The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 4, 2001 · Page 87
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The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page 87

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Thursday, October 4, 2001
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IhgrsdakOctober 4, 2001 THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER www.philly.com Suburbs C B3 Bribery trial gets under way for Pa. lawmaker, ward chiefs By Jacqueline Soteropoulos , INQL'IRERSTAFF WRITER Deputy State Attorney General Patrick Blessington told jurors yesterday that they would witness a bribe: cash delivered to swing the outcome of the Seventh Ward Democratic election and ensure a victory for State Rep. Angel Cruz in 1998. Blessington addressed the jury at the trial of Cruz, 19th Ward leader Carlos Matos, and four others on trial on charges of bribery and conspiracy in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. "Literally, you will see a crime occur before your very eyes," Blessington said. On June 8, 1998, the day of the election, investigators videotaped election judge Maria Car-rasquillo and Seventh Ward Democratic Committeeman Otil-io Rodriguez paying two committee members not to vote, Blessington told jurors. "A picture is worth a thousand words. Maria Carrasquillo clear as a bell, in living color hands over the money," Blessington said. But defense lawyers told jurors that the case simply highlights the dirty soul of everyday politics in Philadelphia not criminal activity. "You've heard the phrase 'business as usual?' " lawyer Fortunato Perri Jr. asked the jury. "Well, this is Philadelphia politics as usual. ... This is ward politics, where you roll up your sleeves and get dirty. Yes, you get dirty." "Ward politics isn't pleasant, but it's a fact of life in Philadelphia," Perri said as his client, Carrasquillo, nodded. Carrasquillo, Cruz, Rodriguez, former 19th Ward leader Sandy Acosta and 19th Ward Committeeman Eluterio Lopez are charged with two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy each. Matos is charged with three counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy. The arrests followed a year of investigations by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the state Attorney General's Pffice. Cruz was elected ward leader in the Fairhill and Kensington sections of North Philadelphia, a coveted position because ward leaders play a central role in endorsing and supporting party candidates. Cruz defeated State Rep. Benjamin Ramos for ward leader and ultimately replaced Ramos in the legislature. Cruz's lawyer, Anthony Cianf-rani, told the jury his client is innocent. "Angel Cruz did not commit a crime, was not part of any conspiracy. The evidence will show he won the election for ward leader and state representative fair and square," Cianf rani said. Cruz attended only one of the meetings prosecutors taped. But a wiretap on a cooperating committeeman failed to record the conversation of that meeting', and so did the audio in a secret videotape of the meeting. Some jurors smiled when Cianf-rani and other defense lawyers made much of that video's muddled soundtrack, which played renovation guru Bob Vila explaining a house restoration. "Mysteriously, the evidence of innocence is gone," Cianfrani said. Defense lawyers charged that the loser of that election, Ramos, collaborated with Democratic City Councilman Angel Ortiz in an equally ugly political scheme, Ortiz denies any such scheme. The day of the ward election, Court halts removal of feeding tube A judge in Lakeland, Fla., yesterday delayed removing a feeding tube for a comatose woman whose family is battling over whether to take her off life support. The Second District Court of Appeal has issued an indefinite stay while it considers the legal fight between Terri Schindler-Schiavo's husband and parents. Her feeding tube was scheduled to be removed on Tuesday. Schindler-Schiavo, 37, originally from Montgomery County, slipped into a coma after suffering a heart attack nearly 12 years ago. A probate judge had given her husband, Michael Schiavo, permission to end his wife's life. But her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, argued their daughter was not in a persistent vegetative state, had some brain function, and could benefit from therapy1. Cianfrani said, Ramos changed his legal address from outside the ward to one within its boundaries. "Ben Ramos does not live in the Seventh Ward. He used someone else's address," Cianfrani told the jury in his opening arguments, adding that when asked his address under oath, Ramos refused to provide it and cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. "This was a power play by Ben Ramos and Angel Ortiz to come in and take over," Cianfrani said. Ramos is expected to testify at trial. Ortiz said yesterday that the accusations were a ploy by the desperate defense. "We're not on trial. The evidence is very clear they're the ones on video and on tape," Ortiz said. The U.S. Attorney's Office previously declined to prosecute the case, and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office referred the case to state authorities, citing a conflict of interest. Perri told the jurors that Republican Attorney General Mike Fisher, a gubernatorial candidate, was pursuing the case only to give Philadelphia Democrats a "black eye." "That charge is blatantly false," Kevin Harley, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said yesterday. "This matter was thoroughly investigated by the District Attorney's Office of Philadelphia ... and appropriately charged based on the evidence." Jacqueline Soteropoulos' e-mail address is jsoteropoulosphillynews.com. FREE r HONEY BAKED HAM or TURKEY WITH WHOli HOUSE CLEANING ROOMS I5 OFF .when you mention this ad. ENTIRE HOUSE CLEANING oH$nc95 5 ROOMS $S0M up to 1300 sq. ft. Steps extra up to 600 sq. ft. QnnDi No Hidden Chnrnt! one SOFA $l195 All Work Guaranteed 20 Years Experience LOVE SEATS Your Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning Experts FLGDOQIIHG EJIIPEKTS 1 -888-868-5640 1735 MARKET STREET PHI LA, PA Now through Monday! Columbus Day Sale Great Boot Savings nn.i..i ii Over 80 styles on sale! Sale 89.99' Aiine Klein 2 Short boots in black suede; black, brown or red leather. Reg. $125 f MS T' i ... . . Sale 79.99 Nine West Short boots in red, camel, black or brown leather brown, black or red suede. Reg. $99 Sale 99.99 Franco Sarto Tall stretch boots in camel, black, brown or wine faux leather, bown or camel croco-embossed faux leather. $1 29 Sale 129.99" ElienneAigner : Tall riding boots in black or brown leather, Reg. $1 69 It fWiiiMW1' J - Sale 69.99 van Eli Short side-buckle boots in black or brown leather. Reg. $94 Sale 99.99 EnzoAngiolini Tall stretch boots in black, brown, wine or tan faux leather. Reg. $139 AT ft Sale 49.99 Bandolino I Sale 79.99 Timberiand Short boots in camel or black suede; black or brown leather. Reg. $69 h Water-proof boots in wheat black, blue, rose or grey nubuck. Reg. f ' "i . Sale 69.99' Steve Madden Short platform-sole boots in camel, black or brown leather. Reg. $99 And don't miss our fabulous FALL SHOE SALE Pumps, casuals, special occasion, urban sport shoes & loafers., Reg. $59-$134, Sale The Signature of American Style DISCOVER SAVINGS STOREWIDE DURING OUR COLUMBUS DAY SALE! 'Reduction off ticketed prices will be taken at the register. Sale ends Monday, October 8th, except for clearance items. Selected collections, not every style and size in every store. Our regular and original prices are offering prices only and may or may not have resulted in sales. Advertised merchandise may be available at sale prices in upcoming sale events. No adjustments to prior sale purchases. For the store location nearest you, please call 1-800-22J-7440, 8 am to 10 pm ET any day. ""1

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