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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Former Municipal Court Judge Sentenced In Fraud Case

Judge Influenced The Outcome Of Two Municipal Court Cases

PHILADELPHIA – Joseph C. Waters, Jr., 61, of Philadelphia, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for using his judicial position to influence the outcome of two cases in the Philadelphia Municipal Court.  Waters, a former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge, pleaded guilty on September 14, 2014 to mail fraud and honest services wire fraud.  In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez ordered 3 years of supervised release and ordered Waters to pay a fine of $5500, and a special assessment of $200.


According to documents filed in the case, on September 30, 2011, Waters was asked by Person #1 – 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 Person #1’s 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 Person #1’s favor.  A Municipal Court Judge identified in the information as Judge #2 ultimately adjudicated the case in favor of Person #1 after Waters told Judge #2 “he’s a friend of mine.”  Judge #2’s ruling in favor of Person #1’s company prevented the plaintiff in the small claims case, Company B, from collecting $2733 in unpaid fees owed to it for security services it delivered to Person #1’s company.


Waters gave Person #1 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 for Person #1.


In a second scheme, Waters used his position as a judge to facilitate a favorable outcome in a criminal firearms case.  In that matter, 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.  In accepting the money, Waters told CW#1 that he would help CW#1 with future problems that CW#1 or CW#1’s friends may encounter in the court system.  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.”  At a July 24, 2012 preliminary hearing, Judge #1, without proper legal basis, reduced the felony firearms charge to a misdemeanor.


The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Chief of the Public Corruption Unit Richard P. Barrett and Assistant United States Attorney Michelle L. Morgan.

Updated January 22, 2015