‘I’ve completely betrayed your trust’: Corrupt ex-Bucks judge gets 6½ years in federal prison

The Inquirer

A former district judge who extorted business owners for bribes, boasted of his ability to control the votes of other elected officials, and lorded over his working-class Bucks County township like an old-school political boss was sentenced Monday to 6½ years in federal prison.

Prosecutors described John I. Waltman’s staggering list of misdeeds — which ranged from fixing a traffic ticket to conspiring to launder $400,000 in what he believed to be proceeds from the illegal sale of drugs — as “a complete abdication of his responsibility as a judge and a public figure.”

But as Waltman, 61, stood before U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter, he maintained that he entered public service in Lower Southampton Township decades ago with a genuine intent to improve his community — a motivation that became twisted along the way into a fixation on amassing money and power.

“I want to apologize to the citizens of Bucks County and the citizens of Lower Southampton Township,” he said. “I’ve completely betrayed your trust, and you deserved much, much better.”

Monday’s hearing in Philadelphia federal court effectively ended Waltman’s career in public service and began to close the book on a scandal that has roiled Lower Southampton, a working-class community of 19,000 people, since his arrest along with three other township officials.

Several members of Lower Southampton’s police force sat in the courtroom’s back row Monday to watch the sentencing of the man they blamed for tarnishing the reputation of law enforcement in their community.

Meanwhile, Waltman’s lawyer, Louis R. Busico, urged Pratter to consider the good that his client had done, both in his family and in public life. He acknowledged, though, that the former judge’s crimes were vast.

“He has earned the ignominy of this indictment. He has earned the disrepute,” Busico said. “He will forever be the embarrassment of Lower Southampton Township.”

Read more