Former Traffic Court Judge Michael J. Sullivan pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor charge that he cheated on payroll taxes at his South Philadelphia bar.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno, who presided at the hearing, in October refused to accept Sullivan's plea until he had more time to review the case.

Sullivan, 51, was accused of paying most of his staff at his Fireside Tavern on South Marshall Street under the table for seven years. He allegedly failed to pay $48,000 in taxes.

Robreno questioned prosecutor Paul L. Gray on several aspects of the plea, including whether Sullivan was cooperating in any other case as part of the agreement.

Gray said there was no requirement for cooperation. He said Sullivan's plea to the misdemeanor charge allowed for possible prison time and fines of up to $25,000.

Sullivan was the only Traffic Court judge who was acquitted of all charges in a federal ticket-fixing trial last year. In that case, five judges and two suburban magistrates were convicted of charges including fraud and perjury.

In the aftermath of the federal investigation, Traffic Court was abolished. Ticket cases are still heard at the same site at Eighth and Spring Garden Streets, but all operations are part of Municipal Court.

After the hearing, Gray stressed that Sullivan's tax charge was not part of the Traffic Court case - though evidence of the tax fraud surfaced in the earlier investigation.

Sullivan's attorney, Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., said his client pleaded guilty in exchange for the government's agreement not to pursue tax charges against his relatives.

"It's unfortunate that prosecutorial priorities include a case like this," Hockeimer added.

Robreno set Sullivan's sentencing for March 2.