UPDATE: Judge Faces Charges for Accepting Bracelet

[Update 11:37 a.m.] District Attorney Seth Williams brought the $2,000 Tiffany bracelet with him to the press conference:

Photo | 6ABC

Image via 6ABC

Williams said the case against Tynes is “press and play” — prosecutors will just have to play the tapes of Tynes accepting the bracelet, recorded by investigators during the sting operation.

These are the only charges brought out of that investigation so far, but Williams said the investigation continues against Philly state representatives who were also caught on tape taking gifts from an undercover informant.

He added that any suggestions of racial profiling — offered by Attorney General Kathleen Kane as a reason for originally dropping the case — are a distraction.

Williams’ official statement on the case:

The grand jury’s findings:

The office also released three photos — one of Tynes, two of the bracelet:



[Original 10 a.m.] Thomasine Tynes, a retired Traffic Court judge, will face state corruption charges, Fox 29 reports.

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Death of 3-Year-Old May Spark New Gun Rules

Spurred by this month’s death of 3-year-old Tynirah Borum in a shootout, D.A. Seth Williams led a group of local officials this afternoon in calling for new rules requiring a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence for illegal firearm possession.

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Authorities: South Philly Man Stored Deer Blood, Carcasses to Stage Crashes

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced yesterday the results of a 16-month grand jury investigation: 41 people charged in a massive insurance fraud scam. The alleged kingpin? Ron Galati Sr., a reputed mob associate who is already charged in multiple murder-for-hire plots. Busy guy!

“I live my life to cheat insurance companies,” cooperating witnesses were quoted as saying in the Daily News. “My high every day is to cheat insurance companies.” Progressive and Erie Insurance Companies were the first to alert the authorities.

The fraud was an elaborate one, prosecutors say. Multiple grand jury witnesses testified Galati kept deer carcasses, hair, and blood in his shop in order to stage deer collisions. Those are usually deemed non-fault accidents, so the insured party would not be found at fault.

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Philadelphia Looking to Overturn Bad Convictions

Prison

A few weeks back, District Attorney Seth Williams did something amazing: He said he was going to start looking for innocent people and free them from prison.

More precisely, he appointed homicide prosecutor Mark Gilson to lead a “conviction integrity unit” to comb through old cases, look for possible wrongful convictions, and get those convictions overturned. Overturning convictions, of course, is not something that prosecutors like to see happen.

marissa_bluesteinBut Williams made the move with the support of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a non-profit office staffed with interns from law schools around the city, which has a mission of undoing wrongful convictions. Marissa Boyers Bluestine is the project’s legal director. She spoke to Philly Mag recently about the new position, and why it’s worth it to Philly to try and help the wrongfully convicted.

“We’re not saying that we can tell you who’s innocent and who’s not, but we need the partnership to be able to make that determination,” she said, “and we’re very proud to be doing it with the district attorney.” Read more »

Abandoned Sting Case One Giant Grudge Match Between Kathleen Kane and Frank Fina?

AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

Things have gone from bad to ugly in the bizarre microcosm that is the abandoned sting. Kathleen Kane’s epic “double-dog-dare” to Seth Williams (in which she challenged the Philly D.A. to prosecute the case himself) has fizzled after reports late last week that Kane had yet to turn over the case files — and is apparently asking for guarantees that her handling of case not be subject to scrutiny. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Williams isn’t having it:

“You state you will grant me access only if I am able to satisfy you that I will not engage in any evaluation of your actions in reviewing this investigation. You have no authority under the law to establish any such pre-condition,” Williams wrote in a letter to Kane, a copy of which the Tribune-Review obtained.

It’s an exchange that prompted this unflattering-for-Kane political cartoon from the Patriot News.

And this Sunday, the Inquirer painted a portrait of the whole sting affair as a pissing match between Kane and Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor for the sting and for the high-profile Jerry Sandusky case; Fina was on his way out the door as Kane was walking through it in January 2013. Kane — who’d specialized in child abuse cases as a Lackawanna County ADA —  had made Fina’s handling of the Sandusky case a campaign issue, and  has been in the process of reinvestigating it:

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D.A. Wants Parents’ Names, to Crack Down on Truancy

CBS Philly says D.A. Seth Williams wants to contact the parents of chronically truant students in order to end their chronic truancy, natch, but is stymied by a problem: The district won’t hand over the names of those students and their parents, citing federal privacy concerns.

“The letter writing, Williams said, would be the start of his office’s effort, and he said the pressure on parents who willfully ignore warnings of truancy would ramp up, escalating in a worst case to felony charges against the parent,” CBS Philly reports. But a district spokesman told the station that the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act is an obstacle to such cooperation.

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