HARRISBURG – “To Be Continued.”
That would be the title of the Vanessa Lowery Brown story.
The Philadelphia state representative, a Democrat, was charged on Dec. 16, 2014 for accepting bribes from an undercover informant back in 2011.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, also a Democrat, said while announcing the charges that Brown admitted it to a grand jury.
“And fully, I repeat fully, admitted that they knowlingly took illegal cash payments,” Williams said of Brown and co-defendant Ron Waters, a fellow Philadelphia lawmaker who pleaded guilty years ago and has left the legislature.
Brown’s case was initially to be heard in Dauphin County court on April 3, 2015, according to court documents.
The case was canceled, continued or moved seven times in 2015. In 2016, there were seven more scheduled court appearances with no resolution.
In 2017, there were nine continuances including Monday morning when the case was, once again, continued until January, 2018. The case will soon have dragged through parts or all of five calendar years.
What’s the deal with the judgment-day delay?
Brown wasn’t in court Monday but she was in the Capitol. ABC27 caught her heading to a committee meeting.
“Representative how are you, I’m Dennis Owens with ABC27.”
“I know who you are,” Brown responded curtly.
“Can I ask you a couple questions?” I asked.
“I’m not in the mood today. I’m tired. I’m sorry,” Brown said as she walked into a Capitol hearing room.
Brown is still working, and on the first of every month, still gets a paycheck. In fact, thanks to the automatic cost of living adjustment, she got a $700 raise pushing her yearly salary north of $87,000.
A longtime House Democratic staffer wouldn’t go on camera but called her continued presence “an embarrassment.”
Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-New Cumberland, did go on camera.
“Any one person that has a conviction makes us all look bad,” Delozier said. “A lawmaker that does wrong should step aside.”
The Dauphin County DA’s office has the case because many of the alleged crimes took place in Harrisburg with a lobbyist wearing a wire offering legislators cash bribes. The DA blames the defense attorney Patrick A. Casey of Scranton for filing numerous pretrial motions and delays.
Casey did not respond to several requests seeking comment.
“The system has, in my opinion, been dragged out and used to the benefit of certain indivduals involved in the case,” Delozier said. “I think it should be decided. The postponements should end and we should move on.”
Ironically, former Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who decided not to prosecute the bribery case suggesting it was racially motivated, has since been convicted of unrelated charges. Williams, who did bring the case forward and got several plea deals, has also been convicted of unrelated charges and is behind bars.