not heard from the parents or the boy’s attorney asking for our involvement,” said Kelvyn Anderson, Executive Director of the Police Advisory Commission. The commission is the official civilian oversight agency of the Philadelphia Police Department. It conducts investigations of complaints of police misconduct.
A city-owned and operated surveillance camera is a revolving system and only shows portions of the incident. The police report filed by Officer Thomas Purcell alleges that Manning attempted to cause bodily injury to him by punching him three times. Manning allegedly ripped off Purcell’s radio during the confrontation and had to be taken into custody. During the altercation, Manning alleges one of the female officers squeezed his genitals and pulled on them, an action that later required emergency surgery.
His attorney claims his client wasn’t involved in any criminal behavior, and the actions of the police were inappropriate. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he’s troubled by the fact that no complaint has been filed. A female officer who was at the scene was placed on desk duty, but Ramsey said without Manning’s testimony he’s not even certain if the right officer was temporarily taken off the streets.
“We have an open investigation based on news reports, but we have yet to speak with either his attorney, his parents on this young man,” Ramsey said. “It’s important because with all of the news reports and conversation we can’t get all of the facts as to what happened. Until we speak to him there’s not a whole lot we can do.”