PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY FILES PETITION IN PA SUPREME COURT AGAINST PA GOVERNOR WOLF’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL DEATH PENALTY “REPRIEVE”

February 18, 2015 by

PHILADELPHIA (Feb.18, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that he has petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reject Governor Tom Wolf’s recent death penalty “reprieve” because it is an unconstitutional takeover of powers that belong to the legislature, the courts, and the pardons board – and because it sends a troubling message to the victims of crime and the citizens of Pennsylvania.

“Just weeks ago, Governor Wolf took an oath to faithfully execute his duties in accordance with the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Williams. “Our constitution does not allow the governor to satisfy his own personal opinions by halting a capital murderer’s sentence that was authorized by state statute, imposed by a unanimous Philadelphia jury, and upheld by state and federal courts.”

Unlike some states, Pennsylvania does not grant the Governor unlimited at-will power to issue a moratorium or pardon or commute any sentence of death or punishment.

Article IV, § 9 (a) of the Pennsylvania constitution states that “…no pardon shall be granted, nor sentence commuted, except on the recommendation in writing of a majority of the Board of Pardons, and, in the case of a sentence of death or life imprisonment, on the unanimous recommendation in writing of the Board of Pardons, after full hearing in open session, upon due public notice.”

Reprieves, like the one issued by the Governor for convicted murderer Terrance Williams, are designed to be limited in their duration and purpose. They exist to temporarily permit the examination of last-minute evidence or legal claims. But as the Governor himself acknowledged, there are no new claims in the case of Terrance Williams.

Terrance Williams has exhausted all of his appeals, including those to the Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Courts. He committed robberies and burglaries, broke into the home of an elderly woman on Christmas Eve with a rifle and threatened to blow her “f—ing head off,” and brutally bludgeoned to death two gay men so he could steal their belongings.

District Attorney Williams’ full filing with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is attached.

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PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S STATEMENT ON DEATH PENALTY MORATORIUM ANNOUNCEMENT

February 18, 2015 by

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 13, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement in response to Gov. Wolf’s announcement declaring a death penalty “moratorium” in Pennsylvania:

The people who are most grateful for this “moratorium” on capital punishment are the guiltiest, cruelest, most vicious killers on death row. Most other murderers do not get the death penalty, and if they did they will likely have the sentence reversed on appeal.

Terrance Williams must be one of those grateful killers today. He is one of the few capital murderers in Pennsylvania who has lost all his appeals, all the way up to both the Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Courts. And there is not a shred of doubt about his guilt. Even his own lawyers don’t claim he is innocent.

I am weary of this murderer’s effort to portray himself as a victim. He has committed robberies and burglaries, he has broken into the home of an elderly woman in the middle of the night, on Christmas Eve, put a rifle muzzle to her neck, and threatened to blow her “f—ing head off,” and he has brutally bludgeoned to death two older gay men in order to steal their belongings. These were not spontaneous crimes of “rage.” He planned each one in advance, he made careful efforts to cover up his involvement, and he made sure to profit.
The power to issue a reprieve exists to permit examination of last-minute evidence or legal claims that could not otherwise be reviewed. But there are no new claims here; they have been examined and reviewed and ruled on, over and over and over again. The reprieve is unlawful.

If the governor wants to be a man of his convictions, he should debate this issue publicly and try to persuade the legislature and the people to change the law. But he has no moral or legal right to nullify judicial rulings and legislative statutes. The governor’s action today was an injustice to the citizens of this state, who support the death penalty in limited and appropriate cases, to the judges who have conscientiously reviewed this case over two decades, and to victims of crime, who deserve to see justice carried out as the laws provide.

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MAN REGISTERS VOLVO WITH FRAUDULENT CAPITOL ONE INSURANCE COMPANY FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IDENTIFICATION CARD

February 11, 2015 by

Philadelphia – Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Christopher Turino after receiving a referral from Erie Insurance Company. On April 3, 2014, Turino was involved in an accident with two other vehicles, one of which was an Erie insured. Turino fled the scene of the accident; however, the police noted the license plate number of his 2004 Volvo and later discovered that the car had been registered with a fraudulent Capitol One Insurance company financial responsibility identification card. Detectives from the Insurance Fraud Unit retrieved the title history of the 2004 Volvo and learned that Turino had registered the car with a Capitol Insurance Company financial responsibility identification card on January 24, 2014. Detectives contacted representatives from the company who confirmed that the card was fraudulent. Turino was arrested for Forgery and Insurance Fraud on February 7, 2015. He is next listed in Philadelphia Municipal Court for a status listing on February 13, 2015.

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY WELCOMES CAMERON L. KLINE AS NEW COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR AND SPOKESPERSON

February 9, 2015 by

PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 9, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that Cameron L. Kline will begin serving as his new Communications Director and Spokesperson.

“I’d like to officially welcome Cameron to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office,” said Williams. “Cameron not only brings with him a wealth of communications experience – from neighborhood to non-profit and from political to corporate – to the job, but he is a consummate professional who understands the City of Philadelphia and our amazing neighborhoods.”

Before joining the district attorney’s office, Kline was State Senator Larry Farnese’s (D-Phila.) Communications Director and Senior Advisor. Prior to joining the senator’s office, he was the Press Secretary for State Treasurer Rob McCord’s campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania and the Communications Director for the Philadelphia Gas Works. He has also worked for PECO and the School District of Philadelphia.
Cameron, who lives with his partner in South Philadelphia, has a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois, is a current Board Member for the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and brought national attention to the Boy Scouts of America’s discriminatory policies when he returned his Eagle Scout medal in 2013.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. It is organized into seven divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Pre-Trial, Investigations, Juvenile Law, and Special Operations. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of over 75,000 criminal cases annually. The main office of the Philadelphia District Attorney is located in Center City Philadelphia at The Widener Building, Three South Penn Square. The Juvenile Court and Child Support Unit are located at 1501 Arch Street, and the Private Criminal Complaint Unit is located at 1425 Arch Street. Additionally, the Charging Unit is staffed around the clock in The Widener Building.

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Philadelphia District Attorney Charges Two Philadelphia Police Officers After Grand Jury Investigation

February 6, 2015 by

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 5, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, following a lengthy Grand Jury and Police Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigation, today charged Philadelphia Police Officers Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson for the beating, in addition to other charges, of Najee Rivera.
“This type of behavior has absolutely no place in our city and I will prosecute these two officers to the fullest extent of the law. Simply put, no one – not even police officers – is above the law,” said District Attorney Williams. “Commissioner Ramsey and his team have been very supportive in this investigation and, like him, I hope these charges send a clear message to every Philadelphian that we intend to use every tool available to us to keep our neighborhoods and communities safe.”
The full list of charges against both officers include: Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Criminal Conspiracy, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Tampering with Public Records or Information, False Reports to Law Enforcement Authorities, Obstructing Administration of Law, and Official Oppression.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey joined the District Attorney for the announcement.
Around 10 p.m. on May 29, 2013, near North 7th and Somerset Sts., Officers McKnight, a seven year veteran of the force, and Robinson, a six year veteran of the force, both of the 25th Police District pulled over Najee Rivera on his motor scooter. Rivera became frightened, drove away and was chased by the officers who broke procedure by not using their lights and sirens during the pursuit. At the 2700 block of North 6th St. a business’ surveillance camera captured the officers drive up to Rivera and knock him off his scooter. Both officers then exited their police car, grabbed and repeatedly struck Rivera with their fists and baton while Rivera, who received a fractured orbital bone and numerous lacerations to his head, cries out in pain.
While Rivera was at the hospital, McKnight and Robinson submitted police paperwork and inaccurate statements to the Philadelphia Police Department by falsely accusing Rivera of assaulting Robinson and Resisting Arrest. Based on the false allegations, Rivera was arrested and charged with Aggravated Assault and related offenses. Eventually the charges against Rivera were withdrawn after the video evidence of the attack was reviewed by prosecutors.
Today, Officers McKnight and Robinson will be processed and arraigned. A copy of the Grand Jury presentment and photographs of Officers McKnight and Robinson and Rivera are attached.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. It is organized into seven divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Pre-Trial, Investigations, Juvenile Law, and Special Operations. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of over 75,000 criminal cases annually. The main office of the Philadelphia District Attorney is located in Center City Philadelphia at The Widener Building, Three South Penn Square. The Juvenile Court and Child Support Unit are located at 1501 Arch Street, and the Private Criminal Complaint Unit is located at 1425 Arch Street. Additionally, the Charging Unit is staffed around the clock in The Widener Building.

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MEN FILE FICTITIOUS FRAUDULENT INJURY CLAIMS WITH REPWEST INSURANCE COMPANY

February 6, 2015 by

February 6, 2015 : Philadelphia – Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Demetrius Faust and Dennis Carr after receiving a referral from Repwest Insurance Company. On September 29, 2011, the Philadelphia Police reported that an individual driving a rented U-Haul truck struck a parked 2003 Honda Accord. The police officer reported that there were no passengers in the U-Haul truck at the time of the accident nor did any individuals claim to be hurt. However, Repwest later received letters of representation from an attorney who stated that he represented five individuals who were allegedly hurt in this accident, including Dennis Carr and Demetrius Faust. Insurance Fraud Unit detectives retrieved the Repwest Insurance file which included a statement from Dennis Carr where he alleged that he was driving the U-Haul truck at the time of the accident. This statement contradicted the police report in which another individual is named as the driver. The investigation later revealed that both Faust and Carr filed injury claims against Repwest Insurance Company when they had not actually been present during the accident. Faust was arrested on January 8, 2015 and Carr was arrested on January 16. Both were charged with Insurance Fraud (F3), Insurance Fraud (M2), Conspiracy and Attempted Theft by Deception. Both are scheduled for status listings in late February at the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

MAN APPLIES FOR FRAUDULENT COLONIAL LIFE INSURANCE POLICIES IN ORDER TO RECEIVE COMMISSION

February 6, 2015 by

February 5, 2015 : Philadelphia – Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Mickel Mercer after receiving a referral from Colonial Life Insurance. Mercer had been employed by Colonial Life to sell disability, life and accident policies in return for commission. While employed by the company, Mercer submitted over seventy-five insurance applications for twenty-one individuals during a two-month period. In connection to these policies, Colonial Life should have received premium payments in excess of thirty-three thousand dollars. When these funds never materialized, the company reported Mercer for suspicions of fraud and forgery.

 

The investigation revealed that the listed twenty-one individuals were all supposedly employed by a company called Intelligent Negotiations, LLC which was a fictitious corporation headed by Mercer. When detectives approached alleged employees of the company, they denied any knowledge of applying for insurance policies and also denied ever working for the enterprise. Detectives learned that Mercer had used biographical information of acquaintances in order to fraudulently open these policies and receive commission bonuses. He was arrested for Insurance Fraud, Forgery, Theft by Deception, Identity Theft and Securing Execution on February 5, 2015. He is next listed for a status hearing in Philadelphia Municipal Court on February 13, 2015.

WOMAN REPORTS ACCIDENT TO SAFE AUTO WHICH HAPPENED PRIOR TO POLICY INCEPTION

February 6, 2015 by

Philadelphia – Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Nicole Chandler after receiving a referral from Safe Auto Insurance Company. On June 1, 2014, Chandler reported to Safe Auto that she had been in an accident on May 31, 2014 shortly before four o’clock in the afternoon; however, police reports and dispatch records indicate that the accident had actually occurred shortly before two o’clock in the afternoon. Records from the insurance company show that Chandler purchased an insurance policy slightly after two o’clock in the afternoon and then later added collision and rental coverage to her policy. Insurance Fraud Unit detectives determined that Chandler did not have a valid policy at the time of her accident and later misrepresented the time of the collision to Safe Auto in order to receive coverage. Chandler was arrested on February 2, 2015 for Insurance Fraud and Attempted Theft by Deception. She is next scheduled to appear in Philadelphia Municipal Court on February 9, 2015 for a status listing.

Philadelphia Police Officer Charged With False Identification to Law Enforcement Authorities

February 2, 2015 by

February 2, 2015: Philadelphia- Today, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged 28-year-old Brandon Ruff, a Philadelphia Police Sergeant, with one count of False Identification to Law Enforcement Authorities, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4914.

The allegations are that on August 3, 2014, Sgt. Ruff, then assigned to the 16th District, arrived at the 35th District headquarters in civilian clothing carrying a bag containing three handguns that he asked to surrender.  When Sgt. Ruff responded to an officer’s inquiry that the guns were not his, police began to investigate in order to determine whether any of the guns were stolen or had been used in a crime.  Sgt. Ruff informed the officer that the guns came from a family member and he knew nothing else about them.

When a second police officer went to retrieve the guns, she asked Sgt. Ruff for his name and date of birth in order to record the interaction.  Sgt. Ruff responded with the alias “Ryan Jones” and a fabricated date of birth.

Sgt. Ruff began to get agitated and began to leave the building.  Once outside, other officers from the 35th District stopped him and observed a bulge in his waistband that a search revealed to be his privately-owned handgun.  Sgt. Ruff continued to refuse requests for identification and his permit to carry that handgun.

Once back inside the building, a police officer conducted a more thorough search and discovered Sgt. Ruff’s police identification.  All three guns came back to different owners, with one having been reported stolen out of South Philadelphia in 2010.

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Grand Jury Investigation into a Philadelphia Police Officer

January 27, 2015 by

January 22, 2015: Today, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams charged former Philadelphia Homicide Detective Ronald Dove with Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution, Obstructing Administration of Law, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Unsworn Falsification, Flight to Avoid Apprehension, and, Criminal Conspiracy.  His accomplice, Erica Sanchez has been charged with Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution, Obstructing Administration of Law, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Flight to Avoid Apprehension, and, Criminal Conspiracy.  The arrests of Dove and Sanchez come after a lengthy Grand Jury and Police Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigation.

 

At 2:01 PM on Sunday, September 8, 2013, Philadelphia police received a report of a body found at 3312 N. 5th St. in the city of Philadelphia. Within minutes, police reached the scene and found the body of Cesar Vera in an after-hours club lying in a pool of his own blood. Mr. Vera had a single stab wound to the chest – that had penetrated through his heart – killing him within minutes of the stabbing. The homicide Detectives who responded to the scene quickly identified the name of a suspect – Erica Sanchez.  Sanchez would remain the sole suspect in the homicide of Cesar Vera until her surrender to police on October 16, 2013. Despite extensive efforts, homicide Detectives were never able to find, question or detain Erica Sanchez before that date because one of their own was assisting her in avoiding responsibility for her conduct.

 

Unbeknownst to the Homicide Detectives – indeed, unbeknownst to the Philadelphia Police Department – one of their own members, Homicide Detective Ronald Dove, had been with Erica Sanchez after the death of Cesar Vera. Over the hours, days and weeks following the murder, while homicide Detectives searched for Erica Sanchez, Detective Dove knew exactly where she was and how to contact her. He actively shielded her, hid her and failed to disclose material evidence and facts to his fellow police officers.

The Grand Jury found that on the morning of the murder of Cesar Vera, Sanchez, still stained with the blood of Vera, called Detective Dove and sought his help.  Dove responded and went to pick her up.  Within a short time he began to call various national hotel chains, before the police department even knew a homicide had occurred.  When the body was discovered that afternoon, notice was sent out to all homicide detectives, including Dove.  Once the body was discovered, Dove quickly sought to contact Sanchez.  Soon after that contact, both Dove and Sanchez stopped use of her cell phones.  Dove spent that evening with Sanchez, and checked in with his supervisor, failing to mention that he was at that very moment with the prime murder suspect.

The next day, as corroborated by toll records and video, Dove drove Sanchez from Philadelphia to Rochester, New York, where he checked her into a Holiday Inn, for which he paid.  He bought her a new cell phone, a Tracfone, which is particularly difficult to trace.  He left her hidden in New York and came back to work in Philadelphia, where his own colleagues were still trying to locate the suspect.

Meanwhile, Dove had undertaken a campaign to actively mislead other law enforcement personnel and protect the suspect.  The night of the murder, Dove called a fellow detective to fish for information about the progress of the investigation.  In later conversations, he eventually revealed that he knew Sanchez and repeatedly insisted that the killing must have been in self-defense.

Dove also spoke with the lead detective assigned to the case.  He urged his colleague to conduct only “a light interview” of Sanchez, and again insisted that the killing must have been in self-defense.

Dove also reached out to the chief of the homicide unit in the District Attorney’s office.  As with the detectives, he told her that he knew someone who was involved in a homicide, but insisted that it must have been self-defense.

Each of these individuals made clear to Dove that, if he came to possess any information about the case, it was of course his duty to report it immediately.  Dove promised he would, but he was lying.  He never told any of them that he knew exactly where Sanchez was hiding out, and that he himself had set it up.

Two weeks after the murder, Dove returned to New York – not to bring the suspect in, but to take her on a little vacation.  They spent the weekend at Niagara Falls, touring the sites and taking pictures.  Dove then brought Sanchez back to Rochester, checked her into a different hotel, and returned to his job in the homicide unit as if nothing had happened.

Not until October 1, three weeks after the murder, did Dove finally give a statement to investigators, but it was full of inaccurate statements.  He said nothing about his contact with Sanchez immediately after the murder, he hid the fact that he had spirited her out of the jurisdiction, and he failed to mention that he had disposed of her car and phone.

Dove’s actions and inactions from the early morning hours of September 8th to the date of Sanchez’s arrest on October 16, 2013 for the murder of Cesar Vera, constituted a concerted effort to prevent, harm and damage law enforcement efforts to solve the murder.  Dove’s actions prevented the collection and preservation of important evidence (such as the clothes worn by Erica Sanchez on the day of the homicide, finger nail scrapings, DNA, hair samples, a timely forensic exam of her car, recovery of the murder weapon, etc.) that was available on the day of the homicide (September 8th).  In addition, his actions prevented police from obtaining physical custody of Erica Sanchez.

 

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