PHILADELPHIA – Joseph O’Neill, 65, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to making false statements to the FBI during an investigation of potential wrongdoing in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. O’Neill is a judge on the Philadelphia Municipal Court. U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez scheduled a sentencing hearing for September 7, 2016.
O’Neill received a phone call from then-Municipal Court Judge Joseph Waters about a civil small claims case that was scheduled for a hearing before O’Neill. In an ex parte conversation, Waters told O’Neill that the defendant in the small claims case was a friend and asked O’Neill to “take a hard look at it.” When the FBI later interviewed O’Neill about the ex parte conversation, O’Neill denied having been contacted by anyone in advance of the hearing on the small claims case to ask for a favor. In a follow-up interview, O’Neill denied that anyone had contacted him in advance of the hearing and told him the defendant in the small claims case was a friend of the caller. Waters pleaded guilty in September of 2014, to mail fraud and wire services fraud in connection with the corruption scheme.
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.