• Feds to Appeal Bail for Indicted Cops

    Attorney Michael Diamondstein, who represents Speiser, said in court yesterday that Speiser wasn’t accused of personally committing any acts of violence in the 42-page indictment that dropped last week.

  • With gambling’s rise, the story of downfall

    Blackjack or slots at Harrah’s Philadelphia, sports betting, scratch-off lottery tickets – he played them all.

    To pay for his gambling binges, Bryan, 45, traded copper for cash. He did not peddle the innards of old buildings, but new, shiny coils of wire.

  • Ex-Collingdale official headed to trial in forgery case

    James Bryan can take his children to school three days a week and attend Gambler’s Anonymous meetings as he awaits his trial in the theft of more than $2.9 million for Wescott Electric Co., but he can’t go to Harrah’s Philadelphia Racetrack and Casino in Chester.

  • Philadelphia Narcotics Officers Acquitted in Federal Corruption Trial

    Justice was served on May 14, when members of a Philadelphia jury acquitted six police officers of 47 federal corruption charges. Defense attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, who served as defense counsel for former Officer John Speiser, was among the many to praise the jury’s decision and speak against those who were quick to judge and condemn his client and fellow officers.

  • Pennsylvania mulling changes to asset forfeiture program

    The Pennsylvania General Assembly has proposed an overhaul to the state’s civil asset forfeiture program. Beginning in the 1980s, the federal government stepped up its “war on drugs,” enacting several measures to stem the flow of illegal drugs across the nation. During this time, law enforcement agencies were given extraordinary powers with the hopes that they would give officers the tools to control this problem. One of such powers was civil asset forfeiture-the ability to seize assets owned by those involved in various crimes. Pennsylvania enacted its own civil asset forfeiture laws in 1988. Although law enforcement officials maintain that such laws are necessary to strip those accused of involvement in drug crimes and other criminal offenses of resources used to commit these crimes, critics say it can be abused and is a violation of the constitutional right to due process. One judge in Pennsylvania has even gone so far to call it “state-sanctioned theft.” However, the rules regarding asset forfeiture may soon change, as two bills are pending in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would modify when the state may seize property and how it may be used. An overview of Pennsylvania‘s forfeiture laws Pennsylvania’s civil asset forfeiture laws, among the most aggressive in the nation, allow the state to seize property of those accused of certain crimes (or even those that are never charged) that it alleges was used in furtherance of the crime (e.g. car used to transport drugs), or was the proceeds of the crime (e.g. house bought with proceeds of drug sale or the cash itself). Although asset forfeiture is often used against those accused of drug crimes, Pennsylvania law allows its use in several other offenses such as counterfeiting, various sex offenses and gambling. Once the property has been seized, the owner has a difficult task of getting the assets returned, even if he or she is not convicted or never charged with a crime. Under the law, prosecutors only have to show, by a “preponderance of the evidence” (not the higher reasonable doubt standard used in criminal trials) that the confiscated property is connected with the crime. Once this has been done, the burden of proof shifts to the owner to prove that the property was not involved (or is a product of) the crime in order for it to be returned. Forfeiture is a civil proceeding, so constitutional due process protections and rights to a court-appointed attorney do not apply as they do in criminal court. Since many do not have the financial abilities to pursue getting their property returned (or the value of property seized is not worth the effort), most of the time, the property ends up “forfeited” to the state. Once forfeited, the state may sell the property and distribute the proceeds among prosecutors and law enforcement to pay salaries and other expenses, which many say creates a conflict of interest, as it allows them to profit from it. Philadelphia is home to some of the most aggressive seizure […]