By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jury selection was scheduled to begin today in the Philadelphia Traffic Court ticket-fixing case (see related story), but the trial judge is ill.
US District Court judge Robert Kelly was hospitalized over the weekend. He’s having a procedure done today. There were no more details released on that, except that he will not be available for trial.
The emergency judge on duty judge, Lawrence Stengel, will now take over the case. He initially indicated that he expected to start the trial next month, with a long delay. However, after conferring with defense attorneys and with his staff, the case will just be delayed just a couple of days.
Jury selection is now scheduled to begin on Wednesday, with opening statements expected next week.
Judge Stengel acknowledged up front that he knows little about the case. But now, he says, he’ll begin reviewing the case history — well over 200 documents, motions, responses, and rulings, with some motions and rulings still pending.
For example, in its trial memo filed last week, the prosecution said it anticipates many of its own witnesses, who have long personal and work relationships with defendants, will be hostile on the witness stand, and the prosecution is seeking more leeway in questioning them.
There are six judges (Michael Sullivan, Michael Lowry, Robert Mulgrew, Willie Singletary, Thomasine Tynes, and Mark Bruno) and two businessmen (Henry Alfano and Robert Moy) on trial, all charged with a wide ranging ticket-fixing conspiracy that authorities allege went on for many years (another related story). All eight have pleaded not guilty.
There were four other defendants in the case — three judges and a court employee — who all pleaded guilty earlier, so they are not on trial here.
Philadelphia Traffic Court was abolished months after the indictments in this case. Traffic Court duties were moved to Municipal Court (see related story).