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Three lawmakers accused in political corruption sting waive hearings

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Some of the Philadelphia lawmakers allegedly involved in a political corruption sting appeared in a Dauphin County courtroom Wednesday. Five lawmakers are accused of bribery and other offenses, and as of Wednesday all five had waived their right to a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors say they abused voters’ trust just to make some money. Rep. Loiuse Bishop (D-Philadelphia) and former Rep. Harold James (D-Philadelphia) appeared in a Dauphin County courtroom and waived their right to a preliminary hearing. Representative Michelle Brownlee, also a Philadelphia Democrat, already waived hers.

“The people of Pennsylvania expect better and frankly they deserve better from their lawmakers,” said Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson. Prosecutors say all three separately accepted money from a confidential informant in exchange for political favors. The informant wore a wire, which gave prosecutors what they call: undeniable evidence.

“It is a press and play prosecution. You press play, you play the tapes and that evidence speaks for itself,” said Gilson. Chris Montoya, attorney for Harold James, said he will spend the next few weeks going through the evidence, including grand jury testimony where James allegedly admitted to accepting money he knew had strings attached.

“I have to look at it in context. I know there is a lot of stories that he admitted, but I’d like to see, because there is a lot of testimony. there are a lot of tapes,” said Montoya.

The case originally fell into the hands of Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Kane refused to prosecute because she said the investigation was racially motivated and flawed.   Gilson said he couldn’t find any truth to Kane’s claims and questioned why she made that choice. “She has acknowledged the crimes have been committed but for some reason chose not to pursue a prosecution of these persons. The case has been picked up by the Philadelphia DA office and in record time charges have been filed,” said Gilson.

In total, six people have been charged in the sting. Former Philadelphia traffic court Judge Thomasine Tynes plead guilty charges. Whether the five lawmakers accused in the case will strike deals or go to trial is unclear.