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Traffic Court Judge Singletary relieved of duties over photo of his genitals

Willie F. Singletary, the Philadelphia Traffic Court judge who amassed $11,500 in traffic fines before getting elected to the bench, has been relieved of his duties for allegedly showing a photo of his genitals to a court worker.

Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary.  (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)
Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary. (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)Read more

Willie F. Singletary, the Philadelphia Traffic Court judge who amassed $11,500 in traffic fines before getting elected to the bench, has been relieved of his duties for allegedly showing a photo of his genitals to a court worker.

Multiple sources said Friday that Singletary earlier this week displayed a shot of his penis to a female information-technology worker. After she filed a sexual-harassment complaint, Singletary allegedly confronted her in an attempt to get the complaint withdrawn, sources said.

Singletary was escorted out of the court by sheriff's deputies and relieved of his judicial duties Thursday by Common Pleas Court Judge Gary S. Glazer.

Glazer has also recommended that Singletary be suspended by the state Supreme Court, which oversees the state judicial system. A complaint is also being filed with the state Judicial Conduct Board, sources said.

Glazer took over Monday as Traffic Court administrative judge after an internal review by the state Supreme Court concluded some judges were allowing "political sources" to interfere with judicial decision-making. Also, at least three of the seven sitting Traffic Court judges have been called before a federal grand jury investigating the court's operations.

Singletary, 29, elected in 2007 to the post that pays $85,000 a year, could not immediately be reached.

But he has retained criminal defense lawyer William J. Brennan, who said Singletary has not been told why he was removed from the bench.

Brennan said Singletary "received several memoranda from the new administrative judge, which included instructions to refrain from entering the courthouse. I do not know, nor was Judge Singletary advised of the basis, if any, for this action."

Brennan said Singletary's cases have been assigned to other judges. Glazer has that authority, Brennan acknowledged, but said his client "remains an elected judge unless and until the Court of Judicial Discipline or the Supreme Court say otherwise."

The defense attorney declined to discuss the federal investigation. "That I cannot comment on, but I do represent him on that matter," he said, adding only that Glazer's action and the federal probe were unrelated.

Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said the photo allegation was "particularly troubling because judges make important decision about people's lives, and we think, of all officials, I think judges should be held to even a higher standard."

"This is exhibit A," she said, "of a matter that should go before the Judicial Conduct Board."

Singletary won his seat with 12.8 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2007, the highest out in a field of 15 candidates.

Traffic Court judge, a job requiring no law degree, is historically a near-permanent post. While judges do face a retention election every six years, that is a straight up-or-down vote, with no primary- or general-election challengers.

Singletary was controversial even before his election, when he was filmed suggesting that those who gave money to his campaign would get favorable treatment in his court.

The state Court of Judicial Discipline reprimanded him in 2009, but also noted that he was not a lawyer and had not been elected to the bench when he made the comments.

Singletary, a pastor at a West Philadelphia church that he founded, told the court he did not intend to give anyone special treatment because of a campaign contribution. "I was in preacher mode," he said at the time. "I do admit, I chose a poor choice of words."

Before being elected, Singletary amassed dozens of traffic violations that led to the suspension of his driver's license until 2011. Singletary now has a valid driver's license. He has paid off the $11,500 in traffic-related fines.

In 2006, according to his MySpace page, Singletary established the City of Refuge Church in West Philadelphia. He also served in the U.S. Navy from 2001 until 2003, and he was aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf during the invasion of Afghanistan.