Arlen Specter's Phony Justice

High-profile investigations, low-profile results.

By Brendan Skwire
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Jan. 3, 2010

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Arlen Specter looks real good behind a hearing desk. But does he ever get anything done?

Let me reintroduce you to Arlen Specter, media whore:

Using an Inquirer series as a road map, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter said yesterday that he would preside over a Senate hearing in Philadelphia on Monday to explore how widespread witness intimidation has damaged the city's criminal justice system.

"This is a good place to start," said Specter, referring to witness fear. "This is a very, very serious problem."

The witnesses are to include Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, defense lawyer Michael Coard, and Richard Frei, a psychology professor at Community College of Philadelphia who has studied the phenomenon of witness noncooperation.

The hearing is the first in what Specter has promised will be a public examination of issues plaguing the city's court system.

This has been postponed until January 8 (at, where else, the Constitution Center), but really, Arlen? Really? You're going to hold hearings? When have I heard THAT shit before? Ah, here we go:

In recent months, it has become clear that the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs have been failing to provide some of our troops and veterans with the care and benefits they deserve. Following revelations of substandard housing and treatment for some wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I visited the facility to investigate the problem first hand. On April 12, 2007, I participated in a rare joint hearing held by the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Veterans Affairs to further examine failings in the system. As a result of this hearing, the committees worked together to write the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, which lays out a comprehensive plan for addressing the identified shortfalls. I am a cosponsor of this bill and will work to ensure this legislation is enacted as quickly as possible.

Good for you Arlen: holding those hearings even though those abuses at Walter Reed happened on your watch and you didn't know:

I called Senator Specter’s office to inquire as to whether he knew what was going on at Walter Reed hospital, and if so, how long he had known. I knew ahead of time that neither answer was going to be satisfactory: if he had known about the disgraceful way our injured soldiers were mistreated, why had he not done anything? If he hadn’t known, why not? After all, the Senator has been a fixture on the Veterans Affairs Committee since the 97th Congress, serving as Chairman several times. As expected, his receptionist told me he couldn’t speak for the Senator, but if Specter didn’t know what was going on before, “He certainly knows now.” Is that a good enough response?...

Or the time Specter called for hearings into Bush's warrantless wiretapping program...and then came up with legislation giving Bush and the lawbreaking phone companies everything they wanted. Or his New England Patriots freakout." Those hearings, like so many of Specter's media grandstanding, never came to much of anything. But hey, it gets his face in the paper so, wheeeee! Hearings for everyone!

The fact is, Specter's penchant for sensational-but-pointless hearings goes back to his tenure as DA, which Murray Waas noted in The New Republic back in 1985:

Because of the weak cases that are poured into the system, there is an overall delay between arrest and trial in violent crimes of more than six months. Victims and witnesses move and cannot be located. They tire of repeated trips to City Hall for trials and hearings that are postponed. Memories grow dim making it more difficult to recall details of the crime and identify assailants...

Hardly a day went by during Specter’s stint in which he didn’t hold a news conference, announce some new investigation, or release a statement to the press… Specter realized that he could make headlines by announcing some new, sensational investigation or the formation of a new grand jury, and that few reporters would ever take him to task if those same investigations uncovered no wrongdoing or produced no indictments. After the roof of the Spectrum, Philadelphia's sports arena, blew off in a rainstorm in 1968, Specter announced he was going "to blow the lid off City Hall" in an investigation of who was responsible. He received dozens of favorable stories... Only one individual, a minor City Hall functionary, was ever indicted, and charges against him were eventually dismissed.

Waas provides a long list of Specter's self-serving hearings, nearly all of which deal with the nightly news' favorite topics, sex and violence. One investigated the effect of porn on women and children, with Linda "Deep Throat" Lovelace as the star witness; another featured Seka. His back-and-forth with Veronica Vera is pretty freakin' hilarious. But what's really interesting is an old Inquirer series that Waas cites, "Crime and Injustice", by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, dated 1973. I managed to get my hands on Part Three: "Lots of Indictments, But Many Weak": 

District Attorney Arlen Specter’s office prosecuted 12,456 criminal cases in Common Pleas Court in 1971. In Chicago, the State’s Attorney’s Office prosecuted 6,322 cases. In Manhattan, the figure was 5,736. In Brooklyn, 6,220.

All this might lead one to believe that in the continuing war on crime in the big cities, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office is working harder than any other major metropolitan prosecutor’s office in the country.

Such is not the case, at least according to the results of an extended Inquirer investigation.

What is means is that the Philadelphia criminal justice system is engaged in the most massive paper shuffling operation in the nation, with the district attorney’s office supplying the paperwork, churning out indictments indiscriminately.

While generally failing to screen cases, the district attorney’s office is flooding the courts with meaningless indictments – indictments it never intends to prosecute, returned in cases it knows – or should know – cannot be won.

 In prosecuting serious criminal cases, assistant district attorneys routinely go into court unprepared, although they carry a lighter workload than their counterparts in other metropolitan cities.

The lack of preparation leads to trial delays – contrary to popular belief, the district attorney’s office is as responsible for continuances as defense attorneys – which in turn lead to acquittals and the dismissal of cases as the time lag grows between arrest and trial.

Perhaps even worse, while assembling one of the largest prosecutor’s staffs in the country – when measured against case loads or crime rates – Specter also has posted one of the poorest conviction rates in the nation. In fact, it may well be the worst.

It's the same damn thing: preening and puffery, and with results I'm sure you'll find drearily familiar if you live in Philadelphia.

Because of the weak cases that are poured into the system, there is an overall delay between arrest and trial in violent crimes of more than six months. Victims and witnesses move and cannot be located. They tire of repeated trips to City Hall for trials and hearings that are postponed. Memories grow dim making it more difficult to recall details of the crime and identify assailants...

So: the guy who's currently calling for hearings into Philly's broken justice system is the same guy who, in his day, not only had "perhaps the worst" conviction rate in the country, but whose "meaningless indictments" put crime victims in pretty much the same position they're in now. What kind of solutions can he possibly propose?

Philly's judicial system has been a mess since at LEAST the 1970s. And since the 1980s. Heck, as recently as 2005, the Inquirer reported that "In Philadelphia courts, year after year, half of all serious criminal cases - felonies such as murder, rape and robberies - are dismissed before they even get to trial. Factor in cases dismissed once they reach Common Pleas Court, and it means that only four of 10 Philadelphia felony cases, on average, end in a felony conviction." It was a big issue in the race between Lynne Abraham and Seth Williams. Where was Arlen Specter's call for hearings then? Funny how election years change everything.

Philly's judicial system has been plagued with inefficiency and just plain old fucked-uppedness for decades. We need reform, and that takes money and oversight, not opportunistic events by politicians trying to curry favor with the voters.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. Frank said... on Jan 4, 2010 at 01:44AM

“Arlen Specter has solicited money from unions in Philadelphia and the state. He has never done anything for them. Always stating that he had to vote his conscious. A statement like that really makes you wonder, What the hell is this nut case talking about? Specter thinks he has some serious Voo Doo going on. I think rather it's Doo Doo!!!!!
Lets get a serious candidate in there that will bring business to Philly and not tax them into Arlen's nut house!!!!
"Down with this Moron"
And make sure its not a Democrat or a progressive Republican Traitor.”

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2. Anne Regan said... on Jan 4, 2010 at 08:46AM

“Thank you.. It's about time somebody set the public straight about this goofball.”

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3. Carla J said... on Jan 4, 2010 at 04:46PM

“As a memebr of Senate Judiciary Committee and former head of it, no wonder Pennsylvania is in the state that its in amoung other things, hate crimes, kids for cash, judges being taken off cases for writing phony opinions and using the media, Walter Reed, and honest services fraud just to name a few..
I sent specific information to Arlene Spector in regards to a kids for cash like case in 2007 and 2008 and he did absolutely nothing. So much so, I have the card he signed from the post office and then he sent the packages sealed back up and back to me. Thats the Kind of Justice Arlene does. "JUST US" not justice for the people.”

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4. M. Fettig said... on Jan 4, 2010 at 05:04PM

“Do I hear, "Presidential Potential" in this guy's resume? Talk much, do little aside from cause less to get done? It's happening all over the country, trials which only serve to bankrupt individuals. It's all about the money, and keeping lawyers in business. Plea bargains for habitual criminals are like job security, yet do nothing for the security of the people. Court hearings are more than just special events for those who'll never learn to listen - they turn average citizens into criminals, but more-so, if not warranted, they demean the way we see our country's legal system...it's no joke.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jan 5, 2010 at 08:53PM

“Excellent research. He has always struck me as a dirty old man.”

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6. Richard Mills said... on Mar 31, 2010 at 10:35AM

“Reporting Federal Corruption
I' m a victim of major crimes - Arlen still has not helped me?
My E-mail: RichMills2010@usa.com
Click on Below Reporting to Pres. Obama & Sen. Specter
http://www.congress.org/congressorg/bio/userletter/?id=497&letter_id=4938656746”

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7. Marie Mills said... on Oct 18, 2010 at 02:33PM

“Dear Officals,

When will Fed officials and the states of PA & NJ help my my son and provide him Federal Witness Protection? Senator Frank Lautenberg wrote to our family on 07.15.10 offering to help? The FBI is messing with my home phone line! Richard is also working closely with PA Rep. Jewell Williams & Senator Larry Farnese.

As your aware the Mills family has reported FBI wrongdoing and police intimidation. Out of fear for his safety my youngest son Richard Mills
will not return home to NJ after being wrongly jailed by Voorhees, N.J.
Police and the FBI on Sept. 18, 2009! My son Richard also reported the
child abduction of his daughter Allison Brittany Mills (Allison is my
grand-daughter). She is age 10 and needs her father. I have recently seen
Allison Mills who attends Fleetwood Elementary School Mt. Laurel, NJ
08054. Although I'm happy to have seen my granddaughter, the Weiss family contniues to "Bully" the Mills family with help from local and Federal law enforcement. This needs to stop and members of the Weiss family and others should be arrested for abuse of powers. Rep. Seatak - PA & Sen. Carper - DE both advised FBI oversight of this matter.

See my son Richard's Mills
Published Reports @ CNN and Congress.org
Google Search:
1) AG Case# 200706634 / Congress.org
2) Rep. Sestak Advises FBI Oversight / CNN I-report

Thank you.
Marie Mills

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8. RICHARD MILLS VICTIM said... on Aug 29, 2012 at 07:38PM

“SHAME ON EX PA SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER!

ARLEN LEFT ME A "FED-WITNESS" ON PHILLY STREETS
TO FEND FOR MY LIFE SINCE 2009. LUCKY TO BE ALIVE!
MY BROTHER WAS MURDERED JULY 12, 2010 AS REPORTED.
N.J. ATTORNEY GEN. CASE# 200706634 COVERED UP 3 YRS.
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-327134

Ex. Sen. Arlen Specter Now "Dying Of Cancer".
He Must Confess & Tell Truth Re: His Role: "JFK Assasination" &
His Role: "U.S.A. Vs. Weiss-Mills" Tri-State & Federal Cover Up!

TWITTER@JUSTICEFORMILLS
http://www.Twitter.com/JusticeForMills


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9. RICHARD MILLS VICTIM said... on Aug 29, 2012 at 07:51PM

“REP. CHAKAH FATTAH ADVISED OF CORRUPTION ON OCT. 15, 2009.
EX PA SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER WAS ADVISED SHORTLY AFTER.
TO THIS DAY LOCAL OFFICIALS FAIL TO PROTECT A FED-WITNESS.
HIS DIST. MGR. DOLORES RIDLEY LIED TO ME & FAILED MY FAMILY.
DIST. STAFF DIRECTED ME "TEMPORARILY" TO THE RHD RIDGE CTR.
PER CONVERSATIONS REP. FATTAH WOULD CONTACT THE USDOJ TO
BETTER ASSIST ME CONCERNING FEDERAL WITNESS PROTECTION.
I CHECKED IN & STAYED AT RHD RIDGE CENTER (CITY RUN SHELTER).
THIS WAS TO BE TEMP. BUT I RESIDED THERE UNTILL FEB. 2010.
DOLORES RIDLEY KEPT TELLING ME THAT IT WOULD TAKE SOME TIME FOR HER TO ASSIST ME RE: FED WITNESS PROGRAM ENTRY.
OCT. 15, 2009 - FEB. 2010 I SURVIVED 2 MURDER ATT. NEAR RIDGE.
IT WAS CLEAR THAT REP. FATTAH & CITY GOVT. WERE COVERING UP. IN FACT I ASKED MAYOR NUTTER 4 TIMES IN PERSON FOR HELP?
I FILED MANY COMPLAINTS WITH THE CITY, STATE, USDOJ & FEDS?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, V.P. JOE BIDEN & WHITE HOUSE ADVISED.

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10. RICHARD MILLS VICTIM said... on Aug 29, 2012 at 07:52PM

“N.J. ATTORNEY GEN. CASE# 200706634 COVERED UP 3 YRS.
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-327134

24 HR. McDONALDS CNN ADVISED - (IS NOT WIT. PROT.?)
NOR DINERS & DUNKIN DONUTS ETC.
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-616088

PHILA, PA MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER ADVISED OF
FEDERAL CORRUPTION N.J. AG CASE# 200706634
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-618588

JUSTICE FOR MILLS FAMILY
http://www.Twitter.com/JusticeForMills

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11. Richard Mills said... on Oct 15, 2012 at 09:11AM

“EX PA Senator Arlen Specter Dead At 82 As Was Reported.
Ex Sen. Covered Up JFK Assasination & U.S.A. Vs. Weiss-Mills!
Sen. Specter's Staff Lied & Failed To Assist Mills Family.
http://news.yahoo.com/longtime-gop-senate-moderate-arlen-specter-dies-165919376--politics.html

JUSTICE FOR MILLS FAMILY
http://www.Twitter.com/JusticeForMills

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