By Tony Hanson and Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A federal jury in Philadelphia this morning cleared six former judges in the Philadelphia Traffic Court of most charges in the long-running ticket fixing case (see previous story).
The verdicts were mostly “not guilty,” although four of the judges were convicted of lesser charges in what amounted to a wholesale rejection of the prosecution’s case.
Michael Sullivan, Mark Bruno, Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew, Thomasine Tynes, and Willie Singletary were cleared of conspiracy and ticket-fixing.
However, four of the former judges — Lowry, Mulgrew, Tynes, and Singletary — were convicted of lying to authorities about the administration of so-called “consideration” for certain connected VIPs in traffic cases (see related story).
But the jury apparently found that the alleged ticket-fixing was not a federal crime. That was part of the argument made by defense attorneys, who conceded that mistakes were made by the judges and there may have been ethical lapses, but there was no federal crime.
This morning, the jury apparently agreed.
A businessman charged with seeking help with tickets was also acquitted. Several others defendants, including three former judges and a Traffic Court admnistrator, pleaded guilty earlier.
After today’s verdict was announced, one of the defendants — Michael Sullivan (top photo) — told reporters he felt vindicated.
“I am found not guilty of all charges — I am ecstatic!” he said. “As far as I am concerned, I was indicted for doing my job.”
Another defendant — Robert Mulgrew — said he was planning to appeal his perjury conviction.
The federal prosecutors acknowledged that today’s verdict wasn’t what they had hoped for, but added that it was “still a sad day” when four Philadelphia judges are convicted of lying to authorities.
Meanwhile, the only sitting judge caught up in the federal case wants his old job back.
Chester County magistrate judge Mark Bruno (below), who was suspended pending the outcome of the trial and who was the only defendant to take the stand in his own defense, says he is relieved that he was acquitted of all the charges against him.
“I just want to get back, serve the people of my district, and move forward with my life,” Bruno said outside the US District Courthouse in Philadelphia after today’s verdict.
Defense attorney Bill McSwain says Bruno knew nothing of the so-called “culture of consideration” that prosecutors brought up in the trial.
“He’ll need to go through an administrative procedure to try to get his job back,” McSwain said.
Defense lawyer William J. Brennan, representing former Traffic Court judge Willie Singletary, believes the government overreached and the matter should have been handled by a judicial conduct board.
We asked Brennan whether this case will change how Traffic Court operates. Brennan responded:
“If I was a judge and my mother called me about a traffic ticket, I’d say, ‘I’ll see you in court, Mom.’ ”