“Today we announce the first – but not the last – results of the investigation of political corruption I assumed this summer from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.
Last Friday, a Philadelphia County investigating grand jury voted to issue a presentment against former Philadelphia Traffic Court President Judge Thomasine Tynes, for charges including bribery, conflict of interest, and conspiracy. At 7:00 this morning, Judge Tynes surrendered to state police troopers and detectives of this office. Following discussions with Judge Tynes and her attorney, we have agreed to bail conditions, and the case will be scheduled shortly for further proceedings.
Needless to say, in the months since this matter arose, a great deal has happened that has served to distract public attention from the underlying case, whether by design or otherwise. Those external events have taken on a life of their own; they continue to swirl through the news cycles.
Whatever the merits of those other matters may be, I believe it’s important to remember where we started – with evidence of widespread, yet supposedly not prosecutable political corruption.
As it turns out, however, and as the grand jury has now found, the facts in at least one case so far are about as simple as they probably seemed to average citizens back at the beginning.
This is the bracelet.
It’s a $2,000, Tiffany charm bracelet, the bracelet that Judge Tynes received for promising special access to a businessman who said he was seeking an exclusive, and lucrative, government contract.
As the presentment lays out, the businessman met with two elected officials and an executive of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, who directed him to Judge Tynes. In a series of conversations, the businessman spelled out what he wanted, and the judge promised to deliver.
We know the exact words, because the businessman was wired for sound. At their first private meeting, the businessman said, “We’re not going to the park, right? We’re trying to go to the bank.” The judge responded, “Dealing with the greens.”
At their next meeting, the businessman handed the judge the Tiffany bracelet, in its Tiffany blue box and bag, as, quote, “a little token of our appreciation for helping us negotiate this Traffic Court contract.” The businessman assured the judge that she would be treated as a “consultant” on his business arrangements. He told her, “We could set it up so that you never have to work a day in your life.”
After the judge promised to meet with the court’s administrative judge later that day, the two toasted their deal. “To making some money together,” said the businessman. “To making money,” responded the judge.
The businessman mentioned that, from time to time, he might have some clients with Traffic Court problems. “Just call me,” said the judge. “I’ll deal with them.”
Months later, after she was called before a federal grand jury, the judge contacted the businessman and told him she wanted to pay him for the Tiffany bracelet. But she never did. She never returned it. She never reported it.
And that’s where things stood until this past March – when I learned of this case along with everyone else in Pennsylvania. It took a while, but eventually my office received some of the materials from the investigative file. In June, we convened a grand jury. I stated then publicly, that the public deserved to know what happened, I stated then that the public and the accused deserved due process, and that I would give it to them. That was four months ago. Things might have moved even faster, but there have been some disappointing, frustrating delays that I am not free to discuss at this point.
What I can say, however, is that this investigation was not dead on arrival, is definitely not over, and is most definitely moving ahead. We know there are others who have intimate knowledge of these events. We urge them to come forward to share what they know, before the investigation goes forward without their information.
I would like to acknowledge the grand jurors, who are still working hard, and in secret. And I would like to thank the Pennsylvania State Police, who have been working with us in this investigation. We also extend our thanks to the Pennsylvania House Ethics Committee, which has agreed with our request that the grand jury investigation proceed before the Committee takes further action, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and preclude any potential conflicts. We greatly appreciate the Committee’s cooperation.
When there is more to report, we will be back. Thank you.”