DAVID GAMBACORTA & WILLIAM BENDER Daily News Staff Writers
[email protected], 215-854-5994
LET’S BE honest: This is going to raise some eyebrows.
Vanessa Lowery Brown, the indicted Democratic state representative scheduled for a preliminary hearing in her bribery case tomorrow, contacted police on Sunday and reported that someone had broken into her West Philadelphia rowhouse and stolen several of her belongings.
Brown’s state-issued laptop was among the items reportedly taken from her home, said Lt. John Walker, of Southwest Detectives.
Brown, 48, apparently noticed that something was amiss when she got home from work on Thursday night.
Her house had been “disrupted,” Walker said, and a ladder was propped against the rear of her house, leading to a second-floor window.
In addition to the laptop, an iPad, a Nook tablet and some old phone records also were missing, she claimed.
Still, Brown didn’t report the alleged break-in to cops until Sunday.
“We get delayed reports once in a while,” Walker said. “She said she got home late [Thursday], then called some of her staffers on Friday morning and had them look at the house.”
Maybe it was just a simple burglary. Then again, Watergate was just a burglary, too.
Brown and fellow Democratic state Rep. Ronald G. Waters are due in a Harrisburg courtroom tomorrow morning for their preliminary hearing on charges that they accepted money from Tyron Ali, an undercover operative posing as a lobbyist.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson, who is prosecuting the duo, said his office has been informed of the alleged burglary.
“Based on her delay in reporting it, and what she was telling them, the police were skeptical,” Gilson said yesterday.
“She waited [three] days to report it, supposedly called her lawyer first before she called police, then she told them one thing in a hallway, then something different on paper.
“Then, when they went to the scene, it was tampered with,” Gilson said. “Those are several things that would make any police officer doubtful about the veracity of the report.”
Walker said some of Brown’s staffers on Friday moved the ladder that the burglar apparently had left behind.
“When they got there, there was no ladder,” Gilson said of police.
Brown’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment on whether the state-issued laptop might have contained any information pertaining to the bribery case.
“Representative Brown was the victim of a crime,” Diamondstein said. “We were hopeful that the District Attorney’s Office and Police Department would have treated her as such.”
Walker noted that information stored on the state-owned computer likely could be retrieved electronically.
Gilson, who is not involved with the burglary investigation, said Brown’s story about the laptop shifted over time, according to conversations he had with police.
“When asked what was on that computer, she went into a lot of details, then when it came time to give a statement, she said it was just emails and contact information,” Gilson said.
Property records show that the allegedly burglarized house, on Fallon Street near Westminster Avenue in West Philadelphia’s Mill Creek section, is owned by Brown’s relatives.
The burglary tale adds another chapter to the bizarre story behind the bribery-related indictments of Brown, Waters and former Traffic Judge Thomasine Tynes.
The investigation into the local pols was launched in 2010 by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett, and later halted by his successor, Kathleen Kane, who cited multiple problems with the probe, including possible racial targeting. Brown is chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.
In what amounted to a political version of a triple-dog-dare, District Attorney Seth Williams took on the case last year, and put it in the hands of a local grand jury.
Williams said last month that both Brown and Waters admitted to the grand jury that they had accepted illegal cash payments from Ali.
Brown allegedly accepted $4,000. In one instance, she was caught on tape asking Ali, “What do you need me to do?” according to the grand jury.