Offit Kurman Attorney, Neil A. Morris, Convinces Federal Judge to Consider Sanctions Against Attorney Who Filed False, Sensational Statements

This article was published in the Bucks County Courier Times on May 7, 2014. 

A federal judge wants a lawyer to explain why he “improperly” wrote in a court filing that Bensalem’s mayor, public safety director and other police officials invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions in a lawsuit filed by a former fire chief and his son.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said Tuesday that attorney Brian K. Wiley acted “improperly” when he wrote in a January court filing that Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo, Director of Public Safety Fred Harran, Deputy Director Patrick Ponticelli and Det. John Monaghan invoked their right against self-incrimination during questioning in a suit filed by former Union Fire Chief David Jerri Sr. and his son, David Jr. The Bensalem officials never took the Fifth. Baylson’s directive to Wiley came at a hearing on Bensalem’s motion seeking sanctions against Wiley. A first-time sanction for a lawyer is typically a fine, according to attorney Neil A. Morris, who represents the township in the Jerri suit. Morris is asking the judge to award attorney fees and issue a formal warning to Wiley not repeat his actions. The judge gave Wiley 1 0 days to file an affidavit explaining why his filing was inaccurate, Morris said.

Wiley wasn’t in court Tuesday for the hearing. Attorney Christopher Garrell appeared on behalf of Jerri Sr. and Jr.

The Courier Times was unsuccessful in reaching either Wiley or Garrell for comment through email or phone calls Wednesday. Reached Wednesday, Harran said Wiley’s Fifth Amendment claims were “absolutely ludicrous.”

“He’s either stupid or a liar, that’s all he can explain,” he added. “Either one of those two is fine with me.”

Wiley referenced the Fifth Amendment allegations in Jan. 1 legal filing where he requested Baylson order the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office to produce Jerri Jr.’s 2012 criminal file regarding charges of insurance fraud, according to court records. Jerri Jr. was acquitted in that case, records show.

Wiley claimed in the filing that Harran, Monaghan, Ponticelli and DiGirolamo had “pled the Fifth Amendment” to questions about whether they lied, omitted and/or withheld information from prosecutors concerning the charges they levied against Jerri Jr. Wiley further claimed in the documents that the four men “won’t say what they provided and what they withheld from prosecutors, for obvious reasons.”

A Fifth Amendment reference also appeared in an earlier routine legal filing in the case, where attorneys for the township objected to a series of questions- called interrogatories- that Wiley filed. In December, Baylson ruled pie the township didn’t have to answer Wiley’s interrogatories. Morris, of the Offit Kurman law firm, argued Tuesday before Baylson that Wiley’s actions were more than a simple mistake.

“This was intentionally done,” Morris said when reached on Wednesday. Morris said he believes Wiley improperly referenced the Fifth Amendment in the January court filings so that it “would be picked up by the press.”

“What we had are false allegations that were sensationalized, and now published in the newspaper and that Mr. Wiley knew that would likely happen,” he added. The Bucks County Courier Times and The lntelligencer never reported the officials had taken the Fifth, though other news outlets did.

Jerri Jr. and Sr. filed their civil suit last year in U.S. District Court against DiGirolamo, Harran, Ponticelli and Monaghan, along with the Bensalem Council and a local towing company. The suit alleges malicious prosecution, false arrest, conspiracy and defamation.The elder Jerri was forced out as chief during a 2012 suspension of Bensalem’s Union Fire Company.

About Neil Morris

Philadelphia Labor and Employment Attorney | 267.338.1383 Neil Morris has passionately represented employers for the last 25 years. Mr. Morris specializes in the areas of labor and employment, municipal labor law, employment discrimination, defamation and business litigation. Mr. Morris has served as Special/Labor Counsel for more than 35 Pennsylvania Townships and Boroughs, the County of Bucks and many private employers. He is often brought into municipalities to handle “crisis” situations involving employees and/or management. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via FacebookTwitterGoogle+YouTube, and LinkedIn.