Feds: Philly Municipal Court Judge Lied to FBI

Prosecutors say Judge Joseph O'Neill denied being asked to fix a case.

Chris Potter | Wikimedia Commons

Chris Potter | Wikimedia Commons

Federal prosecutors have charged a Philadelphia municipal court judge with lying to investigators in a corruption case.

The indictment (see below) against Judge Joseph O’Neill, 65, says a fellow judge, Joseph C. Waters Jr., tried to influence him in a small claims civil case against an ally of Waters’, Samuel Kuttab. (Prosecutors say Kuttab asked Waters to use his influence in exchange for political support.)

There were two conversations, prosecutors say, both recorded by FBI agents investigating Waters. In the first — September 2011 — Waters mentioned Kuttab. Waters ended up rescheduling the planned civil trial, later telling Waters, “I did what I could.”

The second conversation, in November 2011, Waters more explicitly asked for O’Neill’s help. According to FBI intercepts, this conversation took place:

At a civil trial that same month, Waters ruled for Kuttab and against the plaintiff. He then helped Kuttab avoid an appeal of the case by facilitating settlement discussions between the two parties. The settlement was “substantially less” than the plaintiff might’ve collected if he had appealed, prosecutors said.

When contacted by investigators in September 2012 about the conversations, prosecutors say, O’Neill denied ever being asked for a favor in a case. In a second interview, O’Neill repeated the denial and said if anybody had asked for such a favor, he would want to punch them.

The case has already claimed one career: Waters in 2015 was sentenced to two years in prison for his activities, telling the court: “I was given a sacred trust. I betrayed that trust. I’m deeply regretful of that.”

O’Neill was suspended from the court in 2014. He faces two counts of making false statements. The charges carry a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

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