Two Philadelphia State Representatives Indicted On Bribery, Other Charges In Voting Against A Voter ID Law

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Two Democratic Pennsylvania state representatives who serve parts of Philadelphia were indicted on bribery charges Tuesday by the Philadelphia District Attorney after taking money and gifts in exchange for voting against voter identification legislation. The Pennsylvania Attorney General had previously dropped the charges.

State Reps. Ron Waters (D) and Vanessa Lowery Brown (D) were charged Tuesday with Criminal Conspiracy, Bribery in Official and Political Matters, Conflict of Interest, and Failure to Make Required Disclosures in Statement of Financial Interests for accepting money in exchange for promised political actions. Waters also accepted some Tiffany Jewelry.

The Daily Signal notes both “representatives testified before [the] Grand Jury and admitted their criminal conduct.”

“[The grand jury] had 26 recordings featuring Rep. Ronald G. Waters, accepted nine cash payments from a confidential informant totaling $8,750. The grand jury had 24 recordings of Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown accepting five cash payments totaling $4,000.

“Waters agreed to vote against Pennsylvania House Bill 934, a Voter ID bill, in exchange for $2,000. Brown also agreed to vote against House Bill 934 for the same amount.”

Both legislators turned themselves in Tuesday morning and were released on their own recognizance. Waters is the current Secretary for the House Democratic Caucus, and Brown is the current chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

The investigation was conducted by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General between 2010 and 2012, but was dropped because Attorney General Kathleen Kane was “troubled” by elements of the case it inherited (including a deal to drop charges against the informant), reported the Post-Gazette. Kane has been in office since 2013. There was also accusations of racism in the ongoing investigation.

But the District Attorney’s Office run by Seth Williams, a Democrat, rejected those allegations:

“The grand jury investigated claims that the original investigation was ‘racist,’ that the CI was not credible because of the alleged magnitude of his own criminal case, that the subjects of the investigation were ‘entrapped,’ and that a ‘comprehensive’ review by subsequent state officials found no basis for bringing charges. The grand jury found each of those criticism empty.”

According to the Post-Gazette, Waters’ Attorney, Fortunato N. Perri, Jr., said his client “will accept responsibility for his conduct and likely resolve this matter without the necessity for trial.”

Other officials were also targeted in the investigation, all Democrats. Louise Williams Bishop and Michelle Brownlee are still being investigated by the grand jury, while former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes pleaded guilty Wednesday to accepting a $2,000 gift, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

H/T The Daily Signal

Photo credit: Bev Sykes (Flickr)

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Should Arbitrary Factors Mitigate Punishment?

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On October 2, the day after a Chester County, Pennsylvania jury convicted Duron Peoples of first-degree murder in the contract killing of barbershop owner Jonas “Sonny” Suber, the jury unanimously informed Judge David Bortner that the appropriate sentence would be life without parole, and not death.

The jurors decided that mitigating factors cited by the defense—Peoples’ upbringing in poor socio-economic circumstances, his self-described “addiction” to the life of a drug dealer, and the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case— outweighed the prosecution’s plea that the “murder for hire” deserved a sentence of death.

The local newspaper commended County jurors and prosecutors for their reluctance to impose the death penalty upon convicted murderers. In the editorialists’ opinion, that only four defendants convicted of murder in the county are on Death Row demonstrates the district attorney’s “wisdom” to withdraw the death penalty when it “serves the interest of justice”

Which begs the question: does withdrawing the death penalty in light of mitigating factors serve the interests of justice? Or does the practice promulgate greater injustice by allowing a lucky few to avoid their due?

In short, why should a few arbitrary factors mitigate the punishment for cold-blooded murder?

So what if Mr. Peoples was raised in poor socio-economic circumstances? Countless children are bought up in poor socio-economic circumstances, but they do not become murderers. Should an accident of birth determine the severity of punishment for a heinous crime?

So-called “mitigating” factors also marginalize men and women from similar backgrounds who choose to live law-abiding lives rather than blaming a life of crime on difficult circumstances.

Consideration of the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case hints that a murderer need only hire a trigger man to do his dirty work and absent himself from the scene to insulate him from culpability. Even so, the prosecution’s so-called “circumstantial” case convinced the jury that Peoples was guilty of first degree murder.

The kicker is Peoples’ self-described “addiction” to the life of a drug dealer. The selfish, self-centered, violent life to which Peoples was “addicted” should properly be an aggravating circumstance.

“Mitigating factors” also create a invidious, constitutionally suspect double standard by arbitrarily holding members of a certain class to a higher standard of conduct than members of a favored class.

And with fewer “mitigating factors” in their background, it follows that those subject to this stricter standard theoretically are more deserving of capital punishment for similar crimes than the Peoples of the world. Where is the justice (or logic) in that?

A first-degree murder verdict establishes beyond reasonable doubt a defendant’s degree of culpability. Once degree is established, it is past time for excuses and justification.

Sentencing is the time when justice is done.

In capital cases, justice requires that the death penalty apply to all or to none.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Support For Obamacare Killing This Democrat In Primary…

No matter what anyone in the DNC or RNC says, support for Obamacare is serious poison for a campaign. Forget the “scientific” surveys showing substantial support for Barack Obama’s monster among rank and file Democrats. The fiery plummet of Allyson Schwartz’s campaign to win the Democrat nomination for governor of Pennsylvania is proof that they are wrong.

Standing with Obamacare is killing her.

A November 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found the Obamacare-supporting Schwartz with a comfortable early lead in her primary race to the nomination. In a crowded field, she was at 21%; and her most serious opponent, Tom Wolf, was at 17%. Twenty seven percent were undecided, while eight other candidates divided the rest of the support.

Schwartz enjoyed a 31% favorability rating, which was the highest in the field; but there was even better news for anyone in a Democrat primary. The 38% who called themselves “very liberal” backed her. Before people realized what a disaster Obamacare is, she was home free; but that was then, not now.

Since November, support for Obamacare has turned into a serious drag, even for a Democrat in a Democrat primary.

The most recent poll of likely voters in the Pennsylvania Democrat primary shows that the ground has shifted under Ms. Schwartz; and she is now trailing far behind the leader, businessman Wolf. She has dropped to just 7% support in a Franklin & Marshall College poll. Her support of Obamacare has caused two thirds of her backers to run away. Based on the numbers, apparently even the “very liberal” voters who will turn out on Election Day have left her.

Desperate to get back on track, the self-delusional Schwartz has doubled down and is running a new ad showing her proudly supporting Obamacare. She is also challenging her rivals to join her in her mistake. “Misery loves company” comes to mind here.

The so-called “experts” who are telling us that Obamacare is not a “magic sword” that will destroy anyone who supports it are very wrong.

If Schwartz, a champion of Obamacare, is crashing in a Democrat primary, the national Democrats and Republicans are either lying or totally clueless. There is no reason to trust anyone who says that there is any significant support for Obamacare, even among Democrats.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

A Warning To The State Of Pennsylvania

Be careful, Pennsylvania people.

You can’t afford to blow it this fall.

Your great state is, I’m sorry to say, already not so great when it comes to fiscal solvency.

Don’t make it worse by dumping your Republican governor, Tom Corbett.

Despite the Marcellus Shale boom that’s turned Pennsylvania into the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, the Keystone State’s current fiscal condition is almost as dire as New Jersey’s.

According to a recent Mercatus Center study of every state’s ability to balance its budgets and still pay for health care and pension costs, Pennsylvania is ranked No. 42. Jersey (50), Illinois (48), and New York (45) are worse; but that’s no consolation.

Pennsylvania — where I was earlier this month giving a speech to a conservative leadership conference near Harrisburg — can’t afford to lose Gov. Corbett.

The unflashy, non-ideological, fiscally responsible, moderate Republican was staring at a $4.2 billion budget deficit the day he took office in 2010.

Instead of raising taxes, the usual bipartisan solution, Corbett cut waste, axed inefficient programs, and got rid of the millions of dollars legislators were able to spend as they wished in their districts on their pet projects.

Corbett couldn’t do the impossible — keep his campaign promise to privatize the state’s embarrassingly backward retail wine and booze monopoly.

And he hasn’t turned Pennsylvania’s public sector into anything as healthy as Alaska’s, or even South Dakota’s, the top two most fiscally sound energy-rich states.

But Gov. Corbett erased the budget deficit without raising the state income tax. And he cut government spending enough to enrage the big-spender lobby, the teachers union and, not to be redundant, the state’s Democrats.

According to the national political wizards, however, Corbett is one of the most vulnerable incumbent GOP governors in the land.

It’s not because Democrats in his state have gotten stronger or less stupid.

Their four gubernatorial nominees are fighting to see who can pander the most to the teachers union and slap the highest severance tax on natural gas production.

Corbett’s biggest obstacle to reelection might be his fellow Republicans.

Some conservatives are complaining he hasn’t done enough to diminish the entrenched power of unions, especially considering the state Senate and House are in Republican hands.

They also want Corbett to address the state’s $50 billion in unfunded liability for the retirement plans of teachers and government workers.

But Pennsylvania’s conservatives better wise up and appreciate what they’ve got.

Their pursuit of ideological purity could wind up electing a Democrat who’ll smother their state’s gas boom with onerous taxes and excessive environmental regulations.

The Marcellus Shale play is gigantic and just getting started. Already it’s put more than $2 billion worth of royalties in the bank accounts of Pennsylvania property owners, boosted local tax revenues, and created tens of thousands of new jobs.

Pennsylvania was the country’s first energy state. It’s where most of the coal that built America into an industrial superpower came from and where the oil and gas industries began 150 years ago.

Now the Keystone State sits in the middle of the continent’s most productive natural gas field.

Pennsylvania’s economy is being rejuvenated by the shale boom, but Democrats only want to fatten the state government on gas severance taxes.

Corbett knows how foolish that would be. He knows that as long as the state government doesn’t kill the goose that’s generating the first important economic growth spurt in a century, Pennsylvania will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from its reasonable gas drilling impact fees.

Corbett may not be as ideologically pure as some conservatives wish, but they should remember a few things.

They should remember my father’s 80-20 rule for Republicans — that if you’re with me 80 percent of the time, I’m with you.

And they should remember the Bill Buckley Jr. rule — that Republicans should nominate the best conservative who can win in the general election.

So, my Pennsylvania friends, you may not love Gov. Corbett. But on Election Day, you better like him enough — and appreciate him enough — to vote for him.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Breaking: 19 Reported Victims In High School Stabbing Rampage

According to initial accounts, at least eight people are hospitalized with serious injuries after a sophomore student entered Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pa. and began slashing and stabbing students.

The male student, described in early reports as “really shy,” allegedly entered the school with two knives and injured 19 students before he was apprehended.

Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld indicated the school’s security guard and assistant principal subdued and handcuffed the 16-year-old.

Sophomore Mia Meixner described the incident, explaining she heard a commotion near the cafeteria and saw the suspect stabbing students before he “just got up and ran away really fast.”

In the aftermath, she explained, a “freshman stood up, lifted his shirt and he was gushing blood.”

A “senior girl,” she added, “was gushing blood down her arm.”

The suspect, whose name is being withheld at this time, “always kept to himself,” Meixner explained. “He wasn’t mean or anything; he just wasn’t outgoing.”

Junior Nicole Damico said she thought two students were involved in a typical school fight until she realized one was holding a knife.

“One of my peers had blood everywhere and he asked me for help,” she recalled. “I just froze and ran out of the school. After that there was chaos.”

This tragic event will not only leave physical scars on numerous victims; it will also emotionally scar an entire community. Unfortunately, as much as activists attempt to strip guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens in an effort to curtail school violence, this attack proves individuals bent on destruction will always find a way to carry out their devastating acts.

–B. Christopher Agee

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom