October 16-22, 2003
The Mayor and the Media
Photo By: Michael T. Regan
Inside the feeding frenzy surrounding the City Hall bug.
Reported by Howard Altman, Daryl Gale, Brendan McGarvey, Mary Patel and Amy Webb. Written by Altman.
The reporters have mostly left and Brian Tierney is holding court with the CNN boys, regaling them with amazing tales of Philadelphia politics.
Phil Hirschkorn, the producer and Jason Carroll, the always-snazzy reporter, are in town for the bugs.
Philadelphia, which gave us a nation and the likes of the Osage Avenue debacle, is once again political ground zero. Tierney, who calls the shots over at the Sam Katz mayoral campaign, is only too happy to help the national media, which has flocked to a city that"s become a national laughingstock once more.
The CNNers are talking about Frank Keel, the bristle-headed spokesperson for the campaign of incumbent Mayor John Street.
"I got into a screaming match with him," Carroll tells Tierney. Over the issue of whether John Ashcroft is behind the FBI probe of City Hall less than a month before the election.
Tierney scoffs at the possibility and Carroll says the Beltway media and political crowd cannot believe what they are hearing.
Just moments before, Tierney"s boss, the Republican candidate for mayor, told a throng of reporters that the incumbent "should be truthful to the people of this city" about what he knew about the federal corruption investigation and when he knew it.
In less than five hours, Katz and Street would spar at the first debate of this very silly season. And Street would later be eaten by the lions at the post-debate press conference.
But even before all that, Carroll -- who was in town was for Allen Iverson's Flying Circus -- has things figured.
"Philly is a wacky place," he concludes.
The wackiest week that was starts just after 7 a.m. Tue., Oct. 7, when a routine sweep of Street's office for surveillance devices uncovers bugs, giving the administration a case of the political creepy-crawlies.
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson is called in. Police sources say electricians union boss John Dougherty shows up shortly thereafter.
By 8:50 am, Street, his security contingent and about 20 other City Hall employees stampede down the stairs and out onto the street. Ringed by aides, policemen and office workers, Street stands on the corner, gabbing on his cell phone.
Word of the bugging busts out all over. By 2 p.m., federal sources are leaking that the bug belongs to the FBI and is part of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption at City Hall. Politicians and the media turn the spin machine up to Defcon 1. FBI spokesperson Linda Vizi says the bureau cannot confirm or deny the existence of the bugs but, by the way, they have nothing to do with the campaign. Mob lawyers familiar with the feds immediately chime in on the meaning of Vizi's statement.
"The FBI comment means that the FBI knows exactly what the investigation is and that it most definitely concerns official corruption at City Hall," says Chris Warren, who"s currently representing one Joey Merlino.
As the media flocks to City Hall, Street emerges from his office and tells reporters, who have been gathering for an hour, that he has no idea who bugged him, that no one should conclude he"d done anything wrong -- because he hadn't -- and that he feels violated.
Later that evening, Street campaign officials suggest that the bug was a GOP dirty trick, aimed at helping the president seek re-election.
"It is very strange that the FBI's only comment was that it had nothing to do with a tightly contested race four weeks from Election Day," says Street spokesperson Dan Fee. Katz immediately denies that, saying the Philadelphia mayor's race has no bearing on the 2004 presidential election.
It Ain't Me: Street says he is not the target.
Photo By Michael T. Regan
A little while later, a mobster connected to reputed boss Joe Ligambi says he feels Street"s pain. "How crazy is this?" asks the mobster. "An FBI bug in the mayor's office! Can you imagine what they overheard? Every single conversation he and his crew had in that office. All on tape. Street must be going nuts."
Maybe not. But the media is. The 11 p.m. newscasts bleat that a listening device is found in the mayor's office.
Who Bugged Him? the Daily News reports Wednesday morning. Mayor Street's Office Bugged, reports the Inquirer.
To assuage the growing clamor for answers, Street calls a press conference for Wednesday afternoon.
It is anything but soothing.
First, two Street flacks tell photographers that the mayor gets distracted by too much clicking and that they should please refrain from taking too many shots.
"If the mayor does not like pictures, maybe he shouldn't be mayor," says one press wag.
The mayor doesn't help matters by arriving late, from an editorial board meeting with the Daily News.
He tries to calm things with a joke.
"I can't get any attention these days," he says. "I suffer from attention deficit disorder."
"Mr. Mayor, have you received any word from the federal government that you are any type of target in a federal investigation?" asks Dan Cuellar, from Channel 6.
"I have not received any word and I don't have any reason to believe that I am the target of any investigation. I believe that I haven't done anything wrong and I think that surely, we are going to continue to advocate for a statement to that effect."
Why would the FBI go out of its way to clear Mr. Katz and refuse to conform or deny? Doesn't that suggest you are under investigation?
"Not to me," Street answers, "but I don't know what it does to them."
Street is asked whether he will sweep his home for bugs.
"I am informed by my wife that we should probably have our house swept for bugs, but only after we clean and I have to be around to help clean," he says, eliciting laughter.
The conversation turns to the White House. Street says that while "the timing of all this is very suspicious," he is not really concerned that the White House ordered the probe.
"I kind of doubt the president of the United States has any knowledge" of this probe, he says.
But that does not mean the investigation is apolitical, Street says.
"I think that significant parts of this could be politically motivated," Street says.
Street goes on to deny he is a target of any investigation and says that he knows of no one in his administration, or his inner circle, who is.
"I was a target of Abscam," he says. "They didn"t do much about it, because when they asked me what did I want, I wanted to know how low-income people were going to benefit from the money they spent in North Philadelphia. So, I have been a target before."
"Are you having a great day?" Street is asked.
"I am having a pretty good day," he says, uttering what would become his stock answer to any probe questions. "Can I tell you something? I'll tell you what"s a bad day. The family of the firefighter we took off the roof of that house yesterday was having a very bad day."
Ten minutes into the press conference, Street stops talking and demands that Inky photog Peter Tobia stop shooting. Tobia responds that this is a press conference and that he has a job to do.
"I want you to stop taking pictures now," Street insists. "You've taken pictures for all this time and I have been very polite about it and I would like you stop. Is that OK?"
"I am here to cover the press conference," says Tobia.
"Oh, if I can't get that arrangement, then it is over."
Street starts to get up, as if to leave, until CBS 3's Robin Mackintosh asks the question on everybody's mind.
Earlier in the day the FBI raided offices belonging to Imam Shamsud-din Ali -- a Muslim cleric and Street supporter. Mackintosh unleashed a torrent of questions about the connection to the FBI probe of City Hall.
Street acknowledges that he is a supporter, a friend and an imam, but that he doesn't know anything about the raid. Mackintosh asks if he is shocked about the raid.
"I would be harder to shock today than yesterday," he says.
A few hours later, a senior Katz official says the Republican will hold his fire.
"Sam is going to stay way far away from this," says the staffer, quoting Machiavelli. "We'll let Street self-destruct. We don't want Sam to dwell on this because there may be a backlash from people who think Street is a victim here. The hard part for us is that nobody is going to care about our stand on all the issues we want to talk about. At least not this week."
That night, at a Ballard Spahr fundraiser, Street shows he still has a sense of humor.
After thanking guests for attending, he looks up at the ceiling and asks, aloud, "Are you getting this?"
Thursday morning breaks with new speculation, new concerns and fresh leaks.
FBI Steps Up Probe, reports the Inquirer. Street: It's Not Me, reports the Daily News.
City Councilman Frank DiCicco -- not a fan of the mayor or the mayor's allies, namely Local 98 electricians union -- gives his take on the bugging at the Liberty Bell's new home.
"I had my office swept after Local 98 rewired City Hall last year," he says. "I paid $2,000 out of my own pocket to have it done. I didn't know the police would do it for free."
About an hour later, a CBS 3 producer having a confidential conversation with a police source on a wholly different subject, discovers that the FBI has Mayor Street's beloved BlackBerry handheld computer in its possession.
That news doesn't make it to Sam Katz"s press conference, held in his South 17th Street headquarters. Katz -- who apologizes for his cough with an offhand joke about having a bug, and says he has been talking cough medicine -- talks mostly about how he wants the feds to be fair to the mayor by coming clean about what they know, and that Street should come clean to the public by telling what he knows.
Later, Katz is asked to comment on the conspiracy theory.
"It would require an extraordinary level of ineptness on the part of conspirators, to pursue an investigation that is politically motivated, which so quickly vindicates him. Whatever I just said," he responds.
"The cough syrup kicking in?" Daily News reporter Chris Brennan jokes.
Taking it all in, CNN"s Jason Carroll makes his "Philly is a wacky place" comment.
And it would only get wackier. At 3 p.m., as Street leaves Independence Hall, a herd of print and TV reporters swarm the Mayor and shout hundreds of questions about the FBI investigation. Street"s security detail pushes through the crowd. Street tries to ignore the swarm. He is asked several questions by CBS 3 about the BlackBerry.
Street, who has just jumped into his van, pauses for a second and stares back at the questioners, his mouth hanging open in disbelief. The door slams shut and the van speeds off.
Mayoral spokesperson Barbara Grant tells the reporters, "Nice try" and explains that the mayor will answer questions tonight after the mayoral debate at Drexel University.
Though the information about the BlackBerry is solid, many tidbits floating around the city are bunk.
About an hour before the debate, David L. Cohen -- mayoral chief of staff to Ed Rendell and now Comcast general counsel -- calls back to vigorously deny rumors of his involvement in tipping off Street about the bugs.
There are many variations of the rumor. Some have the feds asking former Secret Service agents now working to catch cable thieves for their help because Comcast's headquarters have a line of sight to the mayor's office. Some have the feds asking Cohen for his help and that Cohen in turn told Street, or Sylvester Johnson, about the bugs.
Forget that there is no line of sight between the mayor's office and Comcast. Cohen laughs off the rumor.
Outside the Mandell Theater, it is a circus. There are dozens of media types and a growing crowd of young Katz supporters led by Katz's son Philip.
Queena Bass, the fired Thomas Jefferson University employee who ran for mayor in 1999 but could not get on the ballot this time around, is here, standing with her father and brother, holding signs and urging people to write in her name.
There are other signs. A couple of young men -- who would neither give their names nor say on whose behest they were there -- hold up signs accusing Katz of sexually harassing a woman named Joan Perri.
And, on the grass, a young man from Drexel wrestles with a young woman, ultimately pinning her while TV crews look on in amusement.
All along Market Street, the mood is one of tension and black humor.
Finally, just around 7 p.m., one of the mayor mobiles pulls up to the curb, lights flashing. The door opens and Street's wife, Naomi Post, emerges, followed by other family members and, eventually, Street.
As the mayor gets out of the car, he is pounced on by media and surrounded by Philip Katz and his brigade of young Katz supporters. They are wearing Katz for Mayor T-shirts, waving Katz for Mayor signs and shouting, "Katz! Katz! Katz!"
Channel 6's Dan Cuellar asks Street about the BlackBerry.
"Can we talk about this after the debate?" Street responds.
Reporters surround Street and pepper him with questions until he disappears into the auditorium.
By contrast, Katz arrives in the Katz mobile to the cheers of "We Want Katz!"
He too is pounced on and asked for comment.
"I already had my comments for the day, I think. We are going to have a debate, then we are going to have plenty of opportunity," he offers.
The crowd, made up of his son and friends, shouts, "Katz rocks! Katz rocks! Katz rocks!"
Spurred for comment, Katz continues his theme.
"The mayor needs to come clean," he says. "The mayor needs to provide us with all the information that everybody would like to have to understand exactly what he knows, and he obviously knows a lot more then he is telling the people of Philadelphia, and it is time for him to tell everybody what he knows."
Katz is asked what the thinks of the circus.
"What do I think of the circus? Well, California's over. Welcome to Philadelphia."
Inside, dignitaries including District Attorney Lynne Abraham and Bruce Crawley are shown to their seats down front while the crowd settles in. It's showtime.
Debate moderator Arthur Fennell of CN8 News lays out the ground rules. Each candidate has one minute to answer a question and 30 seconds for follow-ups. Then, he introduces the principals, who both stride onstage and shake hands to thunderous applause. In his opening statement, the incumbent acknowledges that the events of the past 48 hours have made it difficult to get his message out.
"I have been anxious to focus on the issues," Street says. "It is unfortunate that there have been distractions."
For his first question, Katz is asked why blacks and other minorities should vote for him, considering he ignored them in 1999.
"I made mistakes in 1999," he admits, "but I think I ran an aggressive campaign in minority neighborhoods four years ago. This year I've gone to every neighborhood, including those who didn"t vote for me last time. Philadelphians want a leader who will bring Philadelphia together."
Both candidates get in a few jabs, but no one lands the knockout blow. Street dances around questions concerning his opposition to domestic-partner benefits, and Katz bobs and weaves when it comes to details of his wage-tax cut.
On the question of campaign contributions equaling access to city contracts -- pay for play -- Katz gets in a few digs. There will be no cronyism and sweetheart no-bid contracts to friends and contributors under his administration, Katz vows, while bringing up the sweetheart collections contract of Tommy St. Hill, a Street friend and contributor.
Street counters that campaign finance should apply to everyone, and any changes to the laws must be made in Harrisburg first. In the meantime, he's just doing things the way they've always been done.
Finally, only minutes from the end of the debate, the bug comes up.
"The timing is suspicious to us," Street says, echoing a defense that will be used repeatedly by his minions during the next few days. "There are some in the African-American community who think that this is too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence."
Katz counters with his own oft-repeated call for immediate full disclosure.
"What else does the mayor know?" Katz asks. "I find it not credible to call the timing of the investigation political when it's well documented that at least parts of the investigation have been going on for months."
In their closing statements, Street touts his 25 years of service to the people of the city and asks for four more, while Katz claims the city has lost its momentum and when he"s elected, we"ll do better.
Fennell then thanks the candidates -- whose supporters stridently attempt to out-applaud each other -- and the audience. After another handshake, the candidates disappear backstage. Ten minutes later, Street makes his way to the reception lounge, and the most raucous press conference of his administration.
After the debate, a small army of reporters is arranged in a tightly packed semicircle in the reception lounge.
The debate is over and the journalists are waiting for their chance to ask the questions Street promised to answer a little more than an hour ago.
There is a frenzy in this crowd; it's an anger and frustration not seen in these parts in years. The mayor has been less than forthcoming and now, for the reporters who have followed this man around for years, it is personal.
The tension builds as reporters await the mayor. They are told they can have 15 minutes.
They wait some more.
There is palpable seething.
Finally, the mayor enters and stands before the forest of microphones at the podium.
The barrage begins.
"What have you been told, by the U.S. Attorney's office, other than that you are not a target of this investigation?" asks CBS 3's Jim Barry.
Street shakes his head.
Hold on. I am -- I am having a great day, he says. I would like to see if I can say this only 10 times. All right?
Can you talk about the BlackBerry too? Barry asks.
Hold on for a second. Right. I have had no personal conversations with anybody in the Justice Department. None. Not one word, right. Everything I know, about this whole so-called investigation and what it's about, I know from a conversation I had with [attorney] Arthur Makadon. He himself spoke with representatives of the Justice Department. Right? You follow that? And Arthur Makadon had said to me, "You are not the target of any investigation.' Now, what he has not said to me, and I'll, and I don't -- and I believe it is because nothing had been said to him -- he has not told me who might be a target. He has not told me what might be the subject of any investigation. He has not told me when any investigation started, when any investigation may have -- you know, had it going on, he has told me nothing about it. Right?
Did you ask him? a reporter asks Street.
I asked him, "Tell me whatcha know,' and he said to me, "The only thing I can tell you' -- right, and I assumed that to mean "the only thing I know' -- "is that you are not the target of any investigation of any kind whatsoever.'
The questions fly.
When did he say that?
Did the FBI confiscate your BlackBerry?
Street answers the former.
"He told me that after I met with reporters on Wednesday."
Bruce Gordon of Fox 29 wasn't biting.
They gave that information to either you or your representatives relatively early in the day, so that you would have, or should have, known that by the time you met with us? asks Gordon.
Street responds haltingly , measuring his words as they leave his mouth.
I did not -- I didn't -- I did -- I -- I too -- I told you that the first time I had an opportunity to see you after Mr. Makadon told me. The very first time. Whenever it was. I think I have been a little busy here.
With Street pausing to take a breath, more questions fly.
The mayor is queried about his statement, made during the debate, that the listening devices were "recently" placed in his office.
"What makes you believe the listening devices were placed there recently?" Street is asked.
"I don't know when the listening device was placed," he answers. "I said that there is a suspicion, that there is a feeling that the listening device was placed, I don"t know when the listening device was placed --"
"Then why say it?" a reporter interrupts.
"That's obviously playing into the whole conspiracy because you don't say what you know," another reporter tells Street, who tries to answer.
"Because. Because somebody asked me about the campaign and how people feel about the campaign and there is a concern in the community, in the Philadelphia community at large, that this doesn't feel right, it's a problem."
What did you believe, whether this was placed recently as opposed to a month, two months ago, three months ago?
"I don't know when it was placed. I don't know when it was placed."
"Did the FBI confiscate your BlackBerry?" asks CBS 3's Tamsen Fadal, whose station broke that news hours earlier, which threw fuel onto the already overheated debate buildup.
No, says the mayor. No. Let me tell you what happened with the BlackBerry. I was in my office and the police commissioner was there. I received word that a firefighter was injured and was in very critical condition. I was in my office at the time, with only the police commissioner. The police commissioner had a conversation with the other people who came from, I guess, the FBI. The police commissioner said to me, "They may want your BlackBerry.' I said to the commissioner, "Take the BlackBerry. I'm going to the hospital.' I have never not gone to the hospital when a Philadelphia firefighter, or Philadelphia police officer, or anyone has ever had, or was ever injured in the line of duty -- or, as a matter of fact, sometimes it is not even in the line of duty.
I gave the BlackBerry to Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. And I went off about my business. And I came back. And I got back. Mr. Johnson wasn't there. And later on in the day, it may have been late that night or early in the morning, it was sometime in the next 12 to 16 hours. I remember. And I said, "What happened to the BlackBerry?' He said, "I gave it to them. You'll get it back in a couple of days.' I said, "No problem.'
"Have you gotten it back yet?" Street is asked.
"I do not have it."
A dozen reporters scream a dozen questions.
Vince Thompson, an official with the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, yells even louder.
"Last question," says Thompson, who tries to end the merciless grilling of Street.
He is roundly ignored.
"Have you changed your BlackBerry technology in the last week?" asks Channel 10"s Vince DeMentri, who is just getting wound up about now.
"I," Street says, pausing, cocking his head ever so slightly, "I have three BlackBerrys."
The news stuns the pack, which is silent for about three seconds, until Thompson again tries to shut down the proceedings.
"That is the last question everybody," says Thompson, who once flacked for the housing authority and DA Lynne Abraham during her recent re-election campaign.
More questions are shouted.
"That wasn't 15 minutes," says Chris Brennan of the Daily News.
DeMentri is angry.
"Don't you think it was important to mention when you were meeting with reporters that the police had asked for and you --"
Street tries to answer, but is drowned out by another question from Gordon.
"On Tuesday, when you first told us a listening device was found in your office, you alluded to the fact that you didn"t know who placed it there or what. You never mentioned. You must have already known that it was the FBI."
"No, I wasn't -- I wasn't -- I wasn't sure who placed that listening device there. I wasn't sure who placed that listening device there. I wasn't in a position to speculate about who placed a listening device in the city. If you will remember, even at the time when the U.S. Attorney's office and people making the statements, they weren't even acknowledging that the device was a listening device. They just said there was a device and they said "that device." They wouldn't say whether it was a listening device. They wouldn"t say who"s device it was, and that"s all we had to go on."
Mr. Mayor! Mr. Mayor!
More questions, more shouts.
"Hold on," Street says. "Hold on."
Reporters shout out queries about the BlackBerrys.
"I gave the BlackBerry to Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who told me they may want my BlackBerry. And I said, "I am getting ready to go to the hospital." And I give it to him and I leave. And I got to tell you, I didn"t think much about it. I just really didn't think much about it, until later on that night, or in the morning and I asked him, "What did they do? Do they want the BlackBerry?" I don't know why they wanted the BlackBerry."
"Are you aware that the FBI has used keystroke software to record all the keystrokes on your computer, as we are hearing some sources say?"
"I haven't heard about that," says Street.
"Can I ask you about the BlackBerry, Mr. Mayor? Did you give one or all three?"
"I gave the BlackBerry I had in my possession."
"Did you give the rest of them in?"
"No, no one asked for the other two."
"Did they confiscate any records from the Minority Enterprise Business Council?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"I do not know."
"Mr. Mayor, why didn't you think it was important in the days following this that the BlackBerry had been confiscated?"
Street is getting a bit flustered and frustrated. And his answers are now verging on the incredible.
"Because nobody asked," he blurts. "I am answering questions that people asked."
"You also said you were trying to be as forthright as possible," DeMentri demands.
"Didn't you think it was important that the federal government wanted your BlackBerry?" DeMentri barks.
"I didn't -- I didn't -- I just didn't think about it."
"Somebody bugged your office and you didn't make any connection between those two things?" asks an exasperated Gordon.
"No, I have answered questions, and I am prepared to answer more questions."
Gordon jumps in again.
"By then surely you realized that there was some connection between law enforcement saying they want your BlackBerry and the fact that they bugged your office."
Street begins to backpedal.
"By that time, by that time, I along with many other people, had some clue that this probably was something that, that that had to be with law enforcement. I was very candid about that."
Was there a search warrant for your office?
"I don't know. Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson would have the answer to that."
There are more shouts and out of the din, DeMentri's voice booms.
"You wouldn't know -- wait a minute, excuse me -- you wouldn't know if there's a search warrant for your office?"
"I don't," says Street, attempting an answer. "I don't --"
"Is that what you are saying?" DeMentri shouts.
"No. What I am telling you is I don't know -- I don't believe there was a search warrant for my office."
DeMentri is incensed.
"But certainly you would know if there was one," DeMentri yells.
"I don't -- I don't -- I don't know that there was one."
"You are the mayor of the city of Philadelphia. Are you telling me that you wouldn't know if there was a subpoena?"
"That's not what I am telling you," Street responds. "That's not what I am telling you."
"That's not what I'm asking," says DeMentri, intoning even more outrage. "I am asking you. You're the mayor. If there were a search warrant, you would know, yes?"
"If there had been a search warrant for my office, I would know that and I do not know -- I have no knowledge that there was a search warrant."
"How about your home?"
"I don't know of any search warrant having to do with me, my personal property, my office, my home or any of that."
As things get heated, Street supporter Donald "Ducky" Birts tries in vain to get the attention of the mayor's handlers from his position behind the reporters. Gesturing wildly and waving his trademark hat in the air, Birts looks like a baseball manager signaling for both the double steal and the suicide squeeze on the same play.
"Dan! Dan!" Birts shouts to campaign spokesperson Dan Fee, "Get him out of there!"
Fee and others try to drag Street away. Street refuses, opting instead to stand his ground.
The grilling continues.
Street is asked if it is "possible that you are the subject of an investigation as opposed to the target of an investigation?"
"I don't know," he responds. "I -- I'm not sure what that means. I know that I'm not -- I know that the bad guy in these investigations is the target. And I know I am not the target."
Finally, after many more testy minutes, Street's wife, Naomi Post, convinces the mayor that enough is enough and, surrounded by cameras, they make their exit.
Interestingly, when it is Katz's turn for questions, the crowd is far less hostile. There is no yelling. No vituperativeness.
"I don't believe that the Justice Department or the FBI put a wire in the mayor's office and then only told him he is not a target of a U.S. Attorney's office investigation," Katz says. "As I said before, and say again, the mayor should come clean and tell us what he knows that was told to him."
Katz also repeats his refrain that when the feds initiated investigations into the airport contracts the fixing of parking tickets, Street never complained about dirty tricks.
"To say this investigation suddenly came out of nowhere, out of cloth, is disingenuous on the mayor's part," says Katz.
Further highlighting the kid-glove approach to Katz is the relative dearth of questions surrounding a business deal gone sour that led to a civil suit charging Katz with trying to bilk investors out of nearly $300,000. Key records in that case are sealed.
Reporters ask just a few questions about that case. And do so politely.
"Why not just open them up?" Katz is asked.
"I have rights under the agreements that I made to the confidentiality of that material," he says. "It is a civil case, not a criminal case, though the mayor has tried to suggest otherwise. This matter has been investigated by the District Attorney of Montgomery County and the Lower Merion Police Department and they concluded I was the victim and innocent of the charges."
"People want to know who you are," Katz is asked. "Why not just open it up and make it go away?"
"Well, that would just give you the chance to try this in the press and that won't necessarily be a fair trial and I have a court date on March 4. It will be a public trial and the public will see everything it needs to see. There was a complaint filed, and it is a dispute about money between two parties."
Katz adds that he has been available to answer questions on the subject.
"Does the sealed information speak to your character?" Katz is asked.
"No, it speaks to a wild group of charges made public by a person whose credibility and competence as a witness has already been impeached."
With that, the press conference ends and Katz and his wife, Connie, walk out into the night, to the cheers of those same sign-waving supporters.
Outside the theater, Denise Clay, a reporter for the Bucks County Courier Times and president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, says she's just glad the debate is over. As one of the event's main organizers, Clay says the months of preparation were grueling, but worth it. Asked what made the event such a pain in the ass to arrange, Clay diplomatically blames the incumbent.
"Katz's people committed right away, no problem," she says. "Street's people hemmed and hawed until the very last minute. Until a week ago, we still weren't sure this would happen."
And why would Street keep the debate organizers in limbo for so long?
"That's just the way they work," Clay says of the mayor's staff. "It's very frustrating."
A few hours later, the Katzes, their children and a few close friends are coming from dinner at Ecco Qui, a restaurant a block away from the theater. As they pass the three TV news vans where photographers and reporters are editing news stories for their 11 p.m. newscasts, Katz pauses to chat. His wife teasingly reports, "He's had a drink on top of cold medicine he's taking."
Katz inquires about the news reports being prepared and is told that they will most likely focus on Street"s BlackBerry and the federal investigation.
"The FBI really needs to tell everybody what's going on," Katz says. "It's only fair to Mayor Street and his family."
The post-debate press conference is the last full airing of the bugging issue. Street -- desperate to get out his message -- makes a conscious effort to avoid talking about it.
But while he might, it is the topic of conversation around the city as people wonder what Street knew and when he knew it.
Fri., Oct. 10, 12:30 p.m., outside the Municipal Services Building
CBS 3 reporter Walt Hunter and two camera crews race across JFK Boulevard to check out rumors that the FBI is about to stage a raid on the building to seize unspecified files.
Camera crews from Channels 6 and 10, waiting alongside City Hall, notice Hunter jogging across the plaza and they grab their gear and rush to the MSB. Within minutes Dave Schratwieser from Fox is there. So is LuAnn Cahn from NBC 10. A moment later a KYW NewsRadio reporter and a newspaper photographer show up.
Even the TV traffic helicopters are pressed into service and within a few seconds the skies above City Hall resound with the thud-thud-thudding of several TV choppers hovering overhead.
Within an hour it becomes apparent that there is no FBI raid.
Fri., Oct. 10, 1 p.m., at the ceremony launching Al Dia's Latino voters guide, Liacouras Center
Pedro Vargas is on the first week of his job as an Al Dia reporter, having come here from the nation's capitol.
"I hear about political dirty tricks or something like that, but I don't know," says Vargas. "It is a beautiful city. The nightlife is very good. The historic buildings are very nice. The politics, I am just learning. People don't like the political system here because they say it is very dirty. I don't know if it is true."
He is about to find out.
1:25 p.m., Liacouras Center
Fred Voigt, chair of the Committee of 70 election-watchdog group, says he's been contacted by reporters asking whether the Democrats are going to replace Street on the ballot.
"I think that is very over-the-edge, even speculating about it," he says. "It is a non-starter. There is an investigation, that is all we know. You don't have vacancies occurring because there is an investigation."
1:37 p.m., Liacouras Center
"I am the last person to know how U.S. Attorneys work," says longtime Street friend Bruce Crawley. "But I think that some people would think it had to do with partisan control of those offices, I wouldn't want to say, but certainly people also don't have to think hard to believe that there might be blatant Republican politics at play and some hint of racial politics at play."
Crawley, who is convinced his friend is ahead in the polls, says the Republicans are desperate.
"Three weeks to go, you call in the Marines and you go to shock and awe," he says.
3:10 p.m., Delaware Avenue
Gov. Ed Rendell arrives at a press conference to unveil a new waterfront condominium project at piers 36-39. Reporters immediately barrage him with questions.
"Can you tell us anything new?" one asks.
"This is a complicated investigation that's not going to be decided in three weeks," Rendell says, jamming his hand into his pants pocket. He withdraws a handful of change.
"The longer this hangs out there, the more it hurts everybody, right?" a TV reporter asks.
"The voters," Rendell says. "That's who it hurts most of all. I will tell you, though, there is no evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing. Get back to square one."
"You can't just put a bug in someone's office," the TV reporter continues.
Rendell stares into his palm and jingles the coins. "It's done all the time," he says. "All the time."
The governor turns to walk into the press-conference tent but stops and turns back to the cameras.
"Be fair," he tells the group. "Be fair. You have an obligation to be fair. This is not about ratings. This is an election."
Standing next to the tent is Michael Sklaroff, chairman of the city Historical Commission. He's been talking on his cell phone since Rendell arrived.
"Well where is he? On his way?" Sklaroff says.
It's 3:25. Street is now more than 20 minutes late. He was supposed to show up and speak alongside Rendell.
Suddenly, an official with the mayor's office arrives and beckons the press corps back to the edge of the parking lot. The cameras zoom in on him as he speaks. Reporters shove microphones in his face, barking out questions.
But Sklaroff makes another phone call. "I think at this point it's better that he doesn't show. Running late at a funeral? That"s good."
5:30 p.m., City Hall
New rumors that the FBI is raiding City Hall send TV camera crews and print reporters scurrying into the building. Instead of FBI agents in raid jackets they find a bored Barbara Grant and several other mayoral aides watching the local TV news reports in an office down the hall from the mayor.
"Are you here for the raid?" Grant asks sarcastically. "We"ve been waiting for two days. We are told every couple hours by the press that the FBI is on the way."
A reporter asks why all the press has just shown up.
"Because it's just another Walt Hunter-inspired raid rumor."
The reporters drift away.
7 p.m., Liberty City Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club fall fundraiser, Transit Lounge
State Rep. Babette Josephs on the "Republican Conspiracy Theory":
"I think it's making people very angry and I think they are feeling very protective of the mayor. There are wondering, am I next? Is someone going to investigate me?
"I think it will increase the mayor's turnout and very much augment his margin of victory. We know there is a man in the White House who was not elected president and we know that the White House seriously misled the American public about the war in Iraq and I would not put anything past them. George W. Bush came into Pennsylvania 22 times, more than any other state. They need Pennsylvania in November 2004 and they'll get it more easily if they have a Republican mayor in Philadelphia and they know it."
7 p.m., Penn State campus, Abington
TV crews arrive to interview Sean Griffin, an ex-cop turned college professor, who has written a book about the Philadelphia Black Mafia. Griffin is going to talk about Street friend and supporter Imam Shamsud-din Ali, whose home and offices were raided the same day police found the bug in the mayor's office.
"My phone hasn't stopped ringing," he tells the reporter. "Everybody wants to talk to me about Ali. You wouldn't believe some of the things they want me to say about him. Another TV station even said, say this about him. But I wouldn't do it."
Griffin, a former organized crime cop who specialized in the black mob and the violent Muslim prison gangs of the '60s and '70s, says Ali is a complicated man. "He was in prison for five years. He knew a lot of black gangsters and the Muslims obeyed him," Griffin says. "People went to him to arrange to be protected by Muslim gangs in prison. But it also appears he turned his life around after his sentence was overturned. He started a school, helped the community. Turned out to be quite a civic leader."
7:25 p.m., Transit
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, the openly gay Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, addresses the crowd.
"I know you've got a tough mayor's election. I think at this point there is nothing Karl Rove wants more than to have a Republican mayor of Philadelphia. Because a Republican mayor in Philadelphia will help the Bush ticket in Philadelphia in 2004 and their chances of winning go up and ours go down."
7:45 p.m., Transit
U.S. Rep. and Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady follows Frank in his remarks about Street.
"What they are doing to this man is a sin before God," Brady says. "This man is a son, a husband, a father and a grandfather. And guess what, I may be next. And so will you. It could go on and on."
8:15 pm, Transit
Rendell confirms that he has asked national Democrats including presidential candidate Howard Dean to publicly support Street. Dean has a vast e-mail network that may come in handy for this effort.
8:25 p.m., Transit
Micah Mahjoubian, office manager in Street's campaign, says their polls show that white support has not decreased and black support has increased.
9:05 pm, Transit
Eric Stern, director of GLBT Outreach for the DNC says that it doesn't matter that Sam Katz has christened himself pro-gay. "The GOP has a lot of work to do. If Katz were elected, he would fall in line with Bush and support all homophobic candidates," he says, adding that he thought Republicans were behind the probe. "There is no doubt that this mayoral election will have national implications because Pennsylvania is a swing state."
Sun., Oct. 12, 8:15 a.m., live in the studio of Channel 6 on "Sunday Live" with Wally Kennedy
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, a co-chair of Street's campaign, is on the show with Brian Tierney, campaign chair for Katz. Tierney refers to corruption in the Parking Authority when the Authority -- which was taken over by Republicans -- was under Street.
"The FBI is investigating a $6 million probe into the Parking Authority about them fixing tickets, of which 46 of those tickets were yours, Congressman," says Tierney to Fattah.
Fattah denies the accusation. (According to news reports, the tickets were accumulated by Fattah's son, a freelance photographer.)
Tierney says that for Fattah and other Democrats to say that there is persecution by Republicans is fundamentally un-American and unpatriotic. Fattah responds by referring to the FBI investigation of former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, an African American, who is now deceased.
"They investigated him for over 20 years," Fattah says. "Even after he was dead and nothing came of it."
Tierney then attacks Fattah's credibility by announcing that Fattah"s congressional aid, Greg Naylor, is still being paid by the congressman while working on the Street campaign. Again, Fattah denies Tierney"s accusations.
Fattah then compares John Street to Jesus Christ. "We are preparing for Easter in November," he says. "It is the Easter story about the crucifixion and the resurrection."
10:45 a.m., Channel 6 studios
The second shift has come on. Now the mayor is being defended by Street cabinet member and former City Councilman George Burrell against a withering barrage of accusations by Tierney, who's now fully warmed up and on a roll. Tierney reiterates Katz's charge about those dubious city contracts that have come under fire by the feds.
"Those contracts are handled out of my office," Burrell says candidly. "Most of those contracts the mayor never sees."
4:24 p.m., Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival
Katz says he doubts the Street poll mentioned by Street campaign office manager Mahjoubian at a LGBT fundraiser on Friday night is true. (Mahjoubian said that the Street poll showed that Street's white votes are holding and that black votes are up.) "The only one who would know about the poll in that campaign is Street, his campaign manager and his pollster," says Katz.
Monday, it starts up all over again. Everywhere Street goes, he is asked about the probe. Each time, he bobs and weaves.
With each thrust, with each parry, it is evident that CNN's Jason Carroll is right.
Philly really is a wacky place.