Exit Interview: Pit Bull U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney's Office

U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office

In Philadelphia, Zane David Memeger is a feared man. During his six-year tenure as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, he helped end the decades-long political career of Congressman Chaka Fattah, put Ironworkers Union boss Joseph Dougherty behind bars for extortion, and cleaned house at the city’s ticket-fixing Traffic Court. He’s also successfully prosecuted terrorists, human traffickers, pill mill operators and international arms smugglers.

This month, Memeger will step down. We talked to him Friday about the incoming Trump administration, how to clean up the city’s political system, and whether there is truly justice for cops who commit crimes. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Read more »

Now That Traffic Court Is Gone, Here Are 3 Other Offices That Could Be Abolished

Photo by Dan McQuade

Photo by Dan McQuade

The final demise of Traffic Court, which voters approved in a ballot question last week, appears to have been a cathartic experience for reporters, good government advocates and anyone else who generally prefers competence and honesty to dysfunction and corruption. For a good look at just how bad things got at the court, check out the Inquirer’s obituary from last week.

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 »

Abolishing Traffic Court Will Be Your Most Satisfying Vote Ever

Pennsylvania constitutional amendment to abolish Philadelphia traffic court

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 »

The Brief: Doug Oliver Doubles Down on Being Vague

Last night, I interviewed long-shot mayoral candidate Doug Oliver at Venturef0rth as part of Citified’s new Candidate Conversations series.

Going into the Q&A, my big question was: Does Oliver deserve to be in the major leagues?

He’s never held elected office before. His exploratory committee had only $1,085 in the bank at the end of 2014. And yet, former Gov. Ed Rendell has called him “enthusiastic,” “refreshing” and “charming.”

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.

Read more »

Former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes Sentenced

tynes-bracelet-400When 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 Legal Intelligencer reports:

Read more »

Traffic Court Judge Sentenced to 18 Months in Federal Prison

Robert Mulgrew, a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison yesterday for lying to investigators. Mulgrew — who was sentenced to 30 months in August in a separate matter — was not convicted of fraud and conspiracy charges in the traffic court case earlier this year.

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.

Read more »

The Tragedy of Thomasine Tynes

Thomasine Tynes, left. The bracelet she's alleged to have accepted from a undercover confidential informant for the attorney general's office.

Thomasine Tynes, left. The bracelet she’s alleged to have accepted from a undercover confidential informant for the attorney general’s office.

As told in the media these last few months, the story of Thomasine Tynes — the former Traffic Court judge — is sordid indeed. She lied to a grand jury. She took the gift of an expensive bracelet after promising to help a young man make connections at the court. The court she served on no longer exists. Her name appears destined to go down as just one more entry in the annals of Philly civic corruption.

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:

Read more »

The Philadelphia Outrage Meter for the Week Ending October 24

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.

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.

Read more »

« Older Posts