A FORMER Philadelphia Traffic Court supervisor pleaded guilty today in the wide-ranging ticket-fixing scandal that rocked the court last year and caused it to be abolished.
William Hird, 68, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, various counts of wire and mail fraud, and making false statements to the FBI.
He served as personal assistant to former Traffic Court Administrative Judge Fortunato Perri Sr. from 1997 until 2001, then was promoted to court administrator, with the title of director of records. He served in the supervisory post until November 2011.
"He was definitely someone who had direct access to judges," Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf said yesterday. "He was in Traffic Court for a long time. He had access to judges who would manipulate tickets upon his request on a regular basis. And he also directed his underlings whom he supervised to carry out these requests for favorable outcomes.
"If he were not available to go to the judge, he would send someone on his behalf and the judge would understand this was from Billy [Hird]."
Hird's lawyer, Gregory Pagano, said Friday that his client is not expected to cooperate with the government.
Hird's is the fourth guilty plea in the case. Three judges - Perri and two suburban magistrates who heard Philly Traffic Court cases - pleaded guilty last year. H. Warren Hogeland, of Bucks County, and Kenneth Miller, of Delaware County, pleaded guilty in February. Hogeland died in August at age 76 of complications from heart surgery; he had not yet been sentenced. Perri, who pleaded guilty in March, and Miller still await sentencing.
Six other judges and two businessmen who were charged by indictment along with Hird are scheduled for trial May 19.
The plea memo cited examples from 2009 to 2011 when Hird allegedly participated in ticket-fixing.
"Hird and his co-conspirators used the Philadelphia Traffic Court to give preferential treatment to certain ticket holders, most commonly by fixing tickets for those with whom they were politically and socially connected," the memo said.
They did so by dismissing tickets outright, by finding the ticket holder not guilty or by adjudicating the ticket in a way to reduce fines or avoid points on a driver's record, and by judge-shopping - putting the case in front of a judge who would give it preferential treatment, according to the memo.
Philadelphia Traffic Court judges presided over moving violations issued by city cops or State Police.
"As a high level administrator, Hird used his unique position in Traffic Court to facilitate the numerous requests for consideration presented to him by Perri, local politicians and others," the plea memo said, adding that he also "facilitated requests for preferential treatment from two Philadelphia ward leaders," who have not been named, and from retired Traffic Court Judge Miller.
The government has not agreed to any sentence for Hird in exchange for his guilty plea. "We will advocate for what we think is appropriate at the time of sentencing," Wolf said yesterday.
Facing trial in May are these former Traffic Court judges: Michael Sullivan, administrative judge from early 2011 to September of that year; Michael Lowry; Robert Mulgrew; Willie Singletary; Thomasine Tynes; and Mark Bruno, a Chester County district judge who at times presided over Philadelphia Traffic Court cases.
Businessmen Henry Alfano and Robert Moy also face trial.
Traffic Court duties now are handled by a new Traffic Division of Philadelphia Municipal Court, which, like its predecessor, is at 8th and Spring Garden streets.