A former Philadelphia judge who was caught up in a ticket-fixing scandal, resigned over charges of sexual harassment, and was jailed for lying to the FBI, is now running for Congress as a Democrat with the slogan “A Fresh Start for Pennsylvania.”
Willie Singletary, a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge, has announced his run for the First District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, who is also chairman of Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Singletary, 36, has quite a record to run on. In 2013, he was caught up in a ticket-fixing scandal that prosecutors at the time said benefited only Philly’s rich and powerful and cost the city and state hundreds of thousands in unpaid fines.
The judge was later declared not guilty of the charges, but he was convicted of lying to federal authorities during the investigation. He served 20 months in prison for the conviction, ending his sentence in 2016.
The scandal led voters to abolish the city’s traffic court in a 2016 ballot measure that moved traffic violations into the Municipal Court.
Singletary was also embroiled in controversy after a city cashier accused him of sending her cell phone photographs of his genitals. An investigation revealed salacious details of the judge’s actions during night court in 2012.
The judge was placed on suspension during the investigation and eventually resigned his position over the scandal.
For his part, Singletary admits he has “made mistakes” but insists that he would make a fine congressman.
“Even though I made some mistakes, I’m not a mistake,” Singletary said in a video announcing his candidacy for Congress. “And just like many in our community, we all could use a fresh start.”
“Yes, I’ve made some mistakes, some of which I am not proud of,” Singletary added in the video. “And for those who are affected by my mistakes, [I] truly, truly apologize to you today”:
Pennsylvania state law does not prevent convicts from running for public office.
Singletary’s lawyer reminds potential voters that his client was not convicted on the corruption charges filed against him.
“He was found not guilty of every single corruption charge. Marion Barry was the mayor of D.C. He was on film smoking a crack pipe, and he was elected mayor. So I think voters are forgiving people,” attorney William J. Brennan said.
Still, the candidate also noted that he has apologized for his past misconduct.
“My gift took me to a place where my character couldn’t keep me,” Singletary said. “I made some decisions that were not so good. I also made some mistakes. I’ve apologized for that. I don’t want to be stuck in my past, and neither should my past hinder me from my future.”
Current Rep. Robert Brady had no comment about the challenge.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.