A Philadelphia man who is serving out time in county prison for driving without a license and other traffic infractions is challenging his detention in federal court.
Philadelphia attorney Anthony Crane submitted the petition for writ of habeas corpus at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Sept. 2 on behalf of 30-year-old Glendell Young, who serving a 180-day sentence in county prison.
According to the petition, Young was convicted in late October 2009 of violating Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code as a fifth offense.
His conviction and subsequent sentencing by Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Robert Mulgrew occurred after the police officer in the case never appeared as a witness during Young’s trial, which is allowable under state law.
The petition challenges Young’s conviction on the basis that he had no opportunity to confront the witnessing officer in the case.
Through the petition, Young claims that his due process rights have been violated, specifically his rights under the Sixth Amendment to confront the witnesses against him as applied to the states through the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The petition also alleges that Young has been deprived of his Sixth Amendment Right to Compulsory Process “as Philadelphia Traffic Court has no Subpoena Power and the defendant should be able to subpoena witnesses in his defense, including the Police Officer/Affiant.”
The petition demands that Young be immediately released from custody and that the charges against him be wiped away.
According to a memorandum of factual circumstances that was attached to the petition, Young was cited in November 2008 by a Philadelphia police officer for driving without a license and other minor traffic offenses.
When he came before the traffic court judge, a liaison officer from the Philadelphia Police Department read a document highlighting various traffic violations committed by Young.
The actual officer who wrote the citation that led to the trial, however, did not personally appear in court, and therefore Young was never given the opportunity to confront and cross-examine his accuser.
Young appealed the traffic court sentence to Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, the memorandum states, but he never showed up for an appeal hearing, and therefore the sentence was carried out.
Young was not actually taken into custody until June of this year. He remains in jail.
“The right to confront the witnesses against you in a criminal prosecution is a fundamental right,” the petition states.
The case is Glendell Young v. Louis Giorla. The latter is the commissioner of Philadelphia’s Prison System.
The case number is 2:11-cv-05530-SD.