And other true stories from
the case files of a town gone bad
'Bubba' takes the fall
Missing county sofa found in DA's basement
Chief Becky Downing hoped Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett
would help fight the courthouse corruption she'd uncovered
But Corbett had his own 'sofas' to hide
by Bill Keisling
In a town gone bad everybody has their place.
As a woman, Becky Downing didn't know her place in the old boy's courthouse. Her place was to go along, and shut up.
Becky Downing was hired as Chief of Detectives of York County, Pennsylvania, in 2001.
In her four years as chief detective, Downing says she uncovered a "culture" of illegalities and improprieties in the Republican-controlled courthouse.
Her boss, Republican District Attorney Stanley Rebert, fired her in late 2004.
In early 2005, Chief Downing filed a federal civil wrongful termination lawsuit against DA Rebert.
Downing's lawyers, over the next year, took the sworn testimony of more than two dozen law enforcement officials, courthouse personnel, and others. (Their depositions are reproduced as pdf downloads below.)
In July 2006, Downing's attorneys gave upwards of a thousand pages of the federal court records to two criminal investigators working for Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett.
Becky Downing hoped AG Tom Corbett would help stamp out the blatant courthouse corruption.
But Corbett had his own reasons not to help.
DA Stan Rebert, meanwhile, in 2006, settled the wrongful termination lawsuit.
Rebert agreed to pay Downing up to $200,000 in public money, and other conditions.
In return for the settlement, former Chief Downing accepted a non-disclosure agreement, forbidding her to talk about the case. At least, thankfully, they convinced her to shut up.
Downing deposition downloads:
All docs are in PDF format. Right click on link to download pdf to your hard drive
The court documents associated with Downing case were then secreted away to a federal court document depository in Philadelphia, PA.
We wondered what Chief Becky Downing found in the York County, Pennsylvania, courthouse. And what did Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett choose to ignore?
Just the facts, ma'am.
'Bubba' takes the fall:
Missing county sofa found
in DA's basement
What happens, in a town gone bad, when you take an idealistic young female police officer and place her in charge of a detective's bureau in a corrupt old boy's courthouse?
Becky Downing was about to find out. So were the old boys.
Soon after District Attorney Stanley Rebert hired Downing as his new chief detective in January 2001, Chief Downing was given reason to suspect she'd replaced a thief.
Soon she would be investigating and prosecuting her immediate predecessor, former Chief County Detective Kenneth "Bubba" Ingle.
There came the day, Chief Downing recounts, when "I received a phone call from a gentleman whose gun (Chief Ingle) stole. And I first affirmed that this, in fact, gun should have been in police property. I verified that it was signed for and taken as property by W. Kenneth Ingle, who was my predecessor, who represented the York County District Attorney's Detective Bureau. I confirmed that the gun was, in fact, missing.
"I went to (DA) Rebert on that afternoon and explained to him that this happened, and he said, 'Can we not do anything about this? This would be an embarrassment to my office,'" Downing recounts.
"We had a lengthy discussion that afternoon, where it was evident to me by his statements that (DA Rebert) didn't want to do anything about this and it was 'only one gun,' et cetera. And he continued to affirm it would embarrass him and the fact that he was going to run for reelection.
"I did everything I could to convince him that it, in fact, would be a feather in his cap politically; that he was showing that he was not running the illegal things under the carpet...
"I also said, 'If he stole from you once, he probably stole from you for 11 years, so let's, please, do a complete investigation on this.'"
Rebert "wanted me not to mention it happened," Downing says. "He wanted it under the rug. He wanted the man's gun returned, and 'can't we forget it?' ... I changed his mind, yes, trying to get him to do the right thing, and he did."
It would turn out that DA Rebert had reasons of his own for not wanting Chief Downing to look too closely into Bubba Ingle.
District Attorney Stan Rebert had forced Chief Ingle into retirement a few months before, in October 2000. DA Rebert says this had happened after he was told by his office administrator "that Mr. Ingle had been padding his overtime ... and I confronted him with it and he apologized and resigned."
Some of Chief Ingle's transgressions, it would turn out, included "putting in overtime ... for supposedly a legitimate law enforcement event for the county while he was actually ferrying Mr. Rebert's family members to the airport."
Bubba Ingle was quietly let go. DA Rebert sent around a letter to all the chiefs of police in York County saying that Bubba Ingle "has left the District Attorney's Office for personal reasons.... I do intend to fill this position." The DA wrote the chiefs that he was "soliciting letters of interest." Becky Downing applied, and was hired as Ingle's replacement.
Now Chief Downing was in Stan's face to look into what all Bubba may have taken.
DA Rebert reluctantly agreed. To supposedly avoid a conflict, the case was turned over to the state police and the Republican-controlled state attorney general's office.
Even so, Downing realized, District Attorney Stan Rebert for unexplained reasons continued not to want the matter completely investigated.
Soon the state police got a warrant and searched former Chief Bubba Ingle's house. Downing recounts, they "searched his house and came back with seven stolen handguns." It turned out that Bubba Ingle had over the years helped himself to lots of county property.
"It was approximately $20,000 worth of boxes of notebooks, boxes of evidence booties, cameras, VCRs, two laptop computers, (an) underwater camera, a telephone that was issued by the U.S. Marshall's office for discreet communications," Downing says. The state police estimated the value of the stolen property at $20,000. I asked (DA Rebert) that we bring additional charges for this, and he told me no. He said to me, 'Haven't you done enough?'"
"Mr. Rebert ... told (me and the AG's office) to stop. 'We don't want to go there,'" Downing recalls Rebert telling them.
Even though the matter now was supposedly in the hands of the state attorney general, DA Rebert was still calling the shots.
"And did they stop?" Downing was asked.
Former Chief Ingle would only be prosecuted for several of the stolen guns. Bubba wouldn't have to pay his debt to society for the rest of the $20,000 in stolen county property.
Soon it dawned on Chief Downing that DA Rebert wanted the matter dropped for personal reasons. Downing learned that DA Rebert kept a gun in his office desk drawer. Bubba Ingle had taken the gun from the DA's evidence room and had given it to DA Rebert.
DA Rebert commandeered other property that should have been in the evidence lockup, or destroyed. Rebert kept a confiscated slot machine at his house, and another slot machine in his office. Rebert once had one of his detectives drive a broken slot machine to a repair shop.
"We had to take it to a place off of King Street," Detective Anthony Glowczewski says. "Something was wrong with it." DA Rebert, Glowczewski says, told "me to take it to a certain address. In fact, the boss went with me."
"So Stanley Rebert has this one-armed bandit or slot machine in his office and it needs to be repaired? Is that right?" the detective is asked.
"Right," says Det. Glowczewski.
"I later learned from detectives who were on the scene of two raids," Downing says, "one a bingo raid and one a Liquor Control Agency raid, where they informed me that these items had been taken." The machine in the DA's house, Downing says, "was a slot machine or a video machine ... some confiscated entertainment machine. He also had a slot machine in his office that was taken also before I became the chief."
"I complained to Mr. Rebert on many occasions that those slot machines ... that they should be destroyed. I complained to him many, many times.... I was trying to protect him."
A lot of people were helping themselves to public property in the York County DA's office.
DA Rebert, Downing says, "asked me several times when we made forfeitures of evidence to provide him some for his personal use, but I refused on all those occasions."
As the trial date loomed for former Chief Ingle, DA Rebert found himself in a legal and moral dilemma.
Bubba in his time had done some favors for DA Rebert. Ingle had helped transport certain county property to DA Rebert's house.
And now Bubba Ingle was going down for theft.
District Attorney Rebert feared that an ungrateful Bubba Ingle would drop some dimes on him.
Rebert asked two of the county detectives to do him a favor and bring a slot machine back to the office from his house. While they were at it, he asked them to a carry a tv set in to his house from his car.
"On the same date when Mr. Rebert directed Detectives James and Millsaps to take his personal TV from the back of his vehicle to his personal home, it is my understanding that he directed them to bring (the) slot machine that was in his home back to the DA's office," Downing recounts.
On the morning of Bubba's trial, Rebert found himself worrying about the sofa.
He brought the matter up about what to do about the sofa in front of the state attorney general's own prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Eric Augustine. Augustine had been brought in to prosecute Bubba for the theft of county property.
"...It was on the day that Mr. Ingle's trial was to begin," in March 2003, Chief Downing recounts. "I was in my office going over some reports with some detectives and Eric Augustine from the Attorney General's office ... when Mr. Rebert came into my office and asked that I dispatch county detectives to his house to pick up a county couch. He wanted this done because he was afraid that Ken Ingle would reveal during trial testimony that they took this couch to Mr. Rebert's house."
Now a state deputy attorney general was a party to discussions about retrieving a stolen couch from the DA's house.
Bubba Ingle, it turns out, wasn't the only crook in the courthouse.
But Bubba would take the fall. He would be the only one prosecuted.
County Detective Anthony Glowczewski remembers it like this:
Q: Do you remember being in a group or gathering where Stan Rebert came in and asked that a county couch be removed from his basement?
Detective Glowczewski: Yes.
Q: Let me ask you who was present, by the way, for this, first of all?
Detective Glowczewski: There was the little guy from the AG's office.
Q: Eric Augustine?
Detective Glowczewski: (Deputy AG) Eric Augustine, (Detectives) Jeff Martz, Doug Demangone, myself and these were people that were there. They were coming in.
Q: Downing was there too?
Detective Glowczewski: Yes. She was sitting at her desk.
Q: Was that right before the commencement of the (Ingle theft) trial?
Detective Glowczewski: Yes.
Q: Were you discussing strategy for the trial?
Detective Glowczewski: Yes.
DA Rebert, for his part, explains that he was actually doing the county a favor by keeping the couch at his home.
"Well, when Mr. Ingle was being prosecuted for having county property," Rebert says, "it crossed my mind that I had a couch that had been purchased when I physically moved my office, my private office to the courthouse. I bought a couch with county money and had it in my office.... Then when we relocated ... I took the couch home because there was no place for it in my office anymore...."
DA Rebert was helping the county avoid storage expenses.
"Well," Rebert goes on, "it came to mind that if I'm prosecuting my detective for having county property, I better take the county property that I have back to the courthouse, or whatever."
Later Downing would learn that former Chief Detective Bubba Ingle every year received a car load of stuffed animals from a York Fair proprietor in return for the county detectives policing the fair.
Ingle also improperly billed the county for liquor, and meals.
("I looked at his receipts and I remember walking into (Chief Ingle), I said, 'There is no way in God's life you had five steak dinners at the MAGLOCLEN conference," Assistant District Attorney Bill Graff recounts. "You just scammed me out of the money, so I want the money back.")
Det. Glowczewski says that Chief Ingle "would take the boss (DA Rebert) from poll to poll" on Election Day.
Electioneering in the courthouse
A town gone bad runs on favors.
Sometimes these favors include helping your boss get reelected.
Chief Becky Downing recounts, "Early on in Mr. Rebert's quest for reelection for the year 2001, I was walking back the hall one day and I was stopped abruptly by the sheriff, Bill Hose, who was very upset because he had just seen in Mr. Rebert's office that there was a unified group of people. I believe he called it an 'assembly line,' assembling campaign signs for (DA) Rebert.
"(Sheriff Hose) was very upset. He said that's highly improper. 'You better,' he said to me, 'you better get your boss to stop it.'"
Downing continues, "So I went into the office and it was (secretary) Randy Rizzuto and (DA deputy office administrator) Susan Voyzey and Stan Rebert. It wasn't an assembly line. They were folding them. For some reason I think there was someone else there too. But I explained to Stan that Bill Hose had just come in and filed a complaint. We had to get them out of there.
"(DA Rebert's) response was-- He indicated to me that he didn't care about Bill Hose. I said, 'Look, the guy is not happy. It shouldn't be here. Let's get them out of here.' And I left at that point.... I went to my own office and had a phone conversation with my husband.... I said to him what had happened. He said, 'Man, that is highly improper. You've got to tell Stan to get them out of there.'
"I went back over and assembled the signs. My husband came in in his own vehicle and we got the signs out of the DA's office...."
Downing goes on, "One time we had the deputy sheriff come over and unlock the back door so that we could take (the campaign signs) out the back door and unto the back plaza and into my husband's personal vehicle. And one time we actually put them out the window of Stan Rebert's office to get them out.
"At that time I thought it was illegal to do campaign things inside a courthouse. I mean, I had thought through my previous knowledge that you couldn't do anything like that in a courthouse. You couldn't campaign, you couldn't circulate petitions, or anything. I was trying to protect the boss at that point in time. And we got them out of there."
Once, Downing says, DA Rebert asked her to pick up a campaign petition from a supporter. "I picked it up, and then I told (DA Rebert) that it was improper and I believed illegal."
Campaigning on the public dime among members of the DA's staff seemed pervasive, Downing told the federal court. After she expressed displeasure with picking up a petition for DA Rebert, Downing recollects, Assistant District Attorney Tom Kelley asked her to circulate a campaign petition for Rebert.
"I also explained to Mr. Kelley about the law, and he too claimed that he didn't know that," Downing says. Today, in 2008, Tom Kelley is a York County Common Pleas Court judge.
Downing continues, "Randy Rizzuto, Mr. Rebert's secretary, would handle invitations, circulation, addressing envelopes, stuffing envelopes, et cetera. Now, while (this) was done at their house on occasions, Randy Rizzuto also did it from the office. At one time she was showing me initiations (for a campaign event) that I believe a woman and her brother were having at the Country Club of York. That was on duty. That was ... political."
"I don't know where the invitations came from," Downing continues, "but Randy was stuffing invitations into an envelope in her office for a woman and her--. It might have been her son, I don't know. They were members of the country club and put on a benefit for (DA Rebert) for his reelection campaign."
Another time, Downing testifies, "I was directed by Mr. Rebert to go to the Country Club of York. There had been a large campaign sign left there by him, and they were complaining that they wanted it removed.... It was after one of the political parties (DA Rebert) had at the country club."
DA Rebert was asked, "Did you ask Ms. Downing ... to pick up an election petition for you?"
"Not that I recall," Rebert answers.
"Did she complain to you about the assemblage of campaign posters of signs in your office?"
"I don't recall that specifically," Rebert says. "But she very well may have."
In 2000, Bev Mackereth, former mayor of Spring Grove, PA, and a former county employee, ran successfully for a vacant state representative's seat. Mackereth's campaign treasurer was DA Rebert's deputy office administrator Susan Voyzey.
"Bev Mackereth was having a promotional golf tournament," Downing says, "and Susan Voyzey was at work that day, but she spent most of her day there. And I asked her if she was on vacation and she said no, she was working Bev's golf tournament. I told Mr. Rebert about that."
DA Rebert, she says, "did not answer."
This occurred during Mackereth's "first year's gold tournament because Susan Voyzey, and employee of the DA office, was her treasurer."
Republican Rep. Mackereth announced her retirement from the state General Assembly in early July 2008, a few days before AG Tom Corbett unveiled his prosecutions of past and present Democrat state reps accused of campaigning with public employees.
In 2005, DA Rebert's Chief Deputy Prosecutor Chuck Patterson unsuccessfully ran for county judge. Voyzey was for a time Patterson's campaign treasurer.
Trouble involving DA Rebert's office administrator Susan Voyzey did not end with the political campaigns of Rep. Mackereth, Patterson, or DA Rebert.
"(T)here were several employees that came in late habitually," Downing told the federal court, "and other employees would see this and nothing would happen to them. So it was really causing difficulty, ripping the office apart."
DA deputy office administrator Voyzey, Downing's federal deposition reads, "would come to work anywhere from 10 o'clock to -- 8:30 to 10 o'clock when she was due there at 8 o'clock. This continued for a long amount of time. There were a lot of rumors about this employee, about drug addiction. I don't know if they were true or not, but I did know that she was coming to work late. This was confirmed by (DA Office Administrator) Paul Crouse."
In his federal court deposition, DA Office Administrator Crouse picks up the story. Crouse was asked, "Do you recall a period of time in 2004 where Miss Voyzey was routinely late for work?"
"Yes," Crouse replies. "...I believe she went out on medical leave Good Friday of 2005. It would have been about--. Off and on for about a year prior to that there were--. I had issues with her time and attendance. I think I have that day right."
Crouse continues, "I confronted Susan in Stanley's office, and Stan's secretary Randy was there as my witness. I confronted her with a number of observations that I had and observations that had been expressed to me by other individuals about her behavior, her appearance, her attitude, and possible explanations that came to mind as to what could be causing those things. Ultimately, I focused on substance abuse....
"She repeatedly denied any illegal substance abuse," Crouse continues. "I told her that I needed to know that that wasn't true, and the only way I knew how to do that was to compel her to submit to drug testing, and I was going to require her to do it immediately. I think immediately before that discussion or maybe during a break during that discussion I talked to Becky (Downing) and told her, 'I'm going to need transportation. I can't have her drive herself.'
"...(I) asked (Chief Downing) to secure transportation with one of the detectives with a vehicle, which she assured me she would do," Crouse testifies. "Anyway ... the interview went on between me and Susan, and she was denying substance abuse, and all but refusing to submit to a test. And I finally had to draw the line with her and explain to her that 'you have no choice. Your choice is right now tell me you're going to take the test or right now I'm terminating you.' At which point she acknowledged that she couldn't take the test because she wasn't sure it would be negative. She acknowledged to me, admitted to me that she had used cocaine, I think it was a day or do or two days before that. She insisted it was one time, it was only one time that she had ever done it.
"At that point," Crouse recalls, "having previously discussed the issue with (Human Resources Director) Sharon Luker, (I) made the determination, (that) we have an admission.... And then I asked her whether she would cooperate with counseling. She acknowledged that she would. She didn't think there was any reason to do that, any need to do that because this was the one and only time she had ever used any illegal drug, but that she would do whatever was required of her.
"In my mind the focus then shifted to a personnel issue," Crouse testifies. "It was no longer a matter of termination. It was a substance abuse issue, and (I) erroneously made the judgment that I no longer needed to do the drug test because I had an admission." Crouse says he "spent probably another hour with Susan Voyzey and set up the counseling contacts with her."
No immediate drug test of Voyzey was ordered.
"A day or so later," Crouse recalls, "...I spoke to -- I think it was a physician from WorkFirst who handles these types of issues, any type of employee health issue for us. That we should have still sent her out to have the test done, to, basically, I think he referred to it as establishing a baseline. And I told Susan, okay, we need to go take the blood test. She agreed to -- I think it was a blood test, or a urine test, I don't know which. She agreed she would do that. That was at least a day or two later that was done."
By that time, Crouse says, "the results of that test came back negative."
At his deposition, York County drug task force prosecutor Bill Graff was asked, "Were you aware through your functions with the drug task force of a situation or a time when Ms.Voyzey's business card was located during a drug raid?
"Yeah," Graff replies, "and I can't think what drug raid it was. But I remember her business -- I remember one of the cops commenting that her card had been found."
But these would not be the only ongoing problems with Susan Voyzey in the DA's office.
"That same employee," Downing testifies, "Susan Voyzey, it had come to my knowledge that she had displayed ... a badge from the district attorney's office in an attempt to identify herself and get out of charges that her boyfriend ... was facing. I asked that she be disciplined for that. I asked that the badge be retrieved from her because she had misused it. He (DA Stan Rebert) refused to do it."
"That same employee, Susan Voyzey, had called West Manchester Township requesting a police report on another incident, a road rage incident of her same boyfriend ... and identified herself as an assistant district attorney."
In order for a town gone bad to function smoothly, as I say, everyone must know their place.
Becky Downing goes on to testify that York attorney Tom Keaney "contacted our office" complaining that "part of the focal crime scene photos" of a child's grisly murder, known as the Witman case, "had been taken out of the DA's office and shown at a party.... The person that removed the photos and took them to this home was (deputy office administrator) Susan Voyzey."
Downing says she was attempting to "Bring some accountability to the agency that it so suffered without for so long." So Chief Downing found herself pushing, once again, for a theft investigation involving one of DA Rebert's staff.
The accusation was that Voyzey "took (the photos) out for her personal use, i.e., to shock and show the individuals at this party of this information that she had."
When confronted, deputy office administrator Susan Voyzey, Downing relates, "denied ever taking the photos from the office. In fact, (she) admitted it would be wrong and she'd never do it. And because they were so graphic and because the victim was such a little child, that's not something she would ever have done."
Told of the complaint, DA Rebert said, "'this was just Tom Kearney making things up because he wanted to be DA,'" Downing relates. Kearney obviously did not know his place.
Nevertheless, DA Rebert initially approved an investigation of the alleged theft of the child's crime scene photos.
"(W)e had a meeting in the office of Stan Rebert and it was agreed that we would go out and talk to the individuals and determine if it seemed valid," Downing testified.
"The individuals that we were talking about were the people that had this gathering. I would call it a gathering rather than a party, whereby, they allege(d) that Susan Voyzey brought Witman crime scene photos to their house and displayed them on a counter. The couples' name who owned the house was Rita and Michael Wynegar."
DA Rebert explained that he had past dealings in other cases with the Wynegars. The Wynegars, Rebert intimated, were not the type of people a York County judge or district attorney would ever consider paying much attention to, except to hand out a stiff sentence.
"Mr. Rebert referred to the Wynegars as 'white trash,'" Downing relates.
'Mr. Rebert referred to them as white trash'
"...We were directed, we being Lieutenant (Anthony) Glowczewski and I, to go interview Mr. and Mrs. Wynegar and see what we thought," Downing continues. "We did that. We made an appointment and we visited with them at their home. We spoke to them individually and together, and received information from them about Susan Voyzey and these photos. We found them credible."
The Wynegars even volunteered to take polygraph tests "at their own expense to bolster their statements in the case," Downing says.
"By that time," Downing continues, "the district attorney did allow us to move forward in this investigation. At that point in time I had contacted an individual from out of town to come in and be available to do polygraphs for two civilians. I did not tell them who. ...I told him I would get back to him, and before I could get back to him I was notified by Mr. Rebert, both in person and later in a memo, stopping the investigation because it was 'an insult to Susan Voyzey and to himself.'"
DA Rebert, for his part, explains that he closed the investigation of Voyzey's alleged theft of crime scene evidence, "Because I thought it was ludicrous.... This was all being generated by Tom Kearney who I thought was not a legitimate source of information, as well as I thought that the (Wynegars) were not legitimate sources of information."
While this seems at first like a small, offhand statement, it cuts to the heart of things. These troublemakers just did not know their place.
In a town gone bad, the thinking goes like this: Unless you are one of our buddies, or a contributor to us, or you go to our club, you are "not legitimate," and you are not considered worthy or eligible for the protection of the law. You are instead eligible for denigration and ridicule.
It's how a town gone bad is held together. Friends and party allies are naturally protected, while whistleblowers luckily have nowhere to go with their concerns, and often find themselves persecuted, or the target of retaliation.
Former Chief Becky Downing would go on to complain in her deposition that Susan Voyzey on at least one occasion sat on DA Rebert's lap at a Christmas party.
"Did Miss Voyzey ever sit on your lap at Christmas parties?" DA Rebert was asked during his federal court deposition.
"Oh yes," replies DA Rebert. Rebert is now wheelchair bound, suffering from MS.
"How did that come about?" the DA was asked.
"She walked over to me and sat on my lap."
"Okay. Did you allow that?" Rebert was asked.
"I wasn't going to push her away," Rebert replies.
"Did you ever see her?" DA Rebert explains.
"...I mean, you know," the DA goes on, "she wanted to sit on my lap and I let her sit on my lap. I do that to any ... willing female. I'm not sure I'd do that to--. I'm kind of homophobic, so I'm not sure I'd do it with you," District Attorney Rebert tells Downing's lawyer.
DA Rebert would say that deputy office administrator Voyzey eventually was terminated. Why was she terminated? Rebert was asked.
"I believe she was terminated because she just wasn't doing her job," Rebert replies. "...She went into counseling. I don't know if it was at that point ... she was dismissed. It was during the time of the drug allegations she, I believe, went into counseling and was tested, and so forth. But I'm not sure how that relates in time to her ultimate dismissal."
The stinking badges
In a town gone bad, in the literal lap of corrupt law enforcement, those close to DA Rebert and AG Corbett find themselves eligible for all sorts of badges of privilege, figurative and real.
Take the badges. The issue of the distribution of York County DA's office badges as "favors" for "friends" continually crops up in the Downing depositions. At one point Downing complains that DA Rebert's wife wanted a DA's office badge issued to her dentist.
Dick Parks, a deceased DA's office hanger-on who was connected to a York courthouse prostitution ring in the late 1990s, was said to frequently flash a York County DA's office badge.
In the Downing transcripts, DA Rebert even testifies that a "friend," "political supporter," and York County businessman in "the disposal business" was given a DA's office badge.
"What did you expect he was going to do with that badge?" Rebert was asked.
"Well, I was hoping he wouldn't do anything in terms of trying to get out of tickets," DA Rebert testified. "What he did do was, he pulled the badge out when he was stopped over in Lancaster County, I think. Then I asked him to give it back. I'm not sure I ever did get it back."
Downing testified that the same businessman "got stopped by (York) city police and they took his badge from him."
In a town gone bad, all sorts of bad offenses naturally must be protected.
In the pages of the Downing court documents we take a strange trip through the looking glass, and all sorts of intolerable things suddenly are tolerated, thanks to AG Tom Corbett.
Consider the uninvestigated federal court testimony of York County Detective Jeffrey Martz.
Det. Martz is asked about an office occurrence involving county Detective Matthew Millsap.
Elsewhere in the court documents Det. Millsap is described as having a slovenly and unprofessional appearance.
Becky Downing explains that, upon taking her job as Chief Detective, she made it a policy that her detectives not accept free meals from restaurant owners. Everyone but Det. Millsap complied, she says.
"When I was a police officer in the city of York," Downing explains, "there were approximately five or six restaurants that extended that same courtesy.... There were many times in my early years where I confronted the owner and said, 'I don't like this. I'm not comfortable with it.' It was hounded in my head in the police academy. And I actually had business owners say, 'I'd be offended. This is my business, I can do whatever I want.'
"I do not believe it is illegal to do this. However, I made it a policy very early in my career never, never, never to walk out (of) there without paying my full bill. It was my belief and ethics that once you did that, nothing--. Nothing is ever free. And I extended that to my detectives when I started up there. And every time I went to lunch with them they always put more money on the table, except (Det.) Millsaps.
"My officers knew that that was what I wanted done," Chief Downing continues. "I told them that from the time I came in. This is how I instructed my officers in York City for 20 years. And to my knowledge all those officers did that except for Detective Millsaps, who many times we'd have to go leave a tip for him because he'd walk out leaving nothing."
So, that's Det. Millsaps.
In his federal court deposition, Det. Jeffrey Martz is asked, "Was there an incident where Mr. Millsap improperly accessed a child porn website from the PSP (Pennsylvania State Police) in your office? Do you remember that?
"Yes," Det. Martz replies. "I conduct forensic examinations on computers through my investigations, as well as other county departments. I am assigned a laptop computer issued to me by the Pennsylvania State Police Computer Crime Unit. That particular laptop is used strictly for forensic analysis.
"I recall Detective Millsaps asking me to go into my office to 'use the computer,' is how he expressed it, to later find out that he, as well as the information service representative, loaded the internet onto my forensic laptop and there was pornography observed."
Think you could get away with that, if you were not protected by law enforcement officers like District Attorney Stan Rebert, and state Attorney General Tom Corbett?
'Watch your back':
Your coke can now
In a town gone bad, bad leads to worse. Tolerance of unacceptable behavior in the cyber world, parallels deadly risks in the real world. Innocent people's lives are continually put in danger in York County, PA.
Throughout the Downing papers it's evident that an awful lot of insider York Countians are drunk driving, and wrecking cars (even publicly owned cars) and then getting their cases fixed.
Take the case of York city Detective Scott Hose. Hose is the son of recently retired county Republican Sheriff Bill Hose.
In July 2003 Det. Hose was drunk driving in a county car issued by DA Rebert's office. Det. Hose hit another vehicle head-on. The vehicle he hit was driven by a mother, Candy Byers, accompanied her 13-year-old son, Joey Raciunas.
Mother and son were lucky to escape with their lives. How does it feel to see a car driven by a drunk heading straight for you?
Candy Byers told the local newspaper she felt "lucky to be alive."
Det. Hose was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
In his deposition, county drug prosecutor Bill Graff tries to explain how he came to give city Detective Hose the official county car that Hose wrecked in the violent DUI.
Of all the depositions in the Downing federal lawsuit, Bill Graff's is probably the most enjoyable to read. Graff is a character and a half. Graff comes across as both likeable and experienced. He's the guy, running the drug task force, where the rubber meets the road.
The ongoing question with ADA Graff and his loose oversight of drug task force funds and equipment is whether too much rubber is hitting too much of the road.
Still, ADA Bill Graff has a vivid vocabulary and one senses he could be a very good writer. Graff doesn't give written reprimands to misbehaving drug cops, he tells Downing's lawyers at one point. "I give ass chewings." He even corrects one of his sentences. "That's improper English," he apologizes.
But Bill Graff has to work on that honesty thing.
In a town gone bad, it helps not to care. Graff says he doesn't care who uses the federally funded cell phones he passes around. He says he also doesn't care who drives the state funded cars, or what they do with them.
"I don't want to be bothered by day-to-day who's driving what car, what buy money is going out, that kind of loose-string crap," Graff says at one point. "I don't have time for that crap."
"I don't care what they use (the official cars) for as long as I call them at two in the morning and they show up in a car," Graff says. "Everything they do is official business, as far as I'm concerned."
Graff also doesn't care about long-standing allegations that some of his drug task force cops are thugs who steal evidence money, lie and cheat, or that impounded cars are kept with a contractor who is accused of alleged contacts with the sex trade.
All this came back to bite Bill Graff. When it did, it endangered innocent families and children, like 13-year-old Joey Raciunas, and his mom.
How did city Det. Hose come to possess the county car? Graff is asked.
"I don't remember," Graff says at first. "I probably had a hand in it. I probably gave it to him because it was sitting there. It was a Montana or something like that. (I told him), 'It's now your coke can.'"
It's your what? Graff is asked.
"Coke can," Graff replies, lightly. "It's probably that can over there because it's in a million pieces."
Did he mean coke in car (top) or making a 'coke can car' with a Stanley knife?
Graff goes on to explain that he oversees drug forfeiture property like cars and houses, and that, "I probably own more cars in City Hall than York Police own."
You own them? Graff is asked.
"Stanley owns them," Graff replies.
"Stan owns them?"
"Yeah, sure," Graff replies.
Forgotten here, again, is the public.
Did Det. Hose wreck a drug car? Graff is asked.
"I don't think that Montana was a drug car," Graff replies. "I think it was a 'grant car.' It was a grant car. It wasn't a drug forfeiture car."
What grant could it have been? Graff is asked.
"You know, I can't tell you," ADA Graff says, "but I know it was a grant car. It was a grant car that was under--. It wasn't under my control, but I had my hands on it. I had my hands on a lot of cars."
Graff goes on, "I gave it to (Det. Hose) to drive for a while to put his forensic gear in, this, that and the other thing, and obviously at this point I've been made to realize it was a mistake.... And I believe I was responsible for him having it.... And he wrecked it. And he wrecked it."
"He's a very good kid," Det. Hose's father, the county sheriff, told the local paper, the York Daily Record, while his son recovered in the hospital from his DUI head-on.
Their kids are always very good kids, in a town gone bad.
Det. Scott Hose was given an ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) and was soon back in the saddle again.
"I learned that after Scott Hose had been arrested for DUI, he had been driving a county vehicle and he had been involved in an injury accident, both to him and other parties," Chief Downing summarizes. "And after he returned to work--. He had been placed on ARD and then returned to work. He was again issued another vehicle by Mr. Graff, and I complained to Mr. Rebert about that."
"After the DUI accident, I believe you then issued a second car to Mr. Hose; is that correct?" drug prosecutor Graff is asked.
"Oh, yeah," ADA Graff replies. "At some point in time. It wasn't immediately. They needed a car. A lot of city detectives who are assigned to the drug task force do a lot of drug work, have cars out of the forfeiture account. They're like widgets to me. (They're) things like coffee cups, you just move them around. He needed some vehicle, I put him in some old van."
Then, Graff says, "I got a memo saying, 'Are you out of your mind?' And we took it back immediately."
Ask yourself, could you get away with any of this?
"Are you kidding?" a director of a York social service agency complains to me. "What do you think would happen if I wrecked an agency car in a DUI? I'd lose my job."
The Downing case file, however, is loaded with fixed, insider cases like this, many of which bother Chief Downing. Some of these cases are presented like mysterious little nuggets, just alluded to in passing.
The reader is left to suppose that DA Rebert was performing "favors" for political insiders, prominent citizens, and their families. Chief Downing just doesn't seem to understand that, in a town gone bad, favors like these are what hold things together.
DA Rebert attempts to intervene in a case involving the wife of a prominent printing company owner. A case involving a "barmaid at Murph's," who was friends with DA Rebert's wife, receives special handling.
DA Stan Rebert "wanted to know who filed charges and what the status of the investigations are for personal and political reasons; not for district attorney investigations," Chief Downing complains.
There was, for another example, "the unarresting of Mr. Fitzkee." Mr. Fitzkee was a former York County DA.
Outrageous cases abound. An underage son of a county judge shot another young man in a drug deal. The judge's son was given an ARD. The judge himself was handling domestic relations cases, instructing other parents how to raise their kids. "A real expert on raising kids, that judge," one shopkeeper says to me.
Could your kid get away with shooting another man's son in a drug deal?
Some of these blatant case fixings don't sit right even with DA Rebert's close loyalists.
Becky Downing says at one point that York County Senior Prosecutor Tim Barker "was one of the biggest supporters of my opposition to Mr. Rebert's improprieties and illegalities. I can remember many conversations when Tim came to me upset that Mr. Rebert didn't want to continue prosecution against certain political patrons, such as Mr. Kinsley." Kinsley is a prominent York County name.
"The Kinsley case particularly bothered Becky," a friend of her tells me.
"But then (Barker) did admit to me that yes, ...it reaches a point where we all have to support Stan in what he does. And then there was some conversation about (me watching) my back, where he mentioned my back. Then pretty much we said good-bye."
Crude, lewd, sexist, and racist
To go along in a courthouse like this is not just to live with, and ignore, dangerous "improprieties and illegalities." It means you must live and work day-to-day in a demeaning environment. Even young children must endure it.
Take, for example, the openly displayed photo of Hillary Clinton's face that was pasted onto a pin-up poster.
"There was a day where it was 'bring your children to work day,'" Chief Downing recounts. "There were children literally from the ages of 3 to high school age. I was asked to take them on a tour, explain what the police department does, and take them on a tour of the forensic lab, which at that time was across the alley from the back of the courthouse. It was an old church.
"Detective Demangone and I took the tour over. And after the kids had walked in through past the counter, either Demangone or myself, I can't remember, noticed that there was a morphed picture of Hillary Clinton. It was her face, but it was (over) some woman's bare breasts displayed on the wall.... Mr. Rebert just laughed at the incident."
In his deposition, DA Rebert played down the incident, and even keeps the "joke" running.
Was a photo like that inappropriate for the forensics lab? Rebert was asked.
"Well for a kindergarten class going through it, yeah. For a bunch of detectives, I don't know," Rebert replies. "I never saw the picture."
The lawyer treads on: "Okay. Well, just assume that there was a poster where Hillary Clinton's--"
DA Rebert says a pin-up with Hillary's face is 'hard to imagine'
"Assume a picture of Hillary Clinton--," DA Rebert repeats.
"--face was superimposed--" the lawyer fumbles.
"--with large breasts--" Rebert says.
"--on a large-breasted woman," the defense lawyer finishes.
"It's hard to imagine," Rebert jokes.
In a town gone bad it boils down to humiliation, ridicule and degradation.
"I tried to create a different culture," Downing says at one point. "There was a lot of lewd jokes that would carry on and go on, especially during executive staff meetings....
"As I said about the culture," Chief Downing continues, "these executive staff meetings, most of the time it was mostly men. On three occasions there was another female with me, which I was really happy for. But it was a lot of male jocularity at these meetings. The meetings would stop dead center because, perhaps a pretty woman went by that was jogging, or a very obese person that they'd like to make comments about.
"The meetings, they weren't very useful, but a lot of times they'd get off on tangents of things that had happened before, such as assistant district attorneys that were commingling sexually and how they'd get caught, and things that I really didn't want to hear."
DA Rebert himself was involved in a car accident. The DA asked the responding officer to write-up the police report so that points wouldn't be accessed to Rebert's drivers license, the transcripts discuss.
"And on one occasion there had been an article in the newspaper," Downing continues. "It was a point in time where Mr. and Mrs. Rebert had decided to have an article written about themselves to reveal that Mr. Rebert had MS. There was a lot of rumors and false inferences that he was an alcohol abuser and he, in fact, was not. They wanted to get it out in the public that he was suffering from this disability.
"And in the course of that article, there was a statement that Mr. Rebert liked to hire beautiful women. The very next staff meeting there was a lot of jocularity about that and 'beautiful women,' and they added (that DA Rebert also liked) 'big tits.' And then they came over to me and looked at my chest and said, 'How did you ever get hired?' ...It was just a culture that was very unpleasant to be around."
When asked about this, Rebert says, "I don't remember that happening. But I do have my standards, yes, sir."
In a town gone bad, we must always have our standards.
"He (DA Rebert) allowed that atmosphere, that culture, that conduct to continue the whole four years I was there," Chief Downing says. "I would tell him about that on occasion and complain to him. Yet, it never changed for my entire time there."
"She complained about everybody," DA Rebert at one point dismisses Chief Downing's concerns. Well, yeah. In a town gone bad, there's a lot to complain about.
Once, Downing recalls, "I was informed by my sergeant, Doug Demangone, that he had been downstairs. When I say downstairs, some of the detectives' offices were downstairs intermingled with the ADAs (Assistant District Attorneys). And while Sergeant Demangone was there, an ADA named Joshua Neiderheiser ... walked around an employee named Julie Patrick and patted her on the rear end or grabbed her, I'm not certain....
"And one of us told Mr. Rebert there had been an example of harassment in the workplace that day," Downing continues.
"And with just that information Mr. Rebert said, 'Did I get caught sticking that rolled-up $20 bill down Carletta's bra?' laughing, and he said he knew that (his secretary) Randy saw him do that."
Rebert, Chief Downing says, thought they were confronting him. In his deposition, for his part, Rebert says he was only making some sort of strange joke about shoving a $20 bill down his employee's bra.
"I didn't think any of these things were founded," Rebert explains.
"Well, didn't you say (Mr. Neiderheiser) was investigated and he did receive discipline?"
"Yes, sir," Rebert says.
"So wasn't that founded?"
"That was founded, yes, sir. But I don't recall making any jokes about that incident. I know I didn't," Rebert says.
"Well, do you remember making, in a 'joking' way, (a statement about), 'What sexual harassment? Did I get caught sticking a rolled-up $20 bill down--?"
"Yes. I do remember that, yes sir," Rebert says.
"Do you think that's appropriate?"
"It's probably not in the best judgment to say that, no," Rebert reflects.
On another occasion, Downing relates, "in the district attorney's circle we had some friends that were lesbians. And (DA Rebert) would ask me to--. When it would come up he said, 'Explain to me how they do it?' I'd tell him that was improper. 'No, no tell me how they do it. Explain to me how they do it.' I took offense to that because both of them were very good friends of mine, and that was their choice of sexuality."
Once, Downing says, "I had been to an accident in West Manchester Township and a gentleman by the name of Chandrakant Shah was killed in an accident and it was a shame. (DA Rebert) called him a terrorist. I told him that was improper; that a foreigner does not a terrorist make. This is just the kind of culture. You don't know the guy, he's got a strange name, he's a terrorist. I didn't like that."
'Treat him like a white man'
In a town gone bad there is a natural pecking order. Chief Becky Downing never understood this.
The mask of pretense came off one day, and Becky Downing was made to consider the natural order of things.
Det. John Daryman
DA Rebert decided to hire a new county detective named John Daryman, who was a longtime York city drug cop.
Now in DA Rebert's office, Daryman wanted to work only 32 hours a week, unlike the 40 hours the other detectives worked.
Chief Downing told DA Rebert that this would cause a labor grievance to be filed by the other officers. Rebert didn't seem to care.
Det. Daryman, as well, against the rules, for some reason didn't want to take a polygraph test before he was hired. Nor did Daryman even file an application for employment.
In August 2002, Det. John Daryman was arrested for DUI in Potter County, Pennsylvania. Daryman swerved across a centerline three times, and was found to have a blood alcohol content of .113 percent. If convicted of drunk driving charges, Daryman would lose his police certification, and could not work for DA Rebert.
DA Rebert naturally telephoned Potter County District Attorney Jeff Leber in an effort to intervene in the case. At the time Rebert was prosecuting a case involving the 1969 race murder of a South Carolina woman named Lillie Belle Allen. Rebert said Daryman was needed for the investigation.
The Potter County DA gave Daryman an ARD. The charges were erased, and Det. John Daryman kept his certification to arrest others.
"I have prosecuted police officers in the past for DUI and will continue to do so. The special circumstance of this particular case have led me to believe the most appropriate disposition of this case is to take the action that I did," Potter County DA Leber said.
In May 2003, York County Common Pleas Judge John Kennedy, himself a former York County assistant DA, swore in Daryman as a county detective, despite the irregularities involving Daryman's hiring.
Why was Stan Rebert seemingly so anxious to protect and defend Det. John Daryman? Downing was asked.
"Well, habitually," Chief Downing says, "Mr. Rebert had asked me to do things that I would refuse prior to John Daryman's employment. And after John Daryman's employment, there were many fewer things that he would ask me to do."
Downing says that DA Rebert told her that he wanted Daryman to do "secret stuff."
"Since Mr. Rebert told me that he wanted Daryman to do 'secret stuff,'" Downing says, "I thought perhaps this is what he meant; that the things that weren't legitimate and legal, that he would have him do."
(Elsewhere in the transcripts, the lawyers ask DA Rebert about a comment Det. Daryman was heard to make that Rebert "owed him." The district attorney was asked, "You never owed Daryman any type of personal favors for any interventions that he may have done for you, or anything like that; members of your family or for you personally?" "No, sir," Rebert replies.)
In any event, newly hired county Det. Daryman was soon placed outside Chief Downing's chain of command. One day, Downing recounts, Det. Daryman came "to me to tell me what his work schedule was so that I could record it on payroll. And I, very professionally, not with nastiness, not with anything, said to him, 'John, (Rebert's secretary) Randy does your payroll now. You have been taken out of my chain of command, and as such that's something she did.' He said okay.
"Very soon after that Mr. Rebert called me and made some statements about, why didn't I 'treat John Daryman like a white man when he came over to me?'"
Treat him 'like a white man,' DA Rebert told Chief Downing
"Did you make a comment to Ms. Downing at any time about treating John Daryman like a white man?" Rebert was asked.
'Yes, sir," says DA Rebert.
"Why would you make a racial statement like that?"
"It was an ignorant, unthinking statement made behind closed doors," the district attorney explains. In a town gone bad, all sorts of things are said behind closed doors
This was not long after DA Rebert's staff badly botched the Lillie Belle Allen race murder trial.
It's quitin' time, Mars Rebert
In a town gone bad, you can't go by some stinking rule book. Chief Becky Downing just never understood that.
Becky Downing says she was trying to build a well-trained, professional detectives bureau in York County, Pennsylvania. A detectives bureau that went by the book.
At every step she was undermined by a racist, sexist, corrupt old guard that had quite different ideas about enforcing Pennsylvania law.
Chief Downing says that DA Rebert told her "many times" that he was the district attorney and so he could do anything he wanted.
DA Rebert, says Downing, "loved to coin a phrase taken from Gone With the Wind: 'It's quitin' time, master. No it's not. It's quitin' time when I say it is,'" she says Rebert would tell public employees.
Take, for another example, Det. John Daryman, the drunk-driving cop who didn't want to take a polygraph when he was hired.
Det. Sergeant Demangone was asked, "With respect to Mr. Daryman, when he was hired. Were you there during his orientation?"
"I did his orientation," Sgt. Demangone answers, and Chief Downing was in the room.
"Did anything unusual happen at that orientation?"
"What we did in our orientation is we would go over each rule and regulation with each detective as they were hired," Sgt. Demangone relates. "And I was reading him the rules and regs and he says, 'You don't need to read these to me. I'll just take the book.' And I said, 'No, Chief (Downing) wants me to read them to you so you understand each one so that there is no questions.
"And (Daryman) says to me, 'Well, I am going to violate half of these.' And I said, 'Well, if you violate them, you will suffer the consequences.' And he says, 'Well, I am going to violate half of them.' And I said, 'Well, which ones?' He says, 'Well, like this chain of command thing. Do you think I am going to take an order from Millsaps?' And I looked at him and said, 'Well, John, do you think Millsaps is going to give you an order?' And he says, 'Well, I am just telling you, I am going to violate half of these.' And I said, 'Fine, then you are going to suffer the consequences.' And we continued through the book.
"And subsequently after that," Sgt. Demangone continues, "apparently (Det. Daryman) changed his schedule without telling anybody and he got reprimanded and (that's when) he was removed from our chain of command."
Chief Downing recalls that Det. Daryman "made some statement to Detective Demangone that he's not going to follow (the rules) and tossed the book off to the side."
Sgt. Demangone says, "We were sitting in the Chief's office right across from her desk and he just like, slammed (the rule book) down on the front of her desk."
Det. Daryman, for his part, explains how things work in a town gone bad: "I worked a lot of good, hard investigations," Daryman says, "and I violated them (sic) same rules and regulations that are in that book for county detectives that were in the city book for city detectives. And anybody that was ever a detective would know that you have to violate some of those rules to get the job done. I understand that perfectly. I don't know whether Doug Demangone understood it or not, and I don't know whether Chief Downing understood it or not."
"I do believe that in my 25 years of experience that I violated some of those rules and regulations, and I believe in the next five or ten years I'll probably violate a couple more of those nit-picking little, tiny violations that have no business being in a book for detectives," Daryman announces.
Det. Daryman says he doesn't follow rules governing, for example, handcuffing prisoners, or a ban on smoking tobacco in squad cars.
He says, "Many times, many times when I'm dealing with a suspect in an important case I'll have them-- If I think it helps me get the job done to get a confession from them, we're going to violate that rule, (no) smoking in the car, and they're going to have a cigarette in the car."
But there's a big distinction between offering a murder suspect a cigarette and tossing away the rulebook. And that's a distinction Det. Daryman doesn't seem to see.
When asked to recollect where people were sitting or standing in a meeting, Det. Daryman says, "I mean those facts ain't important to me." Some detective. He doesn't let those pesky little facts get in the way.
Elsewhere, in his deposition, drug prosecutor Bill Graff says the whole problem with Chief Becky Downing boiled down to this: "I worked with the lady. I had no problem with the lady. You're asking my personal opinion, I think she's a control freak."
The very next minute, however, ADA Graff says of his job, "I live in my own little world. Stanley understands." Or, "I pretty much run my own shop. Stanley give me the authority to run my own shop in that office."
In other words, Graff is only going to follow his rules in his own little world, his own shop. Graff, for example, basically says he doesn't care about federal and state laws governing things like cars and cell phones, paid by federal and state funding. "I probably own more cars in City Hall than York Police own." His own little world .
And that, as much as anything, is how it works in a town gone bad like York, Pennsylvania. Everyone follows his own personal little rulebook, and the rule of law be damned. This includes York County judges, who naturally sit on cases involving friends and contributors, and who don't care about niceties like impartial justice, or judicial canon; and, above them, a notoriously corrupt Pennsylvania state appellate court system that holds no one to account.
Just as state Attorney General Tom Corbett doesn't hold DA Rebert to account for this travesty.
In a town gone bad, that's what systemic corruption is all about. An entire system unwilling or unable to follow the rule of law. And no one can do anything about it. Don't like it? Well, flip you. We're running this courthouse any way we see fit.
The thousands of pages of Downing court transcripts, and all of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in this case, boil down to one big fuck you said to the public at large.
All this naturally ends up endangering children and families in York County, Pennsylvania, and beyond. It ends up with injured children, civil strife, and an increasing number of expensive federal lawsuits like this one, ultimately paid for by the already victimized citizens of Pennsylvania.
"I mean, every cop I know controls their own environment," drug prosecutor Bill Graff says at one point, in a moment of surprising, unintentional insight. "That's the way they're raised. My problem with Ms. Downing is that she's too much of a control freak. She puffs her own position. She puffs herself up to be more than what she is. I don't mean to (be) insulting to you, Becky. Don't get me wrong.
"But, it's like, 'I own this big police department, this is a super police department.' And she hires rookies," Graff complains of Chief Downing. "Guys that couldn't investigate their own way out of their own office. It doesn't mean they aren't good cops. It doesn't mean they couldn't be good investigators, but they certainly aren't of the superlative power that she puffed herself up to be."
But Bill Graff misses the point, doesn't he?
Chief Becky Downing was trying to bring something entirely new to the York County courthouse with her fresh-faced, well-trained young detectives: It's called the rule of law. It's called the United States of America.
Chief Becky Downing learned the hard way that the old guard never goes quietly into that good night.
To her credit, she busted them all.
'What's done in the past':
The Schaad Christmas party
On his web page, DA Stan Rebert quotes Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." At least we know now what we're suppossed to do.
But what are the risks to the rest of us when we let a town, and a state, go bad?
Russell Wantz police mugshot 2007
Throughout the Downing transcripts there are references to a certain Russell Wantz, owner of the Schaad Detective Agency, of York.
Chief Downing complains that DA Rebert insisted that Downing have her detectives run a shuttle service to the Russell Wantz's annual Schaad Christmas party, during work hours.
"Mr. Rebert asked me the week before (the Schaad Christmas party) to have my detectives available to run the county district attorney's office and clerk of courts' office employees back and forth because that's what's been done in the past," Downing explains. "I told him I would not permit this, it was improper, and that my officers were going to the party after work, not during work.
"After Rebert mentioned this to me," she continues, "I asked the county detectives about it and they verified that they had done that. They'd take multiple trips back and forth transporting employees (to the Schaad Christmas party), that (former chief) Kenny Ingle did it too in his car."
Elsewhere in the transcripts, there are passing references to publicly owned or impounded cars that are kept on Wantz's car lot, thanks DA Rebert.
Like the "grant car" a drunken Det. Scott Hose used to hit 13-year-old Joey Raciunas and his mom. Where did that car come from?
"I told (DA Rebert) he could check with Russ Wantz because that's who had issued the vehicle at the direction of Bill Graff," Chief Downing says.
Or, "Stan (Rebert) told Russ to have Daryman's new 2003 pewter Blazer ready by Wednesday."
For years, I'd learn, there was concern among York community leaders about Russell Wantz and his close relationship with the DA's office.
One day York Police Commissioner Herbert Grofcsik and city controller James Sneddon told me they were concerned about outstanding allegations that Russell Wantz had involvement with the sex trade.
In a town gone bad, even the police commissioner could do nothing about these concerns, city officials complained. DA Rebert protects Wantz, and others, I was repeatedly told.
Police Commissioner Grofcsik, and Sneddon, finally were so concerned and fed-up that they arranged an out-of-town meeting with a U.S. Justice Department agent to seek an investigation of DA Rebert, Wantz, and others.
But they never heard back from the feds. The country, it seems, had gone bad.
Why was it that Police Commissioner Grofcsik didn't go to DA Rebert with his concerns about Russell Wantz, and the others? Grofcsik was asked in another federal court deposition.
"You said there were allegations that (DA Rebert) and members of his staff were involved in the whole sex ring, sex club investigation?" Grofcsik was asked.
Police Commissioner Grofcsik replies, "The reason I didn't go to DA Rebert was because I just didn't trust him."
Grofcsik continues, "And it wasn't just because of the sex ring. Just from my dealing, workings with (DA Rebert), seeing what he was doing, I just had a feeling that he wasn't an honest person."
The town gone bad finally threatened all Pennsylvanians.
Russell Wantz's Schaad Detective Agency grew to provide security for sensitive Pennsylvania state offices, outside of backward York County. Wantz holds lucrative state contracts to guard the driver's registration office at the state Department of Transportation headquarters, in Harrisburg. Wantz also provides security for the Pennsylvania turnpike, and other state agencies, like the Liquor Control Board.
In December 2007 Russell Wantz was finally arrested outside of Harrisburg, in neighboring Dauphin County, for criminal attempt to solicit a prostitute. The case at this writing is pending.
Suddenly people outside of York County are paying close attention to Russell Wantz.
Outside of the town gone bad, courthouse favorite Russell Wantz didn't look so good.
A favor from Tom Corbett
Sometimes a town gone bad needs a favor from the outside to keep things running smoothly.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett understands all that. Corbett not only helped the town stay bad, he played a public role enabling it.
It would turn out that AG Corbett had several personal conflicts with Downing's case.
A few days after Chief Downing filed her lawsuit, in February 2005, DA Rebert announced that he would personally ask AG Tom Corbett's office to conduct an "independent" investigation of the charges to clear his name.
"I'm probably going to contact (Corbett's office) today," DA Rebert told the York Dispatch on February 25, 2005.
The next day, Downing's lawyers issued a press release requesting that Corbett "refer this matter to another agency for investigation."
In her news release, attorney Devon Jacob noted that DA Rebert was a supporter of AG Tom Corbett in Corbett's recent 2004 election campaign.
Jacob also wrote that Corbett had a conflict because "more than one potential witness to the present allegations are currently employees of either the Office of Attorney General or the Pennsylvania State Police."
Little details like the stolen sofa, and the porn sites viewed on the state police laptop.
"If Mr. Rebert truly wants an investigation to clear his name, he should be encouraged to request that another agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, investigate the allegations."
But AG Tom Corbett understands the importance of keeping a town, and a state, bad. DA Rebert had personally accompanied Tom Corbett at some of the perspective attorney general's campaign appearances in 2004. Other York County officials who endorsed Corbett included Rep. Bev Mackereth, Coroner Barry Bloss, Register of Wills Bradley Jacobs, and U.S. Congressman Todd Platts.
More telling, before he became attorney general, Corbett chaired the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Corbett's commission provided grant money to DA Rebert's office. This presumably includes funds that were misused for cars, cell phones, Christmas parties, and other unaccountables in the town gone bad.
"We get this stipend from the Attorney General's Office every year," ADA Bill Graff adds in his deposition. "It's a check. We deposit it in the drug fund, and we go from there."
AG Corbett's website listed DA Rebert as one of 35 Pennsylvania district attorneys who supported Corbett in 2004. Makes you wonder about the other 34 district attorneys, and their towns.
In February 2005, AG Tom Corbett's office predictably ridiculed anyone suspecting Corbett was unwilling to investigate his corrupt loyal supporter, DA Rebert.
"The attorney general's office and Tom Corbett are fully capable of conducting an independent investigation into the allegations that are detailed in the civil suit and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous and disingenuous," Corbett's PR flack, Kevin Harley, told the York Daily Record on February 26, 2005.
Again, as usual, they're ridiculing concerned citizens. To keep a town bad, you must always ridicule concerns.
AG Tom Corbett's office waited a year, until February 2006, to publicly announce that Corbett had cleared DA Rebert in his requested investigation. Chief Downing's allegations were "unfounded," Corbett said. Just like that $20 bill stuffed down Carletta's brassiere.
Trouble is, AG Corbett publicly cleared DA Rebert months before any of Chief Downing's dozens of sworn federal court depositions had even been taken.
Downing's own court deposition, for example, wasn't even taken until April 19, 2006. DA Rebert's deposition was recorded on April 21, two months after AG Corbett publicly absolved Rebert of wrongdoing in February 2006.
After the dozens of depositions had been taken, in July 2006, Chief Downing's lawyers called AG Corbett's investigators to pass along the sworn testimony and to request a fresh investigation.
The two Attorney General's Office investigators who took the information "genuinely seemed interested," I'm told. "Later we heard back that AG Corbett's office wouldn't be pursuing a criminal investigation. We don't know if someone upstairs closed the investigation."
In fact, it's my understanding that AG Corbett's staff laughed at the request.
Tom Corbett had already performed his "favor" for DA Stan Rebert. Corbett twice personally gave his good housekeeping seal of approval to every outrage and illegality you've read about here.
Since then, AG Tom Corbett has been caught up in other corruption scandals.
Pennsylvania Senior Deputy Attorney General Thomas Kimmett, and his assistant, recently filed a federal lawsuit complaining about how AG Corbett collects the state's overdue bills.
Corbett and others "were fully aware that pervasive wrongdoing was occurring in the (state) collections process by government employees," the lawsuit reads. "Tom Corbett and (Department of) Revenue officials made an express decision not to formally investigate the illegal misconduct ... for purely political reasons." Sound familiar?
The attorney general's in-house staff, Kimmett says, performs most of the work to settle a claim. "After the major work is done by personnel in the Attorney General's office, the claim is then moved to a private collection agency who (over the years) then receives a commission of 19 percent, 20 percent, or in years up to 40 percent.... The private collection agencies, chosen without any bidding process by the Attorney General's Office, would then a collect a fat commission after having done little or nothing to earn it."
"(I)t is possible that perhaps even millions of dollars has been, and may continue to be, illegally paid out to preferred vendors," the suit contends.
Corbett and other officials refused to give Deputy AG Kimmett "a promised promotion in retaliation for his persistent refusal to react favorably to their ill-disguised message, which was to tolerate the illegal activity."
What a bunch of whiners!
As well, Tom Corbett remains under a dark cloud of historic proportions for permitting known members of organized crime to gain a foothold in Pennsylvania's new casino industry.
In a state gone bad, Attorney General Tom Corbett understands that you need to be able to look the other way to keep the right people in their jobs.
A favor for Old Man Thomspon
"York didn't used to be like this," one wealthy York County man told me last year. He was from old money. He told me that his family used to own a factory in York, back when the town was still an industrial powerhouse.
Many of those factories have already closed up, or are moving away from the town gone bad.
This gentleman had read some of my published writings about York, PA. Through a mutual friend he'd arranged a meeting with me. He wouldn't immediately get to his point.
Trying to draw him out, I told him I'd seen photos of York city in the old days, in the 1950s, before the urban blight, and the flight of capital.
Downtown York used to be done up like an ornament at Christmastime, I told him, decorated with colorful trappings and window displays. Families walking everywhere. There were carolers in the streets.
"That's not what I mean," he says to me.
"In the old days, you didn't have all this blatant in-your-face corruption," he finally says to me. "There was a pride in our community. An honesty."
Well, okay, so he was a whiner. But here was his point: The very act of manufacturing a product in a factory was an act of honesty, he tells me. If you can't make an honest product, at an honest price, and deal honestly with your customers, you aren't going to be in business long. And a crooked courthouse staff in a town gone bad isn't going to help you stay in business.
He tells me that old-time CEOs in York, running old-time factories, would never permit such over-the-top courthouse corruption.
"In the old days a factory owner would care about everyone working in his factory, and their families, and he cared about his community. He tried to do the right thing," he tells me. And that's all gone now. He worried aloud it wasn't coming back.
In York, at our first Constitutional Convention, America was born. And today, here in York, he says, America is dying.
See the town gone bad dying in front of your eyes, and read it dying in the pages of the Downing transcripts.
Ask the old-timers, he says to me. Ask them about how York used to be. I'd find it was nothing like this.
And so that brings me to Old Man Thompson.
John Thompson Sr., for decades, well into his eighties, was the Republican chairman of York County. Not long after I moved to York County, Chairman Thompson, I learned with some surprise, wanted to meet me. A luncheon was arranged.
DA Stan Rebert and Chairman John Thompson 1998
Old Man Thompson showed up, driven by GOP County Commissioner Chris Reilly. Thompson was old and bent and he needed help getting around. Still, he was full of spit and vinegar. He treated his hapless driver, fortyish Chris Reilly, like a footman, yelling and cursing at him. I feared Chairman Thompson might slap Commissioner Reilly in the head.
With me, Chairman Thompson was a model of good manners. He was generous with his time, and his memories.
He asked after my Daddy. "And how's Big Bill?" he wanted to know. He reminisced about how politics used to be practiced in the old days, in the 1960s Scranton administration, when Republicans and Democrats could still sit down for a drink, and talk to eye to eye, he says. In the end, you might not see eye to eye, but you respected each other, and you kept the door open.
Back then, moderate Republicans stood for something other than themselves, and their own selfish interests. Where have they all gone? the old man seemed to sigh.
Back then, Chairman Thompson told me, politics was different. Everything was different. He didn't have much use for the way things are now.
Talk soon turned to every old-time southern Pennsylvania politico's favorite subject, Dwight Eisenhower. For years into the 1960s the former president lived in nearby Gettysburg, and continued to rule the state's Republican party. We swapped Eisenhower stories.
"You didn't fool around with General Eisenhower," Thompson told me wistfully, his eyes a-twinkle. Ike, it goes without saying, had his watchful eye out for all Americans. General Eisenhower had seen his share of what happens when a town, and a country, goes bad, in Germany. He'd sure straightened out Jerry.
Old Man Thompson told some stories. He talked about sitting down with Gov. Tom Ridge in the 1990s. He says he told the governor what York County needed. "'I don't have a problem with that,'" smooth Gov. Ridge would tell him. About now Tom Ridge is starting to look pretty good.
Well into his eighties, John Thompson ran the York County Republican party with an iron hand. He was a sight to see at committee meetings, yelling and cursing at anyone, and everyone, to sit down, and shut up. Know thy place.
Over the years I'd bump into John Thompson around York, and he'd always ask after my Daddy, and he'd always have a kind word for me, and I'd try to say a kind word to him.
Thompson's health finally was failing him. He wanted to live out his days in the unchanging countryside of York County, on a family member's farm. I guess he wanted his old eyes to be painted with the scenery of his youth.
Instead, I got the idea Chairman Thompson found himself threatened with the old folks' home. Assisted living. But John Thompson had no use for assisted living.
Old Man Thompson wanted to be strong enough to take care of himself, to the end.
That's about when York County Republican Chairman John Thompson crossed paths with Chief Detective Becky Downing.
"I was requested on many occasions to provide ammo for John W. Thompson, who was the Republican Party chairman," Downing complains in her court transcripts. "And then Mr. Rebert sent Tom Kelley, who was then the first assistant district attorney, to me on several occasions literally hounding me to get this accomplished.
"I didn't think it was appropriate that police officers should provide ammunition to citizens," Downing continues. "It had never been done in my experience. And I felt that if the man needed ammunition, someone in his own family should be providing it for him. We had several conversations about this."
DA Stan Rebert, says Downing, "didn't let it go. He on several occasions kept saying to me, 'Get the ammo. Get the ammo. We have to keep the old man happy,' or something along those lines.... He explained to me that, politically, it was quite important that ... we keep Mr. Thompson happy."
Finally, Det. Sgt. Demangone recalls, "(ADA) Tom Kelley -- they brought the gun in and I had to figure out what kind of caliber it was. ...It was an old -- I want to say it looked like a .32 automatic, if I remember correctly. Like a Walter PBK kind of thing. It wasn't a Walter PBK. It was some other German pistol or something. I ended up going and getting ammunition for it. I don't remember where I got the ammunition, but I remember buying it...."
The detective says that he was told, "Something about (Thompson) wanted to keep the gun in his office and needed ammunition for it," Sgt. Demangone recalls. So Demangone brought the gun and the freshly bought ammo back to Old Man Thompson's county Republican committee office.
"I just remember going up the steps and down the hallway and (Chairman Thompson) was in his office and he said, 'Hey, thanks,'" Sgt. Demangone says.
Early in 2006, Thompson, frail, and full of days, shot himself in the head, killing himself. The sharp blast reverberates through the Downing transcripts.
District Attorney Stan Rebert is asked about a line of transcript that reads, "Mr. Kelley came and got information Stan requested in January on what ammo (was) needed for John Thompson.... Then it was the wrong caliber, so Doug (Demangone) had to intervene. 'Go to Republican headquarters and look at the gun and tell them it was a .32 ASP Mauser.'"
Rebert is asked, "Did Mr. Thompson kill himself, commit suicide?"
"I don't know that that's any of your concern," Rebert snaps back.
DA Rebert says he received limited information about Chairman Thomson's suicide, "from Kathy Burke with York Area Regional Police Department."
"Did she tell you whether he had shot himself in the head with the .32 ASP Mauser?"
"No," DA Rebert replies. "The weapon was not mentioned, no."
Just another smoky York County mystery.
Still, in my mind, I keep thinking about Sgt. Demangone hauling the gun and the ammo over to the old, sick party chairman, and "keeping the old man happy."
It's a wonder, I keep thinking to myself, that Becky Downing's fresh-faced, wide-eyed young detectives weren't asked to load the gun for the old man, and pull the trigger.
In York County, these days, that's not called murder.
That's called doing somebody a favor.
Posted October 26, 2008