Joseph C. Waters, Jr., 61, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty today to using his judicial
position to influence the outcome of two cases in the Philadelphia Municipal Court, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Waters, a former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge, pleaded guilty to an information charging mail fraud and honest services wire fraud.
According to documents filed in the case, on September 30, 2011, Waters was asked by a politically active business owner to use his judicial office to achieve a favorable outcome in a small claims case filed in Philadelphia Municipal Court against his real estate management company.
To that end, Waters called two other Municipal Court judges, assigned to the case on different dates, and asked them to rule in favor. A Municipal Court Judge currently identified as Judge #2 ultimately adjudicated the case in favor of the business owner after Waters told Judge #2 “he’s a friend of mine.” T
he information charges that Judge #2’s ruling in favor of the company prevented the plaintiff in the small claims case, Company B, from collecting $2,733 in unpaid fees owed to it for security services it delivered to the defendant's company.
Waters admitted that he gave the defendant a secret advantage through a series of secret ex parte communications with other Municipal Court judges scheduled to hear the small claims case and used his position to cause favorable rulings.
The information outlined a second scheme in which Waters used his position as a judge to facilitate a favorable outcome in a criminal firearms case. According to the information, Person #1 urged a witness cooperating with the government, “CW#1,” to contribute money to help pay down debts Waters had incurred while campaigning for a position on the Municipal Court.
In January 2010, CW#1, gave Waters $1,000 in cash. The information charged that, in accepting the money, Waters told CW#1 that he would help CW#1 with future problems that he or his friends may encounter in the court system. The information further alleged that between 2010 and 2012, CW#1 provided gifts and cash contributions to Waters that were not reported on Waters’ campaign finance reporting forms.
In May 2012, CW#1 asked Waters for his assistance with a firearms prosecution pending in the Municipal Court. CW#1 introduced Waters to an undercover agent (“UC#1”) as a business associate. CW#1 and UC#1 asked Waters to help UC #1’s “cousin” who had been arrested for felony possession of a firearm.
On July 23, 2012, Waters called Judge #1 alerting Judge #1 to the preliminary hearing of a “friend” for the firearms charge and asked Judge #1 to “help him.” According to the information, at a July 24, 2012 preliminary hearing, Judge #1, without proper legal basis, reduced the felony firearms charge to a misdemeanor.
U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 22, 2015. Waters faces a maximum statutory sentence of 40 years in prison, a fine of up to $500,000 and up to three years of supervised release.
Waters resigned from the bench Tuesday evening with no official reason given at the time for the abrupt decision. Multiple media reports said federal charges were expected to be filed against Waters on counts of fraud and wire fraud.
Governor Ed Rendell appointed Waters, a retired marine, to the municipal court in 2009, following two decades as a Philadelphia police officer, including time as a captain.
Waters ran for the Democratic nomination in the 2013 Superior Court election and lost to Jack McVay, Jr., an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge, with 55.46 to 44.54 percent defeat.