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Pa. judges are sentencing people on probation for debts; Man cleared of murder after 27 years | Morning Newsletter

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Michael Mastrocola was living in a campground in a broken-down trailer last summer, a result of 20 years on probation. For Mastrocola, ending that probation felt finally like a step toward getting his life back.
Michael Mastrocola was living in a campground in a broken-down trailer last summer, a result of 20 years on probation. For Mastrocola, ending that probation felt finally like a step toward getting his life back.Read moreDavid Swanson

Not being able to stay on top of court costs can land people more probation, parole, or incarceration. It’s a problem for many Pennsylvanians who deal with the criminal justice system, especially for those who require a public defender. And over in a federal court in New Jersey, a jury has found a former police chief guilty of lying to the FBI. But there are still two charges left that the jury may continue to discuss.

— Josh Rosenblat (@joshrosenblat,

Not being able to keep up with court-ordered payments remains a common reason for judges to give people more probation, more parole, or more incarceration. And it’s keeping people under court control for years.

Although poor defendants are entitled to legal representation, it doesn’t mean that their access to the justice system is free. Costs pile up so high, according to an ACLU study, that among people poor enough to be assigned public defenders, court costs were paid in full in less than a quarter of cases over 10 years.

A jury yesterday found the former police chief of Bordentown Township guilty of lying to the FBI. The jury still is working to see if it can reach a unanimous verdict on Frank Nucera Jr.'s two remaining counts: hate-crime assault and deprivation of civil rights. It will return to court this morning to tell the judge whether it will continue to deliberate.

Nucera is accused of hitting a handcuffed black suspect during an incident in September 2016. Fellow officers say the teen was in custody and not resisting arrest when Nucera slammed his head against a wall. The case also involved recordings of Nucera using racial slurs.

For nearly three decades, Willie Veasy insisted that he didn’t kill a man on a Philadelphia street corner in 1992. And last week, the District Attorney’s Office agreed that the 54-year-old was likely innocent in the fatal shooting.

Veasy’s exoneration is the 10th under DA Larry Krasner. Prosecutors say they’re investigating if the detectives who interrogated Veasy had committed any misconduct in his case or others.

What you need to know today

  1. Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey spoke to The Inquirer about impeachment as Democrats accelerate their investigation of President Donald Trump. Is he willing to break ranks with his fellow Republicans?

  2. A Sixers fan says that he and his wife were ejected from the Wells Fargo Center after holding up signs and shouting in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong during the game Tuesday night against a team from the Chinese Basketball Association.

  3. Even though most residents in New Jersey still can’t get REAL ID cards, the state actually won’t blow today’s deadline to issue driver’s licenses and identification cards that meet new federal security standards.

  4. The veterinarian community is working to address suicide rates that, according to recent research, are about double that of the general public.

  5. Philadelphia’s police union called a tweet by District Attorney Larry Krasner’s spokesperson “racist" because it mocked a predominantly white crowd of police supporters that gathered for a protest.

  6. Former Pennsylvania education official Larry Wittig has been banned from U.S. rowing over having sexual contact with two girls he coached in 1981 — claims that were first reported by The Inquirer in 2017.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Some courtside pics from the Sixers’ preseason win Tuesday night. Awesome shots, @jamieamalea.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

That’s Interesting

  1. 🌧️Yesterday it was cool and rainy. ☀️Last week it reached the low 90s. Welcome to October.

  2. The Flyers now have "the first-ever rage room in a major professional sports arena” that allows fans to smash TVs and dishes with sledgehammers, hockey sticks, and more. According to the Flyers, some fans told the team that it would be a new way to have some “harmless fun.”

  3. New York-based puppet makers allege that “the Phillies are allergic to the real facts” when it comes to who really created the Phillie Phanatic.

  4. Poor sleep often means you’ll get junk food cravings. As for why that happens, researchers say to blame your nose.

  5. Pennsylvania is warning people about scam licensing sites for hunters that could steal your money and personal information.

  6. A terrible-smelling fruit has a bad rap (it smells so bad that it’s banned on public transportation in many Asian countries). And a Philly chef is on a mission to change how people think of it.


“Krasner has made clear that he does not want to overcharge defendants. That is a proper goal provided the charging decision is governed by the evidence and the law. But to set aside the law and the evidence in order to undercharge a defendant as a matter of ease or convenience for the prosecution or because defense counsel might make a countervailing argument at trial is a gross dereliction of Krasner’s duty to the citizens of Philadelphia.” — George Parry, a former federal and state prosecutor, writes about the decision to withdraw a first-degree murder charge in the Rittenhouse stabbing case.

  1. The Philadelphia School District asbestos crisis showcases how the whole system is guilty, The Inquirer Editorial Board writes.

  2. “The selling of illegal drugs online is not a matter of free speech, but is a crime and should be treated as such,” writes former U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello.

What we’re reading

  1. Crash investigators in Philly will soon be able to get information from vehicles’ event-data recorder, or “black box,” WHYY reports.

  2. Park rangers in southwestern Alaska made a game out of the process of bears eating as much as they can to build up fat before they hibernate. NPR reports on Fat Bear Week 2019, which now has a winner.

  3. The Atlantic explores how the world is getting louder and what impact added noise can have on our bodies.

Your Daily Dose of | The UpSide

A nonprofit seeks to open up honest channels of communication between teens and adults. SpeakUp! is now in 36 schools in the Philadelphia area, and focuses on discussing topics that teens consider important but find difficult to talk about.