PHILADELPHIA - A former Philadelphia Municipal Court judge received a federal
sentence Thursday of 24 months in prison following his September guilty plea to charges of mail fraud and honest services wire fraud.
Joseph C. Waters, Jr., 61, of Philadelphia, was sentenced to federal prison for using his judicial position to influence the outcome of two cases in the Philadelphia Municipal Court.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez ordered three years of supervised release and ordered Waters to pay a fine of $5,500, and a special assessment of $200. Waters was also disbarred by the state Supreme Court last month over the federal charges.
According to documents filed in the case, on Sept. 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 allegedly called two other Municipal Court judges, assigned to the case on different dates, and asked them to rule in the business owner's favor. A Municipal Court judge identified in the information as Judge #2 ultimately adjudicated the case in favor of the business owner after Waters allegedly told Judge #2 “he’s a friend of mine.”
Judge #2’s ruling in favor of the defendant 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 company.
Waters gave the defendant a secret advantage through a series of secret communications with other Municipal Court judges scheduled to hear the small claims case and used his position to cause favorable rulings for the business owner, according to the court documents.
In a second alleged scheme, Waters used his position as a judge to facilitate a favorable outcome in a criminal firearms case. In that matter, Person #1 allegedly 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, the witness allegedly gave Waters $1,000 in cash. In accepting the money, Waters allegedly said he would help with future problems that the witness or his friends may encounter in the court system.
Between 2010 and 2012, the witness allegedly provided gifts and cash contributions to Waters that were not reported on Waters’ campaign finance reporting forms.
In May 2012, the witness allegedly asked Waters for his assistance with a firearms prosecution pending in the Municipal Court. He introduced Waters to an undercover agent as a business associate.
The witness and the agent allegedly asked Waters to help the agent’s “cousin” who had been arrested for felony possession of a firearm.
On July 23, 2012, Waters called a judge, allegedly alerting him to the preliminary hearing of a “friend” for the firearms charge and asked the judge to “help him.”
At a July 24, 2012 preliminary hearing, the judge, without proper legal basis, reduced the felony firearms charge to a misdemeanor, prosecutors claimed.