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Don’t Take the Deal Vanessa


Don’t Take the Deal Vanessa

It’s time for an evidentiary hearing on allegations of race-based prosecution

(Photos Left) Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown won’t settle for the same deal that Louise Williams Bishop did.

State Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown is doing the one thing that disgraced DA Seth Williams and his goon squad — still in the Philly District Attorney’s Office — feared the most: refuse to plead guilty to three-year-old bribery charges, take their sweetheart deal: no jail time, keep her pension, and go quietly. For three years, Lowery Brown has refused this sweetheart deal.

The Inquirer tells the back story this way: “Brown is the last defendant in the case that grew out of a sting investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office between 2009 and 2012 in which Ali offered cash or money orders in exchange for official favors, recording the conversations.

Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane secretly shut down the case in 2013, but Williams resurrected it the next year.

Williams’ office later charged six elected officials in the case. Of those, five have pleaded guilty or no contest. Brown, the remaining defendant, is charged with taking $4,000 from Ali.

She initially agreed to plead guilty, and even provided testimony before the grand jury in Philadelphia during which she admitted that she had taken the money and that she knew it was wrong, according to court documents.”

Last month, Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson decided to once again use his friends at the Inquirer, Angela Couloumbis and Craig McCoy, to rail against the Lowery Brown defense team for continuing to delay her trial into a third year (she was charged in December 2014): “And there is a cost to it, said Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson, the case’s lead prosecutor. He said any indicted elected state officials who decide policies and laws not just for their own constituents but for ‘the entire state’ should be ‘brought to trial as quickly as possible and, if found guilty, removed from office.’”

The great irony is that, Gilson is decrying the very delay for which he is entirely responsible. Of course, this irony is entirely lost on Couloumbis and McCoy, who are deeply aware of it, as we are about to see.

The time is December 2015, the place is the Dauphin County Courthouse. Louise Williams Bishop, the fourth of six state representatives charged by Seth Williams, was in court for a pre-trial hearing on precisely the grounds which have delayed the Lowery Brown case: her defense motion to throw out the case for selective prosecution on the basis of race. She is also sitting before the very same judge trying the Lowery Brown case. At this hearing, Bishop’s attorney A. Charles Peruto, Jr. is to present evidence coming out of Kathleen Kane’s Attorney General’s office proving the sting, which caught these state reps on tape, had specifically targeted members of the state legislative black caucus.

Had that hearing taken place — Bishop instead pleaded no-contest — and the judge found in state’s favor, which Gilson repeatedly had boasted would happen, Lowery Brown’s motions would never have been filed, as the court would have already ruled on them.

But that was not to be.

Seth Williams, desperate to avoid such an evidentiary hearing to prove his case that there was no racial bias in the sting, cut a deal with Ms. Bishop to make sure the evidence of racial bias never saw the light of day. As Peruto, Jr. told investigative reporter Wendy Ruderman months earlier: “District Attorney Seth Williams practically begged state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop to take a sweetheart deal: She could plead guilty to bribery charges in return for probation and keep her state pension, according to Bishop’s defense attorney. …

‘It was a sit-down with me and my client, and he begged us to take a deal.’”

And of all the pleading state reps, Bishop got the best deal: a misdemeanor, sentencing her to six months of probation, and payment of $1,500 in restitution and $5,000 in prosecution costs.

For the past year Lowery Brown has fought to have her day in court; fought to have a hearing on her claims that she was targeted because of the color of her skin; fought to have the evidence of such racial targeting heard in open court. We only hope she continues to refuse the candy the Philadelphia DA has offered and gets that day in court.

 

 

 

Don’t Take the Deal Vanessa

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Liberty City Press is an independent weekly newspaper distributed by the Philadelphia Multi-Cultural Media Network whose members include Philadelphia Sunday Sun, The Philadelphia Gay News, Al Dia, The Metro Chinese Weekly and The Metro Viet News.

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