D.A.’s Office Enlisting Volunteers to Help Wayward Youths

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Let’s say you’re a kid, all of 15 or 16, and you get caught doing something stupid. (Go ahead, think back to being that age. Surprise — you did a lot of stupid stuff.) Maybe it’s enough to get you locked up, like petty theft, or vandalism, or sneaking a drink in a park with your friends.

Would you want to end up cowering in front of a judge in an imposing courtroom, or take your chances with a panel that’s comprised of some people from your neighborhood?

District Attorney Seth Williams hopes decent kids who make minor screw-ups will opt for the latter as part of his office’s Youth Aid Panel program. The program isn’t exactly new — it’s been around since the late 1980s — but its value seems more relevant in an era where diversionary programs are viewed as a viable way to improve the lives of small-time offenders and lighten the criminal justice system’s load.

Read more »

Councilwomen Slam DA Williams Over Porngate Prosecutors

AP-seth-williams-frank-fina-photo-matt-burke-940x540

L to R: District Attorney Seth Williams and prosecutor Frank Fina | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

It was a pretty weak showing, said Councilwoman Cindy Bass, when District Attorney Seth Williams announced late on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend that three of his staff members who were caught up in the Porngate scandal would be given sensitivity training.

“I’m offended by these emails,” Bass said, describing a few of the blatantly racist email chains that were passed around the office. “If somebody sends me something that I’m offended by, I will email them back and say, ‘Don’t send me this anymore.’”

The exchange took place during budget hearings in City Council on Wednesday. Read more »

Police Stunned By Investigation Into Cop Who Apparently Died by Suicide

Philadelphia Philadelphia police Lt. Vince Testa holds a confiscated submachine gun at the force's north Philadelphia firing range Wednesday, July 25, 2007. The weapon, which police described as being assembled from a kit in the style of a World War II British Sten gun, was taken along with another weapon and narcotics as two men were arrested in south Philadelphia on Tuesday. (AP Photo/George Widman)

Lt. Vince Testa, who oversaw the Firearms Identification Unit, in 2007. | Photo by George Widman/AP

The apparent suicide earlier this week of Lt. Vincent Testa has left his colleagues in the Philadelphia Police Department with questions — so many questions.

Testa, 53, learned Tuesday that he was scheduled to be arrested on Thursday as part of a local grand jury investigation into a complicated saga that dated back to 2009, multiple law enforcement sources have told Philadelphia magazine.

On Wednesday morning, Testa was found dead by his girlfriend in his Northeast Philadelphia home. The city Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet released an official cause of death. But the sources said Testa ingested a large quantity of pills, and left a note behind for his loved ones.

News of Testa’s death stunned his former coworkers. But many were just as surprised to learn that the District Attorney’s Office had launched a grand jury investigation — now — into a case that had long ago been settled internally. Read more »

D.A.: No Charges for LeSean McCoy in Nightclub Fight

McNesby Shady Williams

District Attorney Seth Williams announced today that he won’t press criminal charges against Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy for scuffling with a trio of off-duty cops at an Old City nightclub earlier this year, prompting the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 to accuse the D.A. of “going south” on the case.

Yeah … there’s a lot to unpack here.

Let’s start with Williams.

With a handful of prosecutors at his side, Williams told reporters during an afternoon news conference that after a lengthy investigation, there simply was “insufficient evidence” to lock up McCoy or any of his pals — former San Diego Chargers running back Curtis Brinkley; former University of Pittsburgh player T.J. Porter; and Christopher Henderson — for the brouhaha that unfolded inside the Recess Lounge in the wee hours on February 7th.

McCoy’s group was hanging out at the club’s VIP area. So, too, was a group of off-duty cops: Officers Darnell Jessie and Roland Butler and Sgt. Daniel Ayres. Read more »

PA Pols Want to Stop Locking Up Parents of Truant Students

Photo | It's Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

Photo | It’s Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

Is pressing charges against the parent of a habitually truant student a good idea?

State Sen. Vincent Hughes has a simple three-word answer: “Oh hell no.”

Hughes and a number of Democratic and Republican state senators are trying to remove that option from the table with a Senate bill that could overhaul the way schools address truancy across Pennsylvania. Read more »

Wait, How Many Public School Students Are Truant?

Photo | It's Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

Photo | It’s Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

There was a moment during Monday’s marathon City Council hearing on youth gun violence that could have been punctuated with the jarring sound of an old record being scratched.

First Assistant District Attorney George Mosee told City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and other members of Council’s Committee on Public Safety that on any given day, almost 50 percent of Philadelphia public school kids aren’t in school.

The district has roughly 134,000 students. If that number were accurate, the city’s truancy problem would be indescribably bad, even by Hunger Games standards.

Karyn Lynch, chief student support officer for the School District of Philadelphia, testified that Mosee’s estimate was wrong — like, dramatically wrong. The council members repeatedly quizzed both Mosee and Lynch about truancy, exposing a simmering tension between the School District and the D.A.’s Office over how to drive down the number of kids who skip school.

We tried to sort things out today. Read more »

Deputy D.A. Recommends Arresting Johnny Doc, Gets Demoted

Seth Williams (left); John Dougherty (right)

Seth Williams (left); John Dougherty (right)

Was a high-ranking member of the District Attorney’s Office demoted over a controversial investigation into Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty?

Multiple law enforcement sources have told Philadelphia magazine that Laurie Malone, a deputy district attorney who oversaw the office’s Pre-Trial Division, was abruptly reassigned to a lower ranking post last month, not long after she recommended filing criminal charges against Dougherty for allegedly punching a non-union electrician at a South Philly worksite in January. The D.A.’s office denies that there was internal disagreement on the matter.

The case has been a political hot potato. District Attorney Seth Williams referred it to embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane because of a “long-standing professional relationship” with Dougherty, the D.A.’s spokesman, Cameron Kline, has said. Local 98 has made political donations to Williams in the past.

It was a notable decision for a district attorney who had previously boasted about his willingness to pursue criminal investigations no matter where they lead. “There are no free passes when it comes to political corruption. You don’t get a pass just because you are a friend, or a member of my political party, or race,” Williams said last March, when he filed charges against three longtime Philadelphia politicians who were ensnared in the infamous Tyron Ali bribery case that Kane had refused to prosecute. Read more »

Deputy D.A. Recommends Arresting Johnny Doc, Gets Demoted

Seth Williams (left); John Dougherty (right)

Seth Williams (left); John Dougherty (right)


Was a high-ranking member of the District Attorney’s Office demoted over a controversial investigation into Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty?

Multiple law enforcement sources have told Philadelphia magazine that Laurie Malone, a deputy district attorney who oversaw the office’s Pre-Trial Division, was abruptly reassigned to a lower ranking post last month, not long after she recommended filing criminal charges against Dougherty for allegedly punching a non-union electrician at a South Philly worksite in January. The D.A.’s office denies that there was internal disagreement on the matter.

The case has been a political hot potato. District Attorney Seth Williams referred it to embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane because of a “long-standing professional relationship” with Dougherty, the D.A.’s spokesman, Cameron Kline, has said. Local 98 has made political donations to Williams in the past. Read more »

5 Takeaways From the Alleged Johnny Doc Brawl

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

The Philadelphia Inquirer broke a bombshell of a story today: John Dougherty, the politically influential labor leader, was in a physical altercation with a nonunion electrician on January 21st at a worksite — but spokesman Frank Keel says Dougherty acted purely in self-defense.

According to Keel, contractor Joshua Keesee threatened Dougherty’s family members, and then Keesee “rushed John and threw a punch” at his head. “John Dougherty ducked the contractor’s punch and countered with a punch to the assailant’s face. That was the end of the incident,” says Keel. “We firmly believe that there should be no criminal or civil charges filed in this matter.” Keesee, though, has another story: He claims that Dougherty took the first hit, and broke his nose in the process.

City police are investigating, according to the Inquirer. District Attorney Seth Williams referred the matter to Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whose office said Tuesday that she “set up a conflict wall regarding the decision to accept or deny the referral and/or initiate charges.” That’s because Dougherty’s electricians union was a donor to her 2013 campaign. There’s a lot to chew on here, lots of potential impacts. Here are five takeaways from the incident: Read more »

The LeSean McCoy Saga Is Playing Out on Sports Talk Radio

LeSean McCoy. (USA Today Sports)

LeSean McCoy. (USA Today Sports)

Earlier today we told you about Philly FOP President John McNesby’s comments on LeSean McCoy. Speaking on the WIP Morning Show with Angelo Cataldi — yes, the same people who bring you Wing Bowl — the head of the cops’ union in Philly said he wanted LeSean McCoy charged with a crime stemming from a fight at the Old City club Recess.

Now District Attorney Seth Williams has responded on a different WIP show, the Mike & Ike Show with Michael Barkann and former Eagles player Ike Reese. Yes, the saga of ex-Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is playing out on sports talk radio. He isn’t even on the anymore!

“There is no timetable other than us getting it right,” Seth Williams said on the radio this afternoon. Read more »

« Older Posts