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Five Philadelphia traffic judges acquitted of ticket-fixing

A lawyer for one Philadelphia traffic court judge said "not one dime traded hands here, not a baseball ticket, not a glass of wine."
By Frances Burns   |   July 24, 2014 at 2:00 PM
| License Photo
PHILADELPHIA, July 24 (UPI) -- A long federal investigation into the Philadelphia Traffic Court has ended with five judges being acquitted of conspiring to fix tickets.

Four of the judges were convicted Wednesday of perjury.

Lawyers for the judges argued they did not take bribes, while conceding they might have taken care of tickets for friends and people with political connections. They said the case should have been handled by an ethics board.

"Not one dime traded hands here, not a baseball ticket, not a glass of wine," said William J. Brennan Jr., who represented Willie Singletary. "These were ethical violations. Maybe there was wrongdoing, but no criminal activity."

Federal prosecutors charged the judges defrauded the city of fines.

A judge from suburban Delaware County, who sometimes served as a substitute in the city court, and an interpreter who allegedly conspired to get tickets for his Chinese-speaking clients fixed were also acquitted.

The investigation led to the closing of Traffic Court, with its elected judges who did not have to be lawyers. Traffic tickets are now handled by a division of municipal court with hearing officers who are not elected.

Five judges pleaded guilty before trial. But those who were acquitted did not concede wrongdoing.

"As far as I'm concerned, I was indicted for doing my job," said Michael J. Sullivan, who owns a tavern in Philadelphia and was a ward leader.

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