'Tollie' withdraws guilty plea, will represent himself
Sportscaster Don Tollefson surprised a Bucks County courtroom with a last-minute about-face in his fraud case yesterday.
IT LOOKED LIKE an open-and-shut case.
But "Tollie" had a last-minute surprise for the Bucks County court.
Don Tollefson, a former fixture of Philly sports journalism, withdrew the guilty plea in his much-publicized fraud case yesterday and announced that he's ready to go to trial in the new year with a new attorney.
The ex-sportscaster had entered the plea in late September amid a long parade of alleged victims ready to testify against him. Prosecutors had said at the time that more than 200 people had come forward, claiming to have been bilked by a scheme that peddled bogus sports-ticket packages that were supposed to benefit a host of charities.
But Tollefson threw a curveball, announcing at his supposed sentencing hearing in Doylestown yesterday that he was withdrawing his plea and will represent himself at a Jan. 5 trial, according to Sharif N. Abaza, who previously had represented him during the proceedings.
Abaza told the Daily News last night that the two had discussed the plan for some time, and that it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision.
"It's his belief that he's innocent, and his desire to have his day in court," Abaza said.
"I wish him the best of luck; I just don't feel that there's anything I can do."
Tollefson's alleged misdeeds stretch back more than a decade, the Daily News reported last year.
The Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, the Salvation Army and a memorial foundation for slain Montgomery County police officer Brad Fox were among charities that were supposed to have benefited from phony ticket packages that Tollefson sold.
He also fronted two charities of his own - One Child Saved and Winning Ways - neither of which was eligible for federal or state tax-exempt status.
The former 6ABC and Fox 29 personality has said that his longtime alcoholism and addiction to painkillers played a role in the alleged fraud.
As of Sunday, Tollefson was 431 days sober, he wrote in an email to his friends and supporters, obtained by the Daily News.