The wrongdoing at Traffic Court was rampant and egregious. But it’s not the only Philly institution that may have outlived its usefulness. Philadelphia’s row offices might not be as steeped in illegality as Traffic Court, but watchdog groups like the Committee of Seventy and the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority — along with a few former candidates for the offices themselves — say it’s time to get rid of them. Read more »
Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column from Philadelphia magazine reporter Dan McQuade.
There is much on the line in today’s Pennsylvania primary. Voters head to the polls with multiple choices for president, senator and attorney general. Nominations in Congress and in the state legislature are up for grabs. Many of these races have been contentious, with supporters of candidates staunch in their support of a certain candidate.
But there is one thing voters across the state can agree on today, and that’s a ballot question asking this: Should Philadelphia Traffic Court be abolished? Everyone should know you simply must vote YES on this one. Read more »
During the interview, I found Oliver to be energetic and honest and passionate about the city. But he was also stunningly vague at times, and perhaps more surprisingly, unapologetic about his lack of specific proposals to fix the city’s problems. Toward the end of the Q&A, I told Oliver I thought the mayor’s race in general has suffered from a dearth of ideas. (You can watch the full exchange above.)
As a candidate who has pitched himself as someone with “fresh eyes,” I asked him what his big idea is for the city. He doubled down on being vague.
When we last checked in with retired Traffic Court judge Thomasine Tynes, her $2,000 Tiffany bracelet was being waved around in front of the cameras as DA Seth Williams announced she would face corruption charges in the infamous case of the abandoned sting.
Now Tynes has been sentenced to serve two years in federal prison on perjury charges in the separate, also infamous, ticket-fixing investigation of Philadelphia’s now-defunct Traffic Court.
The case stems from the longstanding practice at Philadelphia traffic court of fixing tickets, or “consideration,” for the powerful and connected. Gov. Tom Corbett disbanded Philadelphia’s traffic court last year; it has since been merged into Philadelphia municipal court.
And all those things are true. But a sentencing memorandum prepared by her attorney, Louis Busico, offers another view of Tynes — telling the story of an African-American woman who had a hard upbringing and who rose to unexpected heights, only to have it all come crashing down. This story is a tragedy.
These sentencing memoranda are designed to elicit sympathy, of course, and thus should be taken with a grain of salt. But Busico’s memorandum (the full document is below) might make you reconsider your view of Tynes. Here are five notable passages from that memo:
70% of the week’s outrage was directly attributable to the bracelet bribery scandal, with 20% of the outrage directed at the existence of the alleged bribe and another 50% at the fact that the judge is alleged to have been bought off so cheaply. After all, $2,000 doesn’t get you very far at Tiffany & Co. We would have held out for something more along the lines of this.
Meanwhile, 29% of the outrage was over someone calling Bill Cosby a rapist. And the remainder of the outrage — fully 1% — was over the idea that our beloved Dr. Huxtable-playing, Jello Pudding Pop-pushing, funny sweater-wearing Temple lover could even possibly, you know, be a rapist.
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.
US Eastern Pennsylvania District Court. Photo | JVinocur
Attorney William DeStefano began the second day of closing arguments on Friday by conceding that maybe, just maybe, his client, former Traffic Court justice Michael Lowry, had committed some ethical transgressions.
DeStefano’s trademark bowtie and uncombed, Eraserhead-lite hair cut a sympathetic figure at the center of the courtroom – more Thomas Dolby than Clarence Darrow.
Maybe my client stepped over his ethical boundaries a bit in his handling of a few traffic cases, he said, but this was not illegal.