Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Rick walks
 
Friday, March 24, 2006
Democracy 101
 
Mariano ally pleads guilty to bribery

 
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
So hard to say, 'It's time to resign'
. Federal Detention Center - Philadelphia
 
Monday, March 20, 2006
Sunday's wrap
 
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Exeunt Omnes
 
Friday, March 17, 2006
The verdict
this is an audio post - click to play
 
More Mariano Reactions
Tinari was dashing down to the second floor to check on his client, and didn't speak to the media. Hurrying past, he told us he was "surprised" that the judge kept Mariano in custody.
 
Mariano Family Reactions
Mariano's wife arrived late to the verdict, coming in after the first eight counts had been read. She blinked back tears as the remaining counts were read and the jurors confirmed their verdicts. Staffer Carmen Sousa, sitting two seats away, wiped tears from her face.

When the judge ordered the Councilman into custody, there was an audible gasp from the row of seats occupied by family and staffers.

They all watched as two burly U.S. Marshals handcuffed Mariano and led him from the courtroom. Mariano clasped his eyeglass case in his hands behind his back.
 
Led away in handcuffs
Mariano was escorted from the courtoom in handcuffs.
 
Mariano DETAINED - bail REVOKED

Judge says the incident at City Hall was "never completely explained to my
satisfication and may signal threat to his own safety" and risk to others. He
said he thinks a person facing a lengthy prison sentence presents a risk of
flight. He orders a mental health evaluation "as soon as possible."

Then the judge says he will hold another hearing.

Until then, councilman is in custody

 
Bail conditions being discussed

Judge has concerns about whether Mariano should have a psychiatric
evaluation. A sidebar conference is underway

 
Mariano found guilty on most charges

A federal jury today convicted City Councilman Rick Mariano on corruption charges.

He was convicted of corruption, money laundering, fraud, tax and bribery charges. He was found not guilty of four fraud charges.

Jury has been polled. All agree.

Mariano, whose district includes parts of North and lower Northeast Philadelphia, becomes the first sitting Councilman convicted of corruption since 1991.

He will lose his council seat when he is sentenced in a few months. Mariano probably faces five to ten years in prison.

During a two-week trial, a 12-person jury heard prosecutors present evidence that the Councilman took nearly $30,000 in bribes from local businessmen in exchange for political favors.

Mariano was charged with taking bribes from businessmen to finagle deals that cost taxpayers more than $700,000.

The indictment alleged that he used the money to pay off credit-card debt and pay dues at an upscale health club.

 
Guilty of virtually every charge

 
Flash: Guilty of Conspiracy

Read by juror No. 5, the foreperson.

 
jury in the courtroom

 
courtroom opened for spectators

waiting on the judge to enter momentarily. .

 
defendant arrives

Mariano, green suit, green tie, has entered the courtroom, as have
prosecutors.

 
 
Confirmed
Verdict pending. Marshals gathering outside courtroom.
 
Standby: We may have a verdict
 
Office pool
Of the 12 journalists sitting outside the courtroom, seven say we get a verdict today. Five say next week. Hope that was helpful.
 
Feeding the Jury
They've just brought in sandwiches for the jury. They're still thinking.

Quick, judicial psychologists out there: Tell us what the effects of hunger and satiation are on jurors' tendencies to convict.
 
Who says prosecutors are cold & heartless?



Yes, they introduced the defendants' driver's license photos into evidence. But it could have been worse. They could have introduced their mug shots. Or Sporting Club membership IDs.
 
Nothing to see here

Just reporters in the hallway gossiping about who will buy the Inquirer &
DN. Lawyers in the case aren't even here.

 
Et tu, Blogger?
Like some witnesses in the trial, Blogger's level of cooperation appears mixed today. Please stand by - if you get too itchy and don't hear from us, please go to the mothership to get your Rick fix.
 
Courtroom action
While the jury slaves away behind closed doors, the judge took the bench just now and, during a light-hearted hearing, admitted a fresh crop of lawyers to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Current members of the bar presented attorneys for admission.

One of the lawyers introducing another is a familiar face from the Mariano trial. Scott P. Sigman of Bochetto & Lentz represented two witnesses for IBEW Local 98 and was in the courtroom when they testified. Sigman introduced lawyer Dawn Tancredi to Judge Stengel.

"I recognize you," Stengel joked to Sigman. "This is a happier occasion."

Stengel also recalled that he had heard Tancredi's name come up during the trial, as a lawyer for a witness.

"It's a pleasure to be here under these circumstances, your honor," she said.
 
All quiet

Deliberations underway.

 
"I'm numb"
 
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Done for the Day

The jurors have gone home for the day.
They'll start deliberating again at 9 a.m. tomorrow.
 
Defense closing: Nino Tinari
this is an audio post - click to play
 
Prosecutor's closing: Mike Schwartz
this is an audio post - click to play
 
Jury begins deliberating

The court security officer, having been sworn, has led the jury from the
courtroom to begin deliberations.

From an earlier Inquirer story:

City Councilman Rick Mariano, a self-styled man of the people, will be tried
by a jury that includes a liquor-store clerk, a laborer, and a man who
manages an ice cream shop.
But the jury is not exactly representative of Mariano's North and Northeast Philadelphia district. Only
two jurors live in the city - and six of them come from Lancaster, Berks and
Northampton Counties.
...
The jury has seven men and five women. Nine are white; three are African
American. The average age is 41.

 
Closings closed

Mann concludes by telling jurors to use their common sense and to ignore
Tinari's focus on who is a liar and who is not.

"Keep your eyes on the bribes."

Judge now charging jury.

 
Ouch
"The only thing Mariano has in common with Julius Caesar is that the councilman
stabbed the citizens of Philadelphia in the back each time he took a
bribe." - Prosecutor Kenya Mann on rebutal, which is just underway.
 
Tinari concludes

"Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, may I just say this:

The judge is going to tell you what the law is.

I can't match what he'll say. A proper verdict is one that is right. You
each know what is right. That's all I'm asking you for. What is right. It is
right from the evidence to find councilman Mariano not guilty because the
prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt."

On his way out for a break, the councilman smiled, but his grin was not so
wide.

Next up: rebuttal by Kenya Mann.

 
Satan, etc.


Tinari on prosecution witness Anna Davila:

"Another trusted member of that group who was in the corner of the Roman
forum."

"When the investigation breaks, she begins to say that is is what
occurred.... But no one else heard it.... You saw her cry here. But it was
only when she was confronted with the reality of her own falsitude."

"She is Lucifer herself, in Angel's clothing."

 
Tinari on a roll...

Tinari says many government witnesses can't be trusted. Maggie Greer, for
example, "fooled the system" because she got away with stealing from Erie
Steel in return for testimony against a big fish - Mariano.

"She's a devil in angel's clothing."

Besides, Tinari told jurors, the prosecution failed to link the payments to
official acts."There isn't any quid pro quo," he said. "You can't surmise.
You can't have any guessing.... You are not 12 Sherlock Holmes. You're not
here to put together evidence for them. It isn't a puzzle."

 
Julius Mariano?
Tinari has begun his closing. A rough transcript:

“Councilman Mariano is not guilty. Beyond that, he is factually innocent.”

“Revenge is a kind of wild justice. Those words from the Roman Forum and Ides of March rings so true today. Because it does reveal what betrayal is all about.”

“If you’ll recall Julius Caesar was the head of the Roman Republic. He was beloved by all his people in that empire. And then as time came by, there were competitors, people who were ambitious. People who had their own agendas.”

"There was a conclave of the senators as you recall and Julius Caesar was invited to speak to them. They gathered at the Roman Forum. As that was occurring, you will recall, three of his best friends, took Julius Caesar over to the side, in the corner. They gathered around him. The forum was filled with the senators."

"Brutus, Cassius and Anthony. These three had in their mind to take over the government and divide the remenants. So as they were, the three beloved friends. His best friends. Persons whom he trusted. Surrounded him and began backstabbing him. As he was collapsing him, he was able to just see, as he turned around, those famous words."

"Et tu, Detruex. Et tu, Lisko. Et tu, Davila."

"Each of these people had agendas. Each has a particular self-interest."
 
Who's the boss?
While you were out getting a bite, our tireless editor back at the mothership created a link to a document(in PDF format) prosecutor Schwartz told jurors "confirms all the evidence in the case." It's a letter from Louis Chartock to Mariano and shows "who's the boss and who's the employee."

And here is an oversized demonstrative exhibit with driver's license photos of all the players, and, the government says, the conspiracy.
 
lunch break
Judge orders everyone to go eat. Wouldn't want to hear what the defense has
to say on an empty stomach. Back at 1pm. Doors locked at 1:01 pm.
 
Let's assume they were loans

Just for the sake of argument, Schwartz tells the jury. A public official
still has an obligation under the law to list loans of over $5,000. The Erie
Steel "loans" aren't there.

"Nothing is disclosed. Councilman Mariano lied on these forms."

"Erie Steel paid him a salary to be their public official."

"His council office should have had a sign that said Branch Office of Erie Steel."

 
"Documents you saw do not lie"

Schwartz says he knows that Tinari will question the credibility of
government witnesses. But the prosecutor says, "You can decide this case
just based on the documents. These documents that you saw do not lie."

Now Schwartz is walking jurors through the witnesses, asking them to compare
the demeanor of the government's witnesses to the defense's.

"You heard an insider's view of the conspirary in action."

"It was Mariano who told the others to make the fake invoices. If there was
any doubt in your minds that these were bribes and not gifts or loan, you
need only think of acts that Mariani took to personally" to launder the
checks.

"Since when does anyone who makes a loan, submit a check to a third party,
then have the third party write a check to the borrower's credit card
company?"

 
"He sold his office."

"Defendant Richard Mariano betrayed the people he was supposed to serve."

Schwartz has begun his closing: "He sold his office... You heard how he no
longer worked for all the citizens but instead became an employee to those
who secretly paid him."

Mariano, wearing a pink-striped tie, is staring directly at the prosecutor.

The jury is staring a giant poster that Schwartz has placed before them.
It's the oath of office Mariano gave when he became a councilman.

 
All rise.

The councilman arrived smiling. The place is thick with "senior federal officials" and Mariano supporters. We'll get started shortly. Here's the agenda:
1. Preliminary jury instructions.
2. Prosecutor Mike Schwartz will speak for about 45 min to an hour.
3. Defense attorney Nino Tinari.
4. Prosecutor Kenya Mann's rebuttal.
5. More jury instructions.
6. Lunch.
7. Deliberations.

The judge is on the bench, the door is locked and we are underway.

 
Exclusive: Rick wanted to testify
And very nearly did. Read all about it in today's Inquirer by clicking on the headline above.
 
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Thank you for your attention


Ladies and gentlemen, the presentation of evidence has now concluded. Please remember to avoid all media accounts of the proceedings. After you leave the courtroom, the lawyers will discuss the jury instructions. We will recovene tomorrow for closing arguments at 930. Thank you.
 
Et tu, Hugh?

The government has called one rebutall witness, former Mariano legislative aide Hugh Allen.

Allen was jokingly known as "Mariano's brain" before he left the office to work at the school district. Mariano toasted him from the floor of Council on his last day.

Which must make it all the harder for Mariano to sit impassively as he testifies. According to Allen, Anna Davila, whose testimony the defense has been trying to knock down all week, did indeed complain about being mistreated by codefendant Louis Chartock. And, he said, John Lisko and Walt De Treux, whose testimony Tinari has also been gunning for, were honest guys. "He's one of the finest people I know," Allen said of De Treux. Of Lisko, he said he'd never heard the guy use his cellphone at work--for rock and roll business or anything else. On the other hand, he said that Pat Dugan, an attorney who gave strong testimony on behalf of the defense yesterday, didn't show his face much in the office. "He would come in and sign in and leave, go out and do something," Allen said.

We're guessing someone's off the Christmas-card list.
 
Answer: No

The defense rests!

 
An Urban Warrior Scoop?

As Nino Tinari walked into the courtroom for the afternoon session, The
Urban Warrior, elbowed Your Faithful Bloggers aside, and asked him - "Will
Rick testify?"

"Probably," Tinari said with a straight face.

Was he teasing us?

We should know soon.

For now, another nice lady from the neighorhood is testifying, saying what a
great guy he is.

 
Rain delay... then a lunch break


The judge sent jurors from the court room, saying there would be a brief delay "over a legal issue." He didn't say what it was.

Prosecutors seemed nonplussed, but the defense scrambled outside the courtroom "to research the issue."

After about 15 minutes, the judge called the jury back into the courtroom and said it was time for a lunch break.

Government officials said they don't know what the issue is. Defense lawyer Tinari wouldn't say.

He did say that he has "at least" two more witnesses.

Is one of them Mariano?

"Hold on to your seats," he said.

Meantime, a lawyer in the courtroom reports to us that the ladies in the gallery are whispering that FBI agent Ray Manna looks a lot like Luke Wilson.


Ray didn't know what to say. We explained that it's a compliment.
 
Attempted Wire Fraud?

Mariano is apparently in good spirits this morning. Moments ago, he jokingly tried to yank the wireless adapter out of our laptop. But nothing can stop your Mariano trial blog team.

Who wouldn't be in a good mood after the run of character witnesses we've just seen. A disabled veteran and a homeless shelter operator were among those who testified to Mariano's honesty and law-abiding nature.

Of course, none of those folks had anything to do with the crimes alleged. But it's nice to be loved.
 
Bob Henon Testifies

Robert Henon, political director for Local 98, just testified.

Most of it was related to that meeting a Finnegan’s Wake, last spring when the stories were first breaking.

Here’s a very rough transcript.

Direct examination by defense lawyer Nino Tinari:

Did the discussions revolve around Mariano and the allegation made of him in the press?

Yes

Mr. Doughtery was there, right?

Yes.

During the course of that meeting did Mariano say essentially, “I screwed up” or “I f-ed up,” that he was facing prison time?

Not that I heard.

Was there any discussion about a repayment of any credit cards?

No.

By the way, was there a loan given to Mariano?

Yes.

What amount?

$6,000.

Do you remember any discussions that he tried to repay the loan?

No.

How long did this meeting last?

Approximately an hour.

The purpose of the meeting was to go over Rick’s demeanor, how Rick was holding up personally. He was kind of like you know keeping his head down. It was a pep rally to show support for the councilman.

Did he mention other newspaper articles were going to come out?

Yes.

Was he upset?

Of course.

Was there discussion that money the loan to Mariano was repay a credit card?

No.

Cross-examination by prosecutor Kenya Mann:

When Tinari said You’re not saying the councilman didn’t say that, you’re saying you didn’t hear it?

That’s correct.

How much did Mariano tried to borrow from you?

$6,000

What did you do when he asked you for the money?

I went to my employer, John Dougherty. What he did was, when I went to John, John Dougherty transferred into my personal account the money because it was easier for me to pick up.

So you went to John Dougherty and said the defendant wants to borrow 6,000?

Yes.

Did the issue of the loan come up at Finnegan’s Wake?

The only time it came up was when john said, referring to newspaper articles, what did you do with the money I loaned you?

What did the councilman say?

He said, “I still have it.”

Did Mariano talk about anything else?

It wasn’t specific, just that more articles are coming out.

Why did you go to Dougherty when Mariano asked for 6,000?

I went to John and said Rick had asked to borrow some money.

Did defendant say why he wanted a loan?

I don’t remember.
 
The "Undercut by Rock and Rollers" Defense
Rowny has testified that she never heard Mariano dis a female staffer, bang his hands on the desk, or otherwise do what prosecution witness Davila described. She also--do you notice a pattern here?--described Davila as "not an honest person."

Tinari also asked her about John Lisko, another prosecution witness. He asks if she ever heard Lisko, who also manages a rock band, talking on his cellphone. He asks her if she knew he had a band. She says she did. No further questions.

An Erie Steel staffer is now on the stand. She says Louis Chartock reminds her of her grandfather.
 
Rick's here; his staffer on stand
Mariano has arrived. We're underway. First up for the defense: Yet another staffer from his Council office, Kathy Rowny.

She was one of the folks Anna Davila said witnessed her tongue-lashing from Mariano.

In other news, we hear that it looks like closing arguments will begin tomorrow morning .

The jury, we're told, will leave after the defense finishes, perhaps as early as lunchtime. Then the lawyers will hash out the wording of the jury charge.
 
Mariano Found


Tinari says the Councilman was back at Tinari's law offices waiting for him.
He's on his way

 
Mariano AWOL

Everyone is here but the defendant. Stay tuned.

 
Wednesday's Inquirer story
Court convenes again at 930.
 
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Payments were loans from "people he knew since grade school"
this is an audio post - click to play
Pat Dugan, former Mariano aide, under questioning by defense attorney Nino Tinari. He talks about conversations with Mariano just after the scandal broke, and about his experience being interviewed by federal authorities. (Apologies in advance for the poor audio. Like we've said, we're still neophytes. We'll get it down by the verdict)
 
The Silver Bullet
Dugan's testimony this afternoon may have put to rest at least one intriguing city political rumor. Soon after Mariano's name first surfaced in connection with the federal corruption probe, the Councilman traded in his black city car for a silver sedan. Word in some quarters was that he'd made the switch out of concern that the feds had bugged his old ride. But Dugan said the real answer was simpler: He said that with all the attention, Mariano wanted a car people wouldn't recognize. And, he said, it just so happened that the city's then-managing director, Phil Goldsmith, was leaving his post--and, with it, leaving a silver Ford Taurus with low mileage. So, he said, Mariano's office asked, and Goldsmith arranged a switcheroo.
 
Rick Mariano--Altar Boy!
Earlier in the Mariano trial, his camp appeared to have settled on a basic sketch of of the defendant's character. In a nutshell: He may be blunt and sometimes rude, but he's no crook. It was an image that didn't seem too unfamiliar to those of us who've watched him huff and puff--and occasionally show the kind of smarts that elude better-spoken colleagues--in City Council.

The version of Rick recounted by some of his more dedicated defenders today, however, was a bit less familiar. Former aide Pat Dugan said he couldn't say he'd heard Mariano use the F-word more than once. Current aide Carmen Sousa said she'd only seen him angry once (at his son, on the phone) and only heard him use an obscenity once.

Say what? Was she talking about the same guy who in a 2001 argument on the Council floor told a colleague, "I'll knock your teeth out and throw you out the window?"

Over the years, in fact, the Mariano Council-floor rant has become as much of a City Hall staple as the word reporters regularly use to describe the Councilman from the 7th District: "Colorful."

Take this particularly colorful example from July 2, 2004, courtesy of our colleague Angela Couloumbis...


Mariano's remarks: Colorful - and off-color;While talking about
fair wages for union workers, he burst into a speech peppered with
obscenities.

Angela Couloumbis INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Perhaps it was the crowd. Or the chants. Or the bright lights of the television cameras.

Or maybe it was just the delicate complexities of tax policy that caused the blood to rise and tempers to flare.

Whatever the reason, City Councilman Rick Mariano erupted in a spectacular display of emotion inside Council chambers yesterday that his supporters said was just his passion left unchecked - but others criticized as outright lunacy.

It started off as a speech about the right of all union workers to fair wages. It soon spiraled into a tirade peppered with obscenities - and in two languages at that.

Cheered on by members of District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union representing the city's blue-collar workers, Mariano excoriated those of his colleagues who were willing to override Mayor Street's veto of cuts to the business-privilege tax. That cut would cost the city a precious $100 million over the next five years, he said.

"I'm not an economist . . . but they are the ones who are going to get screwed," Mariano said to whistles and clapping from the union members, who are negotiating a new contract with the city.


"So let's get over the bull- and vote this thing. And vote it now," he yelled, pounding his fist on his lectern.

But Councilman David Cohen was having none of that. The elder councilman tried to argue that although Mariano supported labor, he also supported a mayor who Cohen believes is "the best champion big business has ever had in Philadelphia."

Before Cohen could finish his sentence, Mariano was out of his seat, pacing, gesticulating and screaming at the top of his lungs.


"This is City Council," he shouted. "This is City Council. Don't blame the mayor. The mayor's not in here. . . . I want to vote. Let's vote."

"Councilman Mariano, you are out of order," Council president Anna C. Verna warned, emphasizing every word with a bang of her gavel.


"So remove me," Mariano yelled back.

"Councilman Cohen deserves to be heard," Verna continued.

"Oh, I'll be heard," Cohen said, sitting calmly in his chair as the ruckus
unfolded.

One of his aides came up to stand protectively behind him.Mariano finally returned to his seat, but not before telling his fellow colleagues they should vote their convictions.

Asked about his explosive speech-making after the session, Mariano offered no apologies. He acknowledged his speech was on the passionate side but said he did not believe he lost control over his emotions.

"I was always in control," Mariano said. "At times, being my heritage, you might think my face is red, and I do a lot of yelling, use some bad language.

"But I believe everything I said."


 
Done for the day
Just adjourned for the day. The defense has perhaps 8 witnesses left - half character, half substantive.

The big question for tomorrow remains: Will Rick testify?

As his lawyer made his way from the courtroom, he was surrounded by reporters who demanded to know.

"I haven't made up my mind," Tinari said. "I've been so focused on today."

More on that later. We've got to go write a story for tomorrow's paper.
 
Defenders of the Rick
Mariano’s defense is in full swing. The head of the city’s pipe-fitters union testified that Mariano is a great guy. The pastor of a church in the Councilman’s district said the same, noting how much he cares “for the little person.” A former local national guard commander said he had a “spectacular” reputation.

More interesting was the testimony of Pat Bianculli, attorney for the eletricians’ union, who acknowledged in his testimony that he was “not a fan” of Mariano. But Bianculli said he didn’t remember hearing Mariano admit taking the money when he was part of a group meeting over the investigation, as John Lisko testified yesterday.

Now Pat Dugan, attorney and staunch Mariano defender, is on the stand. Among other things, he’s saying he never heard Mariano curse at a woman, as Davila alleged yesterday. (In fact, he says he can’t remember the Councilman using the F word more than once, ever). For good measure, he says of the former aide, “she’s a liar.”
 
More from Finnegan's Wake...
this is an audio post - click to play


We expect to hear more testimony this afternoon about a fateful meeting at Finnegan’s Wake, a Philly restaurant where Mariano met with his brain trust and Local 98 supporters, including John Dougherty as news of the investigation began to break.

Here's an audio clip from yesterday's testimony from John Lisko, a former Mariano aide. (Warning: explicit language) Windows Media format.
 
Character references
Before we broke for lunch, Tinari called three City Council members --- Jannie Blackwell, Frank Rizzo and Darrell Clarke.

Tinari tried to show that working on constituent services is a routine function for council members. “People come in much like a doctor’s office,” said Blackwell.

Tinari also asked about Mariano’s reputation.

Blackwell: “He has a positive reputation, a stellar reputation. People consider him a good representative who believes in his constituents.”

Rizzo: “He works very, very hard representing a very tough district… I have never heard anyone say he is dishonest. I’ve never known Councilman Mariano to be dishonest.”

Clarke: “He’s always been known to me as a good guy. He’s always honest to me, sometimes honest to a fault.”

On cross, prosecutors have asked Rizzo, Clarke and Blackwell what they what they would do if they had personal financial interest in legislation before Council.

Recuse yourself or disclose the interest, they said.

We resume at 2. Be prompt. No one admitted once the jury is seated.
 
Prosecution rests

The defense calls Councilwoman Blackwell...

 
Ricky, Bar the Door
With Mariano's defense scheduled to start, the courtroom if full today. There's been so much coming and going during Manna's testimony, in fact, that the judge has ordered the doors shut: Once you're in, you're in. So, for the moment, at least, we've split up our keenly perceptive blog presence, one of us out and one of us in.

It looks like a movie-worthy defense for the Councilman. In the hallway outside the room, there's a priest, a neighborhood antiviolence advocate, and yet another Councilman--Darrell Clarke. ("It's better than budget hearings," Clarke says). Still more Mariano staffers are here. Back inside, a group of what look like students ambled in. There's a guy in a Local 98 shirt. There's a guy in an electric yellow sweatsuit. He declines to say why he's here.
 
Score one for the defense!
To prove mail fraud, the feds have to prove that a letter was actually mailed.

FBI agent Manna just testified that he can't be sure that a letter from Phil Chartock sent "with the assistance of Mariano" to a city official was actually mailed.

As a result, prosecutor Mike Schwartz just moved that Count 7 in the indictment - a mail fraud charge - be withdrawn.

The councilman's lawyer didn't object.

That leaves just seven other mail fraud counts remaining.

Plus one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.

Plus eight counts of wire fraud.

And various money laundering, bribery and tax counts.
 
All rise.
FBI agent Ray Manna on the stand now. Before he joined the FBI ten years
ago, he was in the US Army for nine years

The jury appears far more casual today. Jeans, untucked shirts. A casual
conservative look - buttoned-down with collars.

 
Council, for the Defense
If Mariano can't go to City Council, City Council can go to Mariano.

We were walking into the Courthouse from market street when we spied Councilman Frank Rizzo killing time on the sidewalk out front. A couple minutes later, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell dashed in. Councilman Frank DiCicco is said to be here too. They're among the Councilmembers on hand to testify as part of Mariano's defense, set to start later this morning.

Rizzo said he's not here to say anything good or bad about Mariano, only to testify about how constituent-service requests are handled in typical Council offices. This fits with the defense strategy of arguing that the alleged favors Mariano did for the folks accused of bribing him were in fact standard Council constituent work.

Attention anonymous comment-posters: Spare us the riffs on the theme of "that means they're all guilty." We've already made those jokes.

Also on hand are current and former Mariano staffers such as attorney Pat Dugan, now a candidate for State Rep., Kathy Rowny, an office staffer, and Jay McCalla, who started as chief of staff late last year, after Mariano's indictment and the firing of De Treux. McCalla, a former senior staffer in the city managing director's office, said he might serve as a character witness. Given that he arrived after the feds had already swooped in on Mariano, we wonder how convincing his testimony would be. Isn't the old cliche that character is what you show when you think no one's looking? Rowny's testimony will be more interesting, because yesterday Davila listed her as among those present when she received some of her tongue-lashings from Mariano and his alleged briber Louis Chartock. Ditto Dugan's, since he was present at the barroom meeting described by John Lisko where Mariano allegedly copped to his crimes. Of those present that day, Dugan is the only one who's stayed in the camp of Mariano, his longtime pal.

There's no sign yet of any of the electricians' union insiders that Tinari said he'd be calling. Of course, given their falling out with the Councilman, it's unlikely those folks would be among the people schmoozing in the corridor as we wait for the proceedings to start.

Stay tuned. One last government witness to go, then Rickypalooza gets going.
 
Tuesday's Inquirer Story
 
Monday, March 13, 2006
See you tomorrow...
One prosecution witness left, FBI case agent Ray Manna.
Then the defense will begin to present its case.
Looks like they have 18 witnesses.
Will Rick testify?
His lawyer says, "Don't know."
 
Lisko Inferno
On cross-examingation, ex-Mariano-aide Likso denied that he ever told the FBI that he briefed union boss John Dougherty on Mariano office matters.

Here's what the FBI agent wrote in his investigative report:
"Lisko stated that he knows John Dougherty very well and was instrumental in Lisko obtaining employment with Mariano. Lisko said that Dougherty was responsible for getting Mariano elected. He said that he would brief Dougherty on all legislative, political and administrative activities that were going on within Mariano's office."

Here's what Lisko said on the stand today:
"On the contrary, I told the agent that John Dougherty had no concerns about that kind of information.
 
The Last Days of Lisko
John Lisko is about to take the stand. A former legislative aide in the Councilman's office, Lisko was fired along with Walt De Treux when Mariano called in to sack them from his undisclosed location in a psychiatric ward the day after his mysterious climb to the top of City Hall tower. Like De Treux, Lisko is a lot richer than he was when last he saw Mariano: He threatened suit over wrongful termination, charging he'd been retalliated against for having testified to the grand jury investigating Mariano. He walked away with two years' salary--$120,000. Mariano's camp calls it a payoff from a city establishment that has it in for him.

He'll have an immediate use for the money: Lisko has gone back to school since leaving City Hall.
 
Don't Forget to File Your Bribes on April 15
The most surreal question of the trial so far comes from prosecutor Michael Schwartz to IRS Special Agent Laura Capra: "Are bribes taxable?," he asks.

Before she can answer, Tinari objects. Asking the question, he says, presupposes that Mariano has taken bribes--something the jurors are here to determine.

Judge Stengel overrules him, noting that the jurors have to weigh tax charges in addition to the bribery question.

"The point is, if the jury does make that determination, they still have to consider the tax charge," he says.

For the record: Income from bribes is, indeed, taxable.

But, Capra notes under questioning from Tinari, income from loans is not--at least until the loans are forgiven.
 
A Councilman and a Gentleman
"Oh, by the way, have you ever been called a derogatory name by Councilman Mariano?"

That was the one question that surprised Mariano's tax preparer, Julia Malcolm of Dale's Tax Service. Malcolm, who has done the Councilman's taxes since 2000 and referred to him repeatedly by his first name, stammered for a minute.

"Well, I'm Irish, but I haven't," she said.

Look for Tinari to ask that question of pretty much any woman who testifies, part of an effort to undercut Davila's recollection of Mariano as a swearing, threatening tough guy.

During her testimony to prosecutors, Malcolm had just gone through Mariano's tax returns, which report income from the city of Philadelphia, but not the Chartocks or Reinaldo Pastrana. Had those folks paid his credit cards or his gym membership, Malcolm notes, that would have had to be filed under "other income."

The main thrust of Tinari's cross-examination, though, was the real defense: The payments were just a loan.

"Are loans taxable?," Tinari asked.

"No," Malcolm said.

Of course, one witness earlier, jurors learned from city lawyer Evan Meyer that Mariano's mandatory financial-disclosure forms didn't list debts to either the Chartocks or Pastrana.
 
Warning: Explicit language
this is an audio post - click to play

Prosecutor Kenya Mann leads former Mariano aide Anna Davila through testimony about her allegedly ugly encounter with Erie Steel's Louis Chartock.

A routine zoning matter quickly devolves into a salty exchange.
 
A smoking gun?
This is a letter written by Louis Chartock to a city assistant DA who was prosecuting Erie Steel bookkeeper Maggie Greer.

Prosecutors say that Chartock wrote the letter as part of a cover up to make the payments look like loans, not bribes.

Just introduced into evidence. (PDF)
 
Standing Up for the Little People (In the Big People's Private Locker Room)
The final government witnesses of the morning are a pair of accounts payable staffers at the Sporting Club, the exclusive gym to which codefendant Reinaldo Pastrana allegedly paid Mariano's membership for three years. They verified their handwriting on credit card slips that they said show Pastrana having called to pay for Mariano's membership.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Kenya Mann made a big show of the fact that Mariano had forgone the basic membership--$90 a month, according to the club staffers--in favor of the $165-a-month "executive membership" that comes with a special locker room, gold locker nameplates, and free fruit juice, among other amenities.

In his brief cross-examinations, Tinari asked the women if they knew anything about the payments other than what they were told by a person on the phone using Pastrana's name and credit-card number. They couldn't, unsurprisingly. But he also asked some questions that hinted at a novel defense against the charge that Mariano showed his greed by opting for the fancier of the membership options.

"It's a more secure area, correct?," he asked witness Grace Marker.

She agreed.

"It's got independent showers?"

She agreed.

"It's more isolated from the general public?"

She agreed.

All pretty standard motivations for a public figure. Only just a little dissonant considering how recently Mariano's defense was painting him as a true-blue man of the people.
 
Next witness, please...
Davlia is done, winding up an emotional hour of testimony.

She just left the courtroom, escorted by an agent and trailed by reporters.

Ms. Albert, Erie Steel office manager from 2003 to March 2005, took a brief turn on the stand. She replaced Maggie Greer.

She testified that there’s no indication in the books that Erie Steel ever loaned Mariano money.

On cross, she said Mariano was always pleasant to her. But she didn’t know him well.

Now we’re on to Steve Hyman, a former assistant district attorney.

He’s the one who prosecuted Maggie Greer.
 
Crying Under Oath
Davila has broken down in tears in the middle of Tinari’s cross-examination. The judge has ordered a break.

The questioning is withering. Tinari seems to be pushing her on at least three points:

-He’s asking her who was around during “these so-called conversations” when Chartock and Mariano berated her. Look for the defense to call some of them.

-He’s asking about a deal where Davila and her husband purchased a house for $1 from the estate of a couple who lived in Mariano’s district. Davila and husband are in litigation over the property, and Tinari is suggesting she forged the necessary immediate-power-of-attorney document she used at the time of purchase. It doesn’t much help Davila’s case that the document features the misspelling of the word “immediately” and that she never saw her cosignatories sign it. Look for Nino to use this in his closing as a way of questioning Davila’s ability to be honest about the law.

-He’s asking her why she never recounted Mariano’s and Chartock’s cursing when she testified before the grand jury or spoke to the FBI. “I do not like to curse all the time,” she explained. Which is a bit odd, given that a couple minutes earlier, when Tinari asked her about being berated by Chartock, she said: “He was an asshole.” Look for him to use this to again question her trustworthiness.

During the break, Davila is still seated alone in the witness box. She’s fanning herself with a napkin. A guard just brought her a couple of pills.
 
True That
"He said if not for Louis Chartock, he wouldn't be where he's at today"

-Anna Davila, recounting Mariano's statements on why she should hop to it and help Erie Steel with a city paperwork matter.
 
Weather and weathering the boss
(Warning: Graphically nasty managerial language chonicled below)

Apparently the nice weather has taken its toll on the crowd here at Mariano central. There’s only a couple of the Councilman’s Airborne allies left, and, in Rick’s corner, only the wife and son. Even the Urban Warrior is off, perhaps on some urban special ops. A bunch of the the jurors are in short sleeves. Councilman Mariano got a haircut over the weekend. Nice and short for spring.

Anna Davila has just started testifying. She’s recounting how Louis Chartock was yelling at her on the phone over some L&I paperwork when she was an aide in Mariano’s office. She’s using bad words. The F word, the B word, the S word. “The same words, over and over again,” Davilla said.

Then, she testifies, the councilman berated her about her efforts to help Lou Chartock.

She said the councilman told her, “He is a good friend of mine. He has done for me. I owe him. If you can’t get this fucking shit done, get the fuck out.”

Later, she says, he called her “an incompetent bitch.”

Paging Jerry Springer.

Of all the prosecution witnesses, perhaps none are held in as low esteem by Mariano and his allies. But Mariano is just staring straight ahead, not looking at her.

She, meantime, is looking directly at the jurors as she speaks. Major points for style.
 
Today's line-up
We began late, because a few jurors ran into trouble with public transportation.

We expect the government to finish late toady or early Tuesday.

Then comes the big question: Will Rick testify?

We asked Nino Tinari this ayem. He smiled.

Here's today witness list:

13. Anna Davila (former constituent services representative)
14. John Coates (Chairman of the City’s Vacant Property Review Committee)
15. Jessica Correra (Sporting Club at the Bellevue)
16. Grace Marker (Sporting Club at the Bellevue)
17. Evan Meyer (City of Philadelphia Law Department, Ethics Counsel)
18. Julia Malcolm (Mariano’s tax preparer)
19. IRS Special Agent Laura Capra
20. Steve Hyman (former Assistant District Attorney)
21. Susan Albert (Erie Steel office worker)
22. John Lisko (former legislative aide to Councilman Mariano)
23. FBI Special Agent Ray Manna
 
Sunday, March 12, 2006
The House That Rick Built
Tom Ferrick Jr. Sunday column
 
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Saturday's Inquirer
 
Friday, March 10, 2006
Six and a half witnesses - an honest day's work
Judge says we're done for the day.

"We will not meet tomorrow."

He smiles. "Just wanted to see how much you are paying attention."

He cautions jurors not to discuss the case over the weekend.

"People will ask you about it."

Say nothing, the judge said. "It will add a great deal of mystery to you."

Back Monday at 930.

Two last things:

- Don't miss Ferrick's column in Sunday's paper.

- A special shout out to a faithful reader in the Bronx
 
zzzzzz

Phil Chartock has fallen asleep.

 
As we round third and head for home...
The courtroom is beginning to thin. Phil Chartock (Mr. Rumpled Suit himself) remains with us print and radio scribes in the back row.

TV folks have already shuttled off for early live shots --- court sketches
in hand.

Four from Rick's paratrooper brigade remain. There's a lone IRS agent, and
an old friend of ours who loves to watch trials

Former schools CFO Michael Harris, now a Penn vp is now on the stand.

Mike Schwartz is leading Harris through testimony. Mariano asked Harris to return calls from a co-defendant, Pellecchia.

Later, Pellecchia's firm won a $225k workers comp contract with the schools
system.

Q: What affect did Mariano have on that decision?

A: It was a factor in the decision. It was not the sole factor.

Q: Were you ever aware of financnial relationship between Mariano and
Pellecchia?

A: No

Q: If you had known that they had a financial relationship, would that have
affected it?

A: "It would have given me pause."
 
"I told him, 'I don't need to know any of this.'"
A snippet from testimony just now by Vince Dougherty, the city official in charge of Keystone Opportunity Zones, areas where tax burdens are reduced in order to encourage economic growth (no, he is not related to John Dougherty):

On March 7, 2005, Dougherty, Mariano and others met in the councilman’s office about city business.
When the meeting ended, Dougherty said that Mariano said to him, “Vince, could I see you in private for a moment?”
They stepped into Mariano’s private office.
“The councilman asked me if the Inspector General or anyone else had asked me about Erie Steel and the KOZ. I said no.”
Dougherty testified that Mariano told him he had “borrowed five or six thousand” from Erie Steel to help defray expenses related to his divorce.
“The councilman said, ‘I paid him back. I have receipts.”
“I told him, ‘I don’t need to know any of this.”
 
72 degrees in the courtroom but...
71 degrees outside and folks are fleeing.

Upstairs, the Latin Kings trial jurors, no fools they, just excused themselves for the
weekend. They'll continue deliberating the fate of King Homicide and other
defendants Monday

Even the courthouse snack bar is closing early.

We're starting to drag (can you tell?), regretting just a bit last nite's late brew at Westy's with the I-team and blinq.
 
2 witnesses: Rick was his own bag man
It’s been a rough couple of hours for the councilman.

Two witnesses have testified that Mariano personally laundered two bribes from Erie Steel.

First, Rosalia Mattioni, wife of workers comp consultant Joseph Pellecchia testified that the councilman appeared at her consulting company one day in 2002 and asked to see husband Joe.

Husband Joe introduced to her to Mariano, then took the councilman into the back of the office. Husband Joe emerged with a check and gave it to Rosalia.

Rosalia says Husband Joe asked her to deposit a $6,700 check and write a check for the same amount payable to Mariano’s credit card company. Then, she testified that she created a dummy invoice for Erie Steel.

About a year later, following an introduction from Mariano, Rosalia’s firm got a $225,000 contract with the city school system. (Rosalita testified under a grand of immunity; her husband has pleaded guilty)

The second witness damaging to Mariano was real estate agent Vincent DiPentino, a co-defendant who has also pleaded guilty. DiPentino testified that Mariano and his office often helped the Realtor with nagging tax and city certification issues that threatened to hold up real estate closings.

Then, one day in 2002, DiPentino said, “Rick called and said, ‘Are you able to write a check out for me today?’”

DiPentino said OK, and Mariano came to office. He gave him a check for $10,900 from Erie Steel.

“I said, is the check good? He said, yes.”

“I wrote a check to Capitol One,” and Mariano helped him fill out the related credit card numbers on the check.

“Rick said, would I mind producing an invoice for it?”

DiPentino said he did, creating a dummy receipt for his firm allegedly performed for Erie Steel.

“I never met Erie Steel,” DiPentino testified. “I didn’t know what to say. I prepared an invoice that was neither real nor accurate, and I gave it to the councilman.”
 
lunch break

It's such a nice day, we're breaking early for lunch. DiPentino is on deck.

We'll be back in just a little bit.

 
Rick's reinforcements

A dozen veterans - many alumni of the 82nd Airborne - parachuted into Courtroom 3B this morning, filling out an entire row in the gallery. They're here for the defendant, a longtime advocate of veteran concerns.

"Rick's a good guy," said Ray Leuthy, a veteran of three jumps in Nazi Germany and the Battle of the Bulge. "A man of the people."

During a recent break, Mariano enjoyed their company in the hallway.

With pride, Mariano introduced the vets to the lead FBI agent on the case, a guy who wants to send the councilman to prison.

 
CPA under oath...
CPA Ford testified about a $5,873 suspicious check he found during an audit of Erie Steel.

“We asked about the check,” Ford said. “[Phil Chartock] said it was used to pay a politician’s debt.”

On cross, Tinari asked if he knew about checks Greer allegedly wrote for her own use. Ford said he didn’t know about that.

Ford steps down. Next up: Mattioni.
 
Maggie's done
Tinari just finished the cross. The government said it had no further questions.

Greer, escorted by FBI agents, is now headed out of the courthouse. At the elevator, she declined to comment to your faithful correspondent.

CPA Kevin Ford, who conducted an Erie Steel audit, now on the stand.
 
"What are we to believe from you, ma'am?"

Following a preliminary legal argument over an FBI agent's notes, Greer (left) is back on the stand, for more cross.

If you'll recall, on Wednesday, Greer testified that she didn't really steal from Erie Steel. She only pleaded guilty to theft because, she said, she wanted to spare her family from pain.

But on the stand today, she admitted that some of the money used was to pay for personal cell phones and a Shore rental.

Tinari: You did take money without permission of Mr. Chartock?

Greer: Correct.

Tinari: You concealed, you hid it, you didn't want anyone to know about it?

Greer: Correct:

Tinari: So are you changing your testimony?

Greer: Yes.

Tinari: "What are we to believe from you, ma'am? Yesterday, you said one thing. Today you say another thing."

(When Tinari says "yesterday" he means Wednesday; court wasn't in session yesterday)

 
Today's witness list
It looks lively:

1. Former Erie Steel bookkeeper Maggie Greer continues on cross-examination.
2. Gene Mattalucci, an accountant who performed an audit at Erie Steel.
3. Kevin Ford, ditto.
4. Rosalia Mattioni, wife of Joseph Pellecchia, the worker's comp consultant who has pleaded guilty.

5. Co-defendant Vincent DiPentino (right), the real estate agent who has pleaded guilty.

Live coverage resumes right here at 10am. Bring a friend.
 
Today's Inquirer story
 
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Mariano: Back in Council, Under Guard
With his trial recessed for the day, Councilman Mariano was back in City Council this morning. Only this time, he had people with him besides the aides who have done all of the Councilman's public speaking since his indictment: The Philadelphia Police.

In City Hall, at least, the long arm of the law is on Mariano's side. The officers who escorted him in and out of Council chambers came from the police's Civil Affair division. Council president Anna Verna called them in to prevent a repeat of last week's disturbance, when Mariano was hobbling away from a press pack and wound up colliding with one of the ceremonial gates at the edge of the Council floor. Tinari called it an "assault." Rick's doubters called it an Oscar-worthy acting job. Our witty-yet-deadly colleague The Urban Warrior dubbed it "gate-gate."

With the cops on hand, Mariano escaped unharmed--and, more important to Tinari, unquoted.

Had he chosen to speak, he actually could have crowed about something: Mayor Street has signed the legislation Mariano pushed that would protect tenants from lousy landlords. The real estate industry lobbied hard against the bill, and as late as this morning Mariano's top staffers didn't know if the Mayor would veto it. In the end, the Mayor showed some love for the man he calls "Cousin Rick."

Now, to find out how many of those jurors are renters....
 
All about we...
Ok, as all Mariano-trial junkies know, the trial is taking a day off.

Which allows us to return our attention momentarily to more pressing matters - us.

Two items of note:

1. Comrade Joe D reports today that our company may soon be sold

2. People are reading this blog. We've had more than 11,000 hits since launch.

Monday: 3,413
Tuesday: 2,736*
Wednesday: 4,331
As of 11am today: 677

*mission control blames the dip on technical errors that temporarily dropped us from the mother ship.

---tip of the hat to earlyword for crunching the numbers
 
Today's Inquirer story
 
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Greer grilled II
this is an audio post - click to play
 
Greer grilled
this is an audio post - click to play


As soon as court ended, we flattened KYW and pushed aside WHYY, then elbowed FOX 29 to be the first to bring you audio from the courtroom. But of course, like the New Media rookies we are, we fumbled the technology. Somewhere, Tony Hanson and Brad Linder are laughing.

Here then, audio excerpts from cross-examination of former Erie Steel bookkeeper Maggie Greer by defense lawyer Nino Tinari.

Tinari cross-examines her about why she pleaded guilty to stealing from Erie Steel. Her guilty plea in state court came after she agreed to become a federal witness in the case against Mariano.

Greer says she pleaded guilty to theft not because she stole anything, but because she was trying to spare her family.

Read more about that in the Old Media edition tomorrow (for the benefit of our Jersey readers -- and our fine editors laying out the Jersey edition of tomorrow's Inquirer -- please note the local angle: Greer lives in Brooklawn, Camden County)
 
Department of Unintended Irony
During an afternoon break in the proceedings, Phil Chartock was talking to reporters in the hallway outside the court. He hands us what might be the most unintentionally ironic exhibit of the Mariano trial: An editorial arguing that the federal government is relying on tainted characters like Greer out of its desperation to reel in pols like Mariano.

The editorial comes from The Public Record - the newspaper published by Jimmy Tayoun, the last Philadelphia City Councilman to go to jail for corruption.
 
Done for the day...

After a heated cross, we have adjourned for the day.

The trial will not convene tomorrow.

The jury returns Friday morning at 10. Maggie Greer returns for more cross.

We will return here in a bit -- with more tidbits.

 
More from Maggie....

The government's questioning of Greer just ended with a bang.

Mann asked her whether she ever asked Phil Chartock why it was that he wanted her to cut checks for Mariano's credit-card bill. As a matter of fact, she did.

"He said that Rick was helping him to get into the Keystone Opportunity Zone," Greer said. Nothing about a loan in there.

Now let's see how effectively Tinari - who will no doubt delve into her embezzlement history, among other things - can discredit her.

An intense cross is underway.

 
Her alibi

A bit of breaking news: Though Greer has pleaded guilty to stealing from Erie Steel, she just testified that she didn't REALLY take money from the Erie Steel and Chartocks.

"It was a deal I had with Phil Chartock, just like he had with Rick."

She hasn't yet elaborated.

 
Greer testimony begins

All eyes to the back door, suddenly, as Erie Steel bookkeeper Maggie Greer, wearing a black suit and a very nervous look on her face, takes the stand.

Kenya Mann begins her direct examination.

 
The letter that started it all ...
Here's the anonymous letter written to the council president, accusing Mariano of wrongdoing. It was introduced into evidence this morning.

It was written by Maggie Greer, the Erie Steel bookkeeper, and a star government witness.

She's scheduled to start testifying soon.
 
Scenes From a Courtroom

As we return for our afternoon session, let's set the scene:

Like all courtrooms here in Philly's federal courthouse, courtroom 3B is the height of Sixties modern architecture. The kind of room where, in some Cold War spy flick, a top-secret government panel would gather for purposes of analyzing Soviet troop films. Pressed-wood panels behind the judge, UFO-shaped lights in the ceiling.

And it's cold. One of the jurors is wearing what looks like a ski jacket. We think we saw one of the prosecutors with a shawl over her legs. Even the Urban Warrior is shivering, perhaps remembering his time serving in the 10th Mountain Division.

The room is mostly full, though. For the first time since proceedings began, Mariano has a crowd with him. His wife is here, sitting in a row of six Mariano supporters. During breaks, they gather behind the Councilman, chatting and joking. Their presence seems to have cheered him up. Earlier this morning, he was even chatting amiably with government agents, slapping backs as if he were back on the City Council floor.

Sitting right behind Mariano's group is Phil Chartock, looking more rumpled. His lawyer slipped in, too.

The jurors themselves look like a conservative bunch - sartorially, if not politically. Three are wearing blazers. At least one has a pocket protector.

We met a lovely lady, a substitute public school art teacher, who is drawing sketches she hopes to sell to TV stations. (Note to TV producers: For the $100 asking price, they're well worth it.)

Elsewhere in the crowd are two people who just like attending trials. And, as De Treux's testimony heads back into the arcana of Seventh District politics, we wonder: What's not to like?

Update: Coming out of the courtroom after the session, the Urban Warrior tells us that he was not, in fact, shivering in the icy chamber. It could be that his Cold-Weather Urban Warrior Training in Winnipeg and Vladivostock has hardened him against the elements. Perhaps what we thought was a shiver was just the tension of his well-developed pectoral muscles against his bullet-proof flak jacket.

 
From the Erie Steel books ...
The evidence in this case isn't blood and guts. The forensics are financial.

Here's a link to a draft audit report for Phil Chartock's Erie Steel with a footnote F worth reading: “According to Philip, he paid a politician’s debt and it needs to be adjusted.”

The $5,873 toward Mariano's credit card is one of the bribery charges.
 
Lunchbreak
Tinari’s cross-examination of De Treux seemed almost done when they broke for lunch. So far, it has touched all the bases of the Mariano defense.

He gets the former Chief of Staff to suggest that Mariano, reelected twice, is a popular guy.

He gets him to suggest that Mariano’s help on an issue such as getting Erie Steel a Keystone Opportunity Zone designation—and attendant tax breaks—was “nothing improper.”

And, in a convoluted set of questions, he implies that De Treux’s loyalties were not to Mariano, asking De Treux about his hiring (after an interview not by the Councilman but by an electricians’ union official) and the settlement he got after being fired. He also has De Treux read from his hiring agreement, which notes that as an “at-will” political appointee, he can be let go at any time.

Will this be enough to discount De Treux’s general tone of sobriety and authoritativeness? Or the testimony that he gave where he testified that he had heard Mariano cop to taking money?

That’s for the jury to decide. They’ll be able to think about it over lunch. And so will we: Off to Pagano’s.
 
Constituent Services: Defined
Under questioning from Tinari, De Treux has just provided a concise definition of that often-evoked City Council virtue, constituent service.

"We basically facilitate bureaucratic services," he said of the office's role in getting potholes filled and streetlights fixed on behalf of residents.

Just why Philadelphia's bureaucracy requires residents to engage salaried facilitators is a question for another day.
 
A psuedo transcript from the courtroom...


When the FBI investigation became public, Mariano met with top aides and his political supporters from the electricians' union at a Philadelphia bar. Those attending were Union boss John Dougherty, spokesman Frank Keel, local union political director Bob Henon, aide John Lisko, Pat Bianculi and De Treux.

Here are rough notes - close but not verbatim - of direct testimony from De Treux this morning. Prosecutor Schwartz is asking the questions. Defense lawyer Tinari is the one objecting.

Q: What was the purpose of the meeting once Mariano arrived?

A: The purpose of the meeting in general was to kind of coordinate the media response to the subpoenas and looming investigations.

Q: Did anyone ask questions of Mariano?

Tinari: Objection.

Judge: Objection overruled

A: He was asked basically what's this all about.

Q: What did he say?

A: He said it was related to the anonymous letter and the credit card receipts and the loan from Erie Steel.

Q: Who asked questions?

A: John Dougherty said---

Tinari: Objection hearsay. You have to have the speaker [Dougherty] here, available for cross-examination.

Judge: Over-ruled.

A: John Dougherty had asked Mariano what happened to the money he had lent the councilman.

Q: What did Mariano say?

A: That Chartock would not take the money

Q: What else did Mariano say?

A: He also still had the money John Dougherty had lent him.

Q: Did he way anything about other checks coming?

A: He said they [the FBI] would find one other similar payment.

Q: Afterward, did you have further talk with Mariano about the FBI investigation.

A: Yes, he said there would be a third payment.

Q: Did he say what would happen to him?

A: Objection: Relevance.

Judge: Overruled.

A: He said that he was going to jail. He said, "I am a man and I have to take responsibility for what I do."

 
First Among Equals

A big piece of Mariano's defense is likely to be the argument that he provided equal help to all residents and businesses in his district, not just those accused of bribing him.

Did De Treux just cut the legs out from under that argument?

Asked about Erie Steel, the firm accused of paying Mariano's credit card bills in exchange for political help, De Treux said: "Among businesses, I think Erie Steel ranked up there at the top of who we gave attention to."

And on Vincent DiPentino, accused of helping Erie launder the bribe payments in exchange for other favors from Mariano, he said: "I think DiPentino's business would be on the top [of those tended to by the office]. It would be the top."

 
De Treux on the stand...


Prosecutor Mike Schwartz is taking testimony from De Treux. He's asking about Erie Steel's desire to get a tax break - by getting the business to be declared as part of a Keystone Opportunity Zone, KOZ. Erie is owned by co-defendant Phil Chartock.

De Treux testified that he told Mariano that "it was not good policy to include Erie" into the KOZ because it was not a "new" business.

Schwartz is now walking De Treux through a series of memos and emails documenting this.

In one of them, there's a reference to "Mr. Rumpled Suits' property" - an inside joke, De Treux said, about Phil Chartock's appearance at a meeting.

"He was wearing a suit that looked like it had been rolled up in a ball and then put on," De Treux testified.

Phil Chartock, sitting in row three of the gallery here in the courtroom, wearing a well pressed grey shirt and red tie, smirked at the reference. His lady friend wrote it down in her notebook.

 
Testimony About to Start
The government's case is about to start. The likely first witness: Walt De Treux, Mariano's former Chief of Staff.

If I'm not mistaken, the last time De Treux and Mariano were in the same room, it was a Thursday afternoon in Mariano's Council office. The Councilman stepped out for what appeared to be a routine errand. One dramatic climb to the top of City Hall, one televised suicide scare, and one hospitalization later, Mariano was in a psychiatric ward for observation.

And that's where he was, 24 hours later, when he called Council to fire De Treux, telling the Inquirer that same day that the aide "wasn't working with me."

Will there be icy stares, furious glances, looks of betrayal today? We'll let you know.

One other fun fact: De Treux is $160,000 richer now than he was then--courtesy of Philly taxpayers and, inadvertently, of Mariano. He and colleague John Lisko, fired the same day, brandished a lawsuit accusing Mariano of having fired them in retalliation for their testimony in this case to the federal grand jury. He'd also defamed them by implying they were disloyal. The city settled, and each man walked away with about two years' salary.

Mariano's camp says this is fishy: The city has fought in court over stronger cases, they say, and could certainly have made a fight (if not actually won) over the fact that De Treux had already announced his intention to quit and Mariano boosters' contention that subsequent FBI and grand jury doccuments show the two reporting on Mariano's office to others. It's a payoff by a city establisment that wants to see Mariano fall, they say. Look for Mariano's attorney to raise those questions in cross-examination.
 
A word about audio from the courtroom
Several folks have asked about the audio: How can you legally broadcast audio from a federal courtroom? Aren't videocameras and audio recorders banned from federal courtrooms?

Here's the deal: Cameras and recorders are indeed banned from federal courtrooms. But at the federal courthouse in Philly, they have a system called Electornic Sound Recording (ESR for those in the know). Operated by the clerks sitting just beneath the judges, ESR records audio as the official proceedings of the trial. Later, the audio can be transcribed on paper, if needed.

For many trials, including this one, ESR is the official record of the proceedings.

Through the magic of computers, the ESR audio is available shortly after each session - for a fee, and then only through use of a special software program, one that requires hours of rigorous training to master.

Our radio brethren at KYW and WHYY use this audio often. Sometimes lawyers in a case will replay tapes of testimony during closing arguments.

Any other audio posted to this blog was recorded outside the courthouse. Otherwise it would be a violation of court rules. And this is not a place where you want to wantonly break rules.

Of course, for this courtroom audio to be useful in a news capacity, a lawyer or a witness or a judge has to say something newsworthy. So we will try to provide only highlights.
 
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Wednesday's Inquirer story
Trial resumes at 930am on Wednesday. First witness: Former chief of staff Walt De Treux
 
Short audio clip from defense lawyer's opening
this is an audio post - click to play
 
Short audio clip from prosecutor's opening
this is an audio post - click to play
 
end of day report

Defense lawyer Tinari has concluded his opening. He spoke for about 20 minutes, just a few minutes less than the prosecutor.

Tinari told jurors to keep an open mind - to keep in mind that Mariano was a councilman dedicated to serving his constituents. "There was nothing illegal, nothing abnormal."

Some in City Hall didn't like the way Mariano pushed officials to get things done, the lawyer said.

"He was hands-on," Tinari said. "You will find from the evidence that he is not a sly and slick individual. He is direct and blunt."

"That's what Mr. Mariano is interested in - the little people."

Tinari's argument has three basic parts:

Part one, as seen above, is that Mariano is a loveable blue-collar guy who rose from humble roots to the City Council, and never forgot where he came from.

Part two was that Mariano's work on behalf of his codefendants is all part of his dedication to the community--a word Tinari used about a dozen times - and resistance to Mariano came from up-tight bureaucratic weenies. He helped everyone, Tinari said.

Part thee, which came last, was that the government's witnesses, including those described in Mann's opening statement, are all suspect themselves. As he said of one codefendant: "DiPentino has issues, and those issues are not psychological. It's all about money."

"Hold on to your seats," Tinari told jurors.

The jury is now gone for the day.

Perhaps, we will file more later today - after we write the story for tomorrow's newspaper.

 
The government begins its case...

The jury sworn, preliminary instructions given, prosecutor Kenya Mann has begun her opening statement.

"This is a classic case of betrayal," Mann told the jury. "You will hear testimony that councilman Richard Mariano took more than $28,000 in bribes from five businessmen."

When Mann finishes, defense lawyer Nino Tinari will follow.

Testimony is scheduled to begin at 930 am tomorrow.

 
We have a jury...

Jury selected.

Five women. Seven men. Nine white. Three black.

(We'll honor custom here of not identifying them by name until after the verdict)

A short recess. Then openings.

 
While we're waiting for the lawyers to finish...

... let's talk about us. You're probably wondering: Am I the only one looking at this blog? (besides the prosecutor's kid)

Apparently, no.

According to BlogEditorTony, we had 3,413 page views yesterday. Not quite Stephen A. on A.I., but we'll take it.

 
underway again...

All rise... Please be seated...

Your faithful correspondent, now acting as pool reporter, can tell you on the Q-T that the lawyers have begun exercising their challenges. They are comparing notes, crossing names off their lists. Mariano is actively assisting his lawyers.

The judge just joked to the potential jurors: "This is a time in the case when there's nothing for you to do but sit there and be looked at and talked about."

There are about 50 potential jurors in the room.

In about 10 to 15 minutes, only 12 jurors and four alternates will remain.

Then we're expecting openings.

 
Openings today!
Openings expected after 2pm, following peremptory challenges. Probably 230 or 3pm.

Government gets six strikes. Defense gets 10 strikes.

Our brother from the AP, who was pool reporter this ayem, just this moment filed a detailed report. As a reward, we handed him a roast beef, mayo, pickle & swiss on rye.

Excerpts from his report:

"The following is a notebook dump from notes gathered by Dan Robrish, an Associated Press newsman serving as the pool reporter for jury selection in the trial of Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano, Tuesday, March 7, 2006:

“Thank you again for your patience and forbearance as we make our way through this important but occasionally cumbersome process,” the judge said.

He asked if any have trouble reading or understanding English. “It strikes me that would have been a good question to ask yesterday,” he said, as the prospective jurors laughed.

The judge read a list of prospective witnesses and asked if the prospective jurors knew any of them. None had a close association or relation to them.

Also they were asked if they were union members or former union members, or if their families were. Many stood. A thin man with a long, white beard was the only one who said his unionism would create a problem with fairness.

The judge asked if any prospective jurors or members of their immediate families had worked in politics or volunteered for a campaign; 21 said yes. Twelve said they had run for or held office themselves. The judge said there was no reason to individually question those who had been in politics.
 
When a juror makes front-page news…
While we’re waiting for the Mariano jurors to be picked, it’s probably worth recalling what happened to a juror during one of last year’s high-profile City Hall corruption trials.

No, no, not Juror No. 11 --- booted from the Kemp-Knight-Hawkins-Umbrell-Holck corruption trial during deliberations, a matter now at the heart of those defendants’ appeal.

This one is less-well-known: You may recall the trial that came before it -- Denis Carlson, the investment banker accused lying to the FBI about loaning his vacation home to former treasurer Kemp. After Carlson was acquitted, the jury foreman spoke out at length.

Jury foreman Harvey Grossman explained that Carlson’s relationship with Kemp hadn’t broken the law. "It's just business,” Grossman said after the verdict. “It isn't illegal, but my ethics say this system is just not right."

"Is the system flawed? Yes. Is it run in the best way for the citizens of Philadelphia? In my personal opinion, no, it's not."

Now Mr. Grossman may be facing a jury of his own.

He was indicted last week as part of a scheme to steal $2.2 million from a nonprofit.

Wrote our Inquirer comrade Keith Herbert:

Imported cigars, a trip to Vegas, and a $19,000 bat mitzvah party.

Those are a few of the purchases three leaders of the Plymouth Community Ambulance Association made with money they stole from the nonprofit corporation, according to Montgomery County prosecutors.

They turned the association's fund into their "personal ATM machine," District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said yesterday in announcing the arrest of Harvey Grossman, Jeff Cohen and George Gilliano.

Read Keith’s full story by clicking on the headline above.
 
Back at it...

Jury selection is about to resume. The judge is about to take the bench. Today, we've moved to the third floor. Will we get to opening statements this afternoon? The consensus on press row: perhaps.

Inside, our bow-tied, fedora-wearing, pipe-smoking brother from the Associated Press is this morning's pool reporter. We await his notes.

The rest of the press is sitting outside doing what we do best: [censored by an editor]-ing about bosses.

 
Monday, March 06, 2006
Done for the Day
The Mariano trial has just adjourned for the day, with no jury in place and questions still being asked about just what potential jurors have heard about the case in the media. Voir Dire will continue at 9:30 tomorrow morning.

Here's more from pool report #2, as scribbled by one of this blog's Faithful Correspondents, who took a turn sitting in the back conference room as jurors were brought back one-by-one.

Everyone sat around a conference table. The judge at the head, then clockwise: the juror, Nino Tinari, Mariano, Carol Tinari, Clerk, FBI agent, Mike Schwartz, Kenya Mann.

Jurors were not identified:

A lady: "I saw where Mr. Mariano went to the top of city hall, was in distress and Mayor Street came to help him. He was supposed to be distraught… then he had surgery on his knee. Yesterday in the Inquirer they quoted his attorney about things he had said about Mr. Mariano." She said she believed he was guilty. She was excused for cause.

A lady: "The footage from the roof of City Hall didn’t seemed like the actions of an innocent person." She was excused.

A man from Lancaster: "What we think of Philadelphia politicians is well known." He was excused.

A woman said: "I might feel sorry for him because they hurt him." She was excused.

A woman, an emergency room worker said: “I listen to KYW, three four times a day (laughs) and I remember when he went up to city hall, did something, got a psych eval and shortly after that had surgery and then recently hit his bad leg. It’s the case we we're all talking about at work, and we were glad he didn’t jump." Excused.

A male: "I work in the city, just heard about it from the news. I know the councilman was being indicted but I don’t know why." Any fixed opinions? No. Could you be fair? Yes. Not excused.
 
Judging Ricky
Jury selection continues. They've dealt with the folks who have medical or other hardships that might get in the way of serving as jurors. Now they're examining the people who've said they have heard of the case.

This is significant stuff because Councilman Mariano's lawyer, Nino Tinari, has said the media has biased the general public against his client.

So far, according to a pool report filed by our camouflage-clad corporate cousin The Urban Warrior, only 11 of 23 people who've heard about Mariano's legal troubles have been excused. The pool's views on the case, and their views on the media, run the gamut.

"What they print in the paper is one side and the prosecution has to prove the case against a person," said one man, who was not excused. "You don’t have to prove your innocence."

Another man said he was generally skeptical of the press. Unfortunately for the defense, he was not so skeptical of his friend, a probation officer, who had told him the case wouldn't make it to trial unless the government had Mariano "pretty cold."

"I usually take his opinions pretty seriously," the man said. Asked if he could be fair, he said: "I don’t know if I could. It would be pretty tough." He was excused.

"There probably was some kind of corruption," said one man who followed the story. But he vowed to be fair.

Stengel did not excuse the man, despite Tinari's worries that "initial impressions are lasting."

A quicker way to get oneself excused came in the case of two others:

"I have a fixed opinion on most cases," one man said. "We’re here for a reason. They don’t make this up."

"It’s just an opinion I have about politicians themselves, not him personally," said another, who added that he wasn't sure if he could be fair. "I think the majority of them are corrupt."
 
First Amendment Victory


Now that jury-pool interviews have moved past sensitive questions - such as medical hardships - Judge Stengel, having duly considered a motion by the Inquirer & Daily News, has agreed to allow a pool reporter to cover the individual jury selection (or as Inspector Clouseau would say, Vwwaa Drrrr)

The pool is necessary because much of this questioning is taking place in a small conference room, off of the ceremonial courtroom.

First up for pool duty: The Urban Warrior.

But enough about us. More important news broke during the hearing about media access: It doesn't look like a jury will be chosen today.

 
Lunch Break Report

From a pool of 190 jurors, 30 so far have been dismissed for hardship.

50 of the 190 have indicated they have heard about the case in the media - but detailed questions about that are still to come.

This report comes courtesy of a person involved the case - because the media has still not been admitted.

The judge said he will listen to the media's request for entry at 130. Given that 30 jurors have been dismissed for hardship, we're hoping that he agrees to let us in then - or at least admit a pool reporter.

Jury selection resumes at 145. Doesn't look like we'll get to openings today.

 
Daily Fashion Update


Much like the Oscars, a federal corruption trial is a great time to check out the latest in fashion trends. The initial verdict: Councilman Mariano's fashion consultants opted for something a little boring on day one.


Once famous for public appearances in tight-fitting union sweatshirts or Johnny Cash-like black outfits, the Councilman arrived this morning in a dark-blue pinstriped suit. Disappointingly for courthouse fashionistas, it appeared to be the same one that he wore to his indictment in October.


But things got more interesting on closer inspection. In place of the American flag that once festooned his lapel, Mariano has what appears to be a religious icon--a saint, perhaps. Mariano has spent a lot of time talking religion since, oh, about when the federal investigation started heating up. We leave it to higher authorities to determine whether there is any connection between those two things.


Mariano also has a swanky metal cane on his arm--an accessory we're glad he didn't carry back when he was threatening to defenestrate a colleague during a Council redistricting debate several years ago. Still, given his recent comments about the media, we braced ourselves when the Councilman and the cane passed close by on their way into the courtroom.


We wished him luck.


He said thanks.


One surprising thing that wasn't on his arm: His wife, Susan. The supportive spouse is a standard piece of the courthouse tableau. But Mariano arrived at court alone today.

 
No idea what's happening now...

The principals - defendant, prosecutors, fbi agent, defense lawyer - were admitted to the ceremonial courtroom, the big room where they begin jury selection.

Ten journalists waiting outside were not. We are not pleased. (We're claiming attorney-client on our legal strategy, if needed)

The judge's clerk said there was not enough room - even jurors are standing in the stuffy, hot room. The clerk said the judge declined a request for a pool reporter - at least for now. The judge is going over the prelimary jury selection questions to potential jurors as a group.

Individual questioning comes later. Presumably, we'll get in then.

Meantime, we're cooling heels. For the Urban Warrior, that means fielding tips from his wireless email account. For a certain other Newshound, that means reading a literary analysis of King Arthur... For his FM counterpart, it's a TR Reid book about European integration - ironically a subject that is likely to surface at trial.

 
Great Scot!

Half-Irish and half-Italian, Councilman Mariano has always been a good fit for Philadelphia ethnic politics. But one of the potential jurors who just walked into the courtroom suggests an identity-politics wrinkle that even the most seasoned lower Northeast Philly pol can't be prepared for: The potential juror was wearing a kilt. Quick, researchers: How has Mariano historically polled among the city's Scottish-American voters?

 
The first day

Walking with a cane, Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano arrives at the U.S. Courthouse for the opening of his federal corruption trial. Inquirer photograph by Tom Gralish.
 
Preliminaries


Jurors are getting initial instructions - prosecutors, defense lawyer,
agents, reporters are hanging out in the hallway, waiting to be allowed in.


Mariano is hobbling about on a cane.

 
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Excerpt from defense lawyer's press confernce
Defense lawyer Nino Tinari's called a presser late Friday. He asked the media to back off - to stop trying to get Mariano to comment on the case.

Listen in:
this is an audio post - click to play


Tinari's comments came a day after Mariano re-injured his knee as he left Council chambers, trailed by the media, and knocked into something - either a reporter or one of the spring-loaded gates at the edge of the Council floor. (see the story in the morgue at right, where's the also a link to the video)

Tinari also asked the press to keep an open mind, saying Mariano is presumed innocent.

Mariano attended the press conference, wearing jeans and a green union sweatshirt. He entered on crutches and wore a brace.

He did not speak.
 
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
We have a courtroom assignment....


3B - third floor of the federal courthouse at 601 Market.

Jury selection begins Monday at 10 a.m. in the Ceremonial Courtroom, then shifts to 3B later.

Jury pool includes more than 150 people from the entire Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which stretches through nine counties from Philadelphia to Lancaster to Allentown.

If a jury is selected quickly enough, it's possible that opening statements will start late Monday.

That's unlikely, though.

After opening statements, the government's first scheduled witness is Walt DeTreux, Mariano's former chief of staff.
 
Judge denies Chartock's motion to dismiss

First graf of Judge Stengel's ruling on effort by Phil (left) and Louis Chartock of Erie Steel to dismiss the indictment:

"Philip Chartock’s first motion to dismiss challenges the constitutionality of the honest services fraud charges in his indictment. His second motion contends the money laundering charges in his indictment do not involve “proceeds of unlawful activity.” Louis Chartock filed a petition to join Philip Chartock’s motions. For the reasons stated below, I will deny both motions for both defendants."

Read the entire order. It has a pretty good summary of the charges alleged by the government.
 
 
Live from Courtroom 3B: The Philadelphia Inquirer chronicles the federal corruption trial of Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano. Be sure to refresh your browser regularly for the latest updates.

ARCHIVES
03/01/06 / 03/05/06 / 03/06/06 / 03/07/06 / 03/08/06 / 03/09/06 / 03/10/06 / 03/11/06 / 03/12/06 / 03/13/06 / 03/14/06 / 03/15/06 / 03/16/06 / 03/17/06 / 03/18/06 / 03/20/06 / 03/21/06 / 03/24/06 / 03/29/06 /


Powered by Blogger