Saturday, April 3, 2010

Court Outburst Over Bonusgate Style Tactics

Writer Chris Brennan of the Philadelphia Daily News penned this article about a lawyer's courtroom outburst that almost cost him some jail time.

Apparently Pete Fiorentino, a former City Council attorney, had his nominating petitions challenged in the race against State Rep Mike O'Brien.

He demonstrated to the court that the challenges eminated from O'Briens office by the stamp on the faxes used to make the filings.

Fiorentino claimed the challengers broke the law by doing their legal paperwork with the help of a fax machine in the local office of state Rep. Mike O'Brien, the Democrat he hoped to unseat in the May 18 primary.

Commonwealth Court Judge Johnny Butler denied Fiorentino's request to toss the petition challenge, saying the faxed paperwork did not justify that ruling.

"This is a joke!" Fiorentino yelled in court. "This is a kangaroo court, your honor."

Butler told Fiorentino he had never held an attorney in contempt of court, but was getting ready to make him the first.

O'Brien, who represents the 175th District, which extends from South Philadelphia to Port Richmond along the Delaware River, later dismissed the complaints about faxed legal paperwork as a non-issue.

"Obviously at the end of the day he had no ground to defend against our questions on the validity of his petitions," O'Brien said. "He chose to launch into a series of personal attacks against a staff member to cloud the issue."

Mary Isaacson, O'Brien's chief of staff, and Democratic City Committeeman Peter Butterline filed challenges two weeks ago against Fiorentino and Daryl LaFountain, another candidate.

LaFountain found the faxed paperwork and his attorney, Larry Otter, asked the court on Monday to dismiss the challenge. Otter compared the faxes to the ongoing "Bonusgate" investigation in Harrisburg, which resulted in the March 22 conviction of a former state representative and two legislative staffers for using state resources for campaign purposes.

A line at the top of some of the pages in the legal challenge were printed "Rep. Michael O'Brien's Office," a sign that it had been faxed from there.

It is amazing that after AG Tom Corbett arrested 25 persons for allegedly misusing taxpayers dollars for campaign work that some people still don't get it.

Fiorentino and LaFountain say they have reported the faxes to the state Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office. LaFountain said he has a meeting today with the U.S. Attorney's Office to discuss the issue.

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