Yet another crooked judge was scheduled to get yet another slap on the wrist today. The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline was scheduled to hold a penalty hearing for Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie F. Singletary.
The Court of Judicial Discipline has heard 56 cases since it was established by an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution in 1993. Cynics might think that number sounds like it is missing a couple of digits. The same cynics might not be surprised to learn that Judge Singletary was the only jurist charged in all of 2008.
At the time he was sworn in a year ago, Traffic Judge Singletary owed a total of $11,427 for 55 traffic violations. His driver’s license is suspended through 2011.
And, he bragged about his driving record during his campaign. He ran on that. He said having 55 unpaid tickets and a suspended license would make him a better judge. “I think I’ll be more effective because I have both sides of the bench,” he explained.
Before he got into the judge business Singletary was in the preacher business and the musician business. Presumably, if life stole Judge Willie a truck full of lemons he would make a business out of that.
Singletary might have remained just another jackass in a black dress with a wooden hammer in his hand except he tried to shake down a small gathering of bikers in 2007. Apparently, somebody there had a cell phone because a video of Singletary’s frank and honest comments about justice surfaced on You Tube.
Judge Willie Speaks
“I’m running for traffic court judge, right? And I need some money,” Singletary told a group of black bikers at a blessing of the bikes. The run was sponsored by a black, three-piece-patch club called the First State Road Rattlers Motorcycle Club.
“I’m gonna tell y’all like it is,” Singletary continued. “I need some money! I got some stuff I gotta do! So if you all could get $20, cause you all gonna need me in traffic court. Am I right about that? Yeah! Now you’ll want me to get that, because you believe I’ll hook up, right?”
The Road Rattlers understood Singletary to mean that if they gave him $20 now, he could maybe save them more than that when they appeared before him in traffic court.
Video, Video Everywhere
One thing led to another and eventually a Philadelphia television station ran the You Tube video. And, then some more people got all upset about the possibility that a judge might be corrupt. As far as the Court of Judicial Discipline was concerned Singletary’s solicitation of bribes was an aberration.
Judge Willie explained that it was all just a misunderstanding. In the first place, Singletary explained, he was only trying to find rapport with his audience. “I was talking to a group of bikers who I feel as though many times bikers have been prejudice upon,” Singletary said on television.
Then, in the same televised interview he explained that what he was selling was not a favorable verdict but rather the opportunity for a fair trial. Which is a whole different thing. Who among us would not be willing to pay a mere $20 for the opportunity for a fair trial?
“My point to them was that by being a friend that they will get a fair trial, somebody who understands just because you’re a biker does not make you a bad person,” Singletary explained.
Typically, the Court of Judicial Discipline might publically reprimanded Singletary or even go so far as to temporarily suspend him from the bench. Then he can go back to the justice business.