Pa. Pol’s Vote-Buying Charges Headed To Jury

January 30, 2017

By Dan Packel

A Pennsylvania federal jury is poised to begin deliberating whether a state senator bribed a local Democratic party figure to support his pursuit of a Philadelphia ward leader position, after the judge presiding over the case declined to scrap the indictment on Monday.

An attorney for Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, told U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe that the evidence federal prosecutors put forth against his client did not support a conviction, urging her to step in and decide the case before it went to the jury.


“What we have here is evidence that is equally consistent, in fact, more consistent, with innocence,” Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP attorney Mark Sheppard said after a week of testimony.

Sheppard first pushed the judge to deliver a verdict of acquittal after the government finished its case. She pushed the ruling off until the end of all testimony. On Monday she acknowledged the defense’s concerns about the evidence, but said she would let the jury decide first, while reserving judgment on the defense motion.


Sheppard, representing Farnese, dressed the senator’s efforts on behalf of Chapman as “constituent service,” saying that Chapman had a constitutionally protected right to ask him for help, and he had a right to offer his assistance.

“This was what Senator Farnese does best: helping others,” he said.

And he questioned why Farnese would go to the trouble to offer a bribe to one person, especially as the phone call to Chapman — and the other committee members — came on the first day it was clear the ward leader seat was open.

“If you’re going to bribe someone, you don’t do it on the first day of the candidacy before you know how many votes you need,” he said.


Farnese is represented by Mark B. Sheppard, Arianna G. Goodman and Michael C. Witsch of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP.

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