At a Thursday afternoon press briefing, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and FBI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge John Brosnan rehashed allegations from the Philadelphia Traffic Court ticket-fixing indictment.
They also declined to take questions from reporters after the eight-minute session because of unspecified “legal reasons.”
Memeger said that the investigation leading to the 77-count indictment unsealed earlier in the day (PDF) included allegations of tickets being fixed for, among others, “Philadelphia ward leaders, local politicians and associates of the Democratic City Committee [who] regularly contacted” Traffic Court judges.
He described it as a “fraud conspiracy that involved … frequent and pervasive ticket fixing at the Philadelphia Traffic Court. The defendants participated in a widespread culture of [fixing tickets] on traffic citations on friends, family, the locally connected and business associates.
“As a result, these ticket holders paid lesser or no fines and costs and evaded assessment of points on their driver’s licenses,” he said. “Examples of the types of tickets that were fixed included driving at unsafe speeds, driving an unregistered vehicle, texting while driving, operating an ATV on the highway, running a red light, making a prohibited U-Turn and not using safety child restraints.”
Memeger said that the alleged conduct “undermined the confidence that law-abiding citizens have”in the legal system.
“Those who seek to game the system by refusing to follow the rules need to be held accountable by the rule of law that they swore to uphold,” he said.
Democratic City Committee responds
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who serves as DCC chairman, told NewsWorks on Thursday afternoon that when he heard details of the indictment, “I grilled my guys down there” at city committee about the allegations.
He also noted that he showed a television-news crew receipts of tickets that he and his family paid from several years ago “not just after” he got word of the indictment. He noted that some of the tickets should have been thrown out as he was on official business when he got them “but I just paid ’em anyway.”
“The only thing the Democratic City Committee does is consituent services. When someone calls or comes in saying they got a ticket they didn’t deserve, the only thing we do is provide an attorney free of charge. Sometimes they’re found guilty. That’s it,” Brady said. “We never called a judge. We never called Traffic Court. We never called [indicted court director of operations] Billy Heard.”
Mememger spoke about the loss of funds from tickets that weren’t paid, and how it enabled unsafe drivers to remain on Philadelphia streets. The indictment lists several dozens of tickets fixed between July 2008 and Sept. 2011, but that list is not all-encompassing.
Patty Hartman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said they did not “ballpark” the total number of tickets fixed so there is not a total tally of estimated dollars lost in the alleged ticket-fixing scandal. She dubbed the number “incalculable” to several reporters after Memeger and Brosnan gave their statements.
In all, 12 people – including nine judges from Philadelphia and surrounding counties – face charges ranging from wire and mail fraud to perjury.
Brosnan said the FBI has prioritized public corruption as the headlines “seem all too common these days.”
“Justice, in any courtroom, requires fairness,” he said. “Everyone is entitled to the same treatment.”