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10-26-07, 06:09 AM #1
Be friends with a TC Judge for only $20
Spare $20 for a friend on court?
"You're all going to need me," traffic-judge candidate tells backers.
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Inquirer Staff Writer
As a man who once owed $11,000 for back traffic tickets, Willie Singletary presumably would see the benefit of a sympathetic Traffic Court judge.
That certainly seemed to be his message in April when he exhorted a crowd of motorcycle enthusiasts to contribute to his campaign for Traffic Court.
"I'm telling you all just like it is. I need some money," the 26-year-old Democratic nominee told the crowd. "I got some stuff that I got to do, but if you all can give me $20. You're all going to need me in Traffic Court, am I right about that?"
Those words have come back to haunt Singletary, a Southwest Philadelphia pastor, courtesy of a video of the speech that has been posted on the popular YouTube Web site.
Singletary said he had meant nothing except to assure his supporters that "I will give them a fair trial in the courtroom."
His attorney, Richard W. Hoy, put it more strongly:
"He hasn't done anything wrong. Everyone needs a friend in Traffic Court. You need a friend in Traffic Court. He was just promising people they would get a fair trial."
That hasn't stopped some from wondering if Singletary wasn't promising a bit more than a fair hearing while he was soliciting money.
And given the history of Traffic Court, such concerns are hardly unexpected. After all, President Judge Louis Vignola was convicted in 1978 of taking $32,000 in bribes. By 1985, after a dozen Traffic Court employees were charged with corruption, state Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr. intervened to overhaul the system.
Although no Traffic Court judge has been prosecuted since Vignola, the court has sometimes suffered from guilt by association because of corruption problems involving the city's Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, a lower-level appeals body that hears challenges by people who get parking tickets.
Two years ago, a federal jury convicted Joseph F. Hoffman Jr., former chief of the appeals unit, for taking bribes from a taxicab owner to fix parking tickets incurred by city cabbies. That investigation also resulted in a fraud charge against Charles P. Mirarchi III, a deputy city commissioner, who pleaded guilty.
Enter Willie Singletary, a motorcycle enthusiast who had no problem reconciling his Traffic Court campaign with the fact that his license is suspended through at least 2011, and that he had owed the court $11,427.50 for 55 violations including reckless driving, driving without a license, careless driving without registration, and driving without insurance. His father eventually paid the fines.
A Democrat who drew the first ballot position, Singletary was the top vote-getter in the primary and seems likely to become one of three Traffic Court judges elected Nov. 6. (The court has seven judges, who do not have to be lawyers but must complete a certifying course and pass an exam.)
Then the YouTube video - Blessing of the Bikes - put Singletary and his campaign back in the spotlight.
The 2-minute, 55-second video shows Singletary, wearing a black vest with a gold insignia on the back, calling into a circle a group of people wearing the colors of a number of motorcycle clubs.
He offers a blessing for the riders and their bikes before asking for money for his campaign.
"You're all going to help me out?" Singletary begins. "There's going to be a basket going around because I'm running for Traffic Court judge, right, and I need some money. . . . Now you all want me to get there, you believe I'll hook up, right?
"It costs money. I have to raise $15,000 by Friday. I just hope you have it, because I have to raise $15,000 by Friday."
"He is doing nothing wrong," his lawyer said.
Hoy said he had personally included the money collected April 22 in the May 4 campaign-finance report filed by the Friends of Willie Singletary.
Singletary's campaign reports show that he raised a modest $5,239 for the primary election, almost all contributions of $50 or less, with unpaid expenses of $3,763.
To see the YouTube video, go to http://go.philly.com/willie"The statements and opinions contained in this communication do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Commission regarding these issues."
10-26-07, 06:26 AM #2
I guess that's what they mean by Big Willie Style...Romans 8:28-31
"Anima Sana In Corpore Sano"
The opinions, beliefs, and ideas expressed in this post are mine, and mine alone. They are NOT the opinions, beliefs, ideas, or policies of my Agency, Sheriff, County Board, or any member of my department.
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