Nine judges were charged with fixing traffic tickets in Philadelphia. A federal indictment charged the judges with fixing tickets for their friends, relatives, business associates, and political allies.
Federal prosecutors allege that a “widespread culture of giving breaks on traffic citations” showed in the city, though everyday citizens were not given breaks.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the judges’ defense attorneys suggest that the judges didn’t make any money from the favors. They also say that the court worked that way for a century.
Six current and former Philadelphia court judges were indicted along with three suburban judges who also had stints at the court. A court clerk and two businessmen were also charged. Philadelphia Common Please Judge Gary S. Glazer praised Thursday’s indictment.
He called it a “very positive step toward reforming the institution.” He added, “It has historically been a terribly troubled place.”
The Washington Post notes that the state’s Judicial Conduct Board immediately suspended the judges without pay, pending their case outcomes. Traffic court judges typically make about $91,000 per year.
Court papers show that the nine judged charged, along with their staffs, took steps to hide the traffic ticket fixes. They shredded paperwork, spoke in code, and kept a very tight circle. The indictment added, “A well-understood conspiracy of silence fell over the system and its participants.”
US Attorney Zane Memeger stated, however, that the scheme not only kept unsafe drivers on the road, it also deprived the city and the state of funds it needed. But defense lawyers say that their clients took no compensation and simply did their job the way they were trained to do. One judge’s lawyer, William J. Brennan, stated:
“It’s been my experience that any little old lady in the suburbs … can walk in to her local magistrate judge, and expect to get a reduction in her charge. I don’t think that’s fraud. It’s just kind of the way it works.”
There is no word on what sentence the nine judges charged in the case could be facing.
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