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Former state Rep. J.P. Miranda pleads guilty

He and his sister pleaded guilty to “false swearing” in case involving a “ghost employee.”

Former state Rep. Jose P. "J.P." Miranda and his sister pleaded guilty in Common Pleas Court today in connection with a case involving a "ghost employee" who was on state payroll records and their grand jury testimony about the matter.

Dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt and pink tie, Miranda, 29, stood before Judge Edward Wright and voiced a "guilty" plea to charges of "false swearing," a misdemeanor, and to "ethics violation," an ungraded felony.

His sister, Michelle Wilson, 35, dressed in a black pantsuit, pleaded guilty to the one misdemeanor "false swearing" charge.

Miranda was a rookie state representative, starting his second year in office, when he and his sister were charged by a Philadelphia grand jury in January 2014 with three felony counts: conflict of interest, perjury and conspiracy.

In fall 2012, he had won a two-year term to represent the 197th District, which includes parts of North Philadelphia.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Fina said in court that Miranda, after having been elected as state representative, sought to have his sister be his chief of staff in his Philadelphia district office, but was informed by the House Democratic Caucus that he could not hire a relative since that violated state ethics rules.

Despite that warning, Fina said, Miranda hired a man named Timothy Duckett and through Duckett, funneled money to Wilson.

Miranda told Duckett he would not have to work 40 hours a week, but would be on call, Fina said.

Between January 2013 and March 2013, Duckett, at the behest of Miranda, gave some money he received from his state paychecks to Wilson, Fina said.

In April 2013, Miranda wanted Duckett to give Wilson $900 from a paycheck, but at that point, Duckett refused, Fina said.

In exchange for the guilty pleas, the commonwealth will be dropping all other charges, including perjury, against Miranda and his sister at their sentencing hearings, set for March 24 before Judge Edward Wright.

The perjury charge related to both defendants' having allegedly lied to an investigating grand jury in the matter.

Fina said both Miranda and Wilson had denied before the grand jury that Duckett gave money from his state salary to Wilson, and thus "in no way recognized what was going on."

Miranda's attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr. told the judge he will be asking for Miranda to be sentenced to probation. He said prosecutors will not be asking for jail time.

Fina confirmed after the hearing that he will not ask for Miranda to get jail time, but noted that the sentencing guidelines call for jail or probation, and that it would be up to the judge to determine Miranda's sentence.

Both Miranda and Wilson declined comment after the hearing.

Wilson's attorney, Robert Mozenter, said outside the courtroom that while Wilson received money from Duckett, there was "no clear indication" she was aware of any deal between her brother and Duckett.