Guilty as charged.
A former teacher’s aide has admitted to the repeated sexual assault of a Conestoga sophomore – in his school office, his car and her bedroom – during the 2016-2017 school year.
After pleading not guilty at his April arraignment, Arthur Phillips changed his plea to guilty last Tuesday and was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison.
If Phillips had been younger, Chester County Judge Patrick Carmody said he wouldn’t have accepted the plea deal. “You’re 67. Do you understand that you may never leave jail, that this might be a life sentence?” he asked the defendant.
Phillips said quietly that he understood.
The judge was clearly disgusted by Phillips’ crimes.
After confirming that Phillips’ only child – his 40-year-old daughter – was in the courtroom, Carmody said he was “baffled that someone who has a daughter could do this to someone else’s daughter. It’s mind boggling. It’s disturbing.”
The judge called Phillips’ daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren “collateral victims” of the crimes. “I feel for their situation,” he said.
Handcuffed but in street clothes, Phillips read a personal statement in which he apologized to “everyone affected,” saying he was grateful to his “very special wife whom I love, to his “amazing” daughter and son-in-law, to his friends, and to God, saying they had all forgiven him.
Carmody shot back that Phillips was being “pretty presumptuous.” He noted that the traumatized victim and her family were not mentioned in Phillips’ statement and asked him to make a formal apology to them in court, which Phillips did.
The judge also scoffed at the note found in the car Phillips crashed after he was caught. “I was just a guy who tried to help a kid and the boundaries just got gray,” the note read.
Calling those words “ridiculous,” Carmody added, “There couldn’t be a more clear line not to cross than this line.”
Phillips was 67 and the student was 15 when he began grooming her with lunches in his school office, trips to the mall and area restaurants, and hundreds of sexually explicit text messages and selfies, culminating in oral sex and intercourse more than ten times. When Carmody asked Phillips if the car crash was a suicide attempt. Phillips replied: “I just lost control. It was on my mind.”
The victim and her family were not in the courtroom, but the girl’s mother sent the court a victim impact statement, which she requested not be read aloud.
The judge made Philips read the statement during the hearing, saying “you couldn’t read this letter and not have your heart be broken.”
A resident of Tredyffrin, Phillips worked as an instructional aide in Stoga’s TV studio from 2006 until his arrest in April 2017. In June, the victim’s family filed a civil suit against the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District and Conestoga’s principal.
Phillip’s 10 to 20-year sentence includes: 5 to 10 years for indecent sexual assault; 3 to 6 years for aggravated indecent assault; 1 to 2 years for institutional sexual assault; and 1 to 2 years for corruption of minors.
The plea agreement was negotiated by an assistant DA in the county’s Child Abuse Unit, Emily Provencher, and Phillips’ attorney, Robert Donatoni. Provencher told SAVVY one of her goals was to spare the victim and her family from having to testify at a trial.
After the sentence was read, Donatoni requested that his client serve his time at Waymart prison in the Poconos, which has a sex offender treatment program.
Judge Carmody said he couldn’t make that call but agreed that Phillips could benefit from such a program. “You still have some looking in the mirror to do,” the Judge said, shortly before the hearing adjourned.
Also heading off to jail: Main Line millionaire loan shark
The mighty have fallen. Charles Hallinan, aka the “godfather of payday lending,” is now under house arrest in his $2.3 million Villanova home.
On Monday, a federal jury found the wealthy Wharton grad, 76, guilty on 17 counts, all Mafia-esque charges: racketeering conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. He’ll be sentenced in April and will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. At next month’s forfeiture hearing, he stands to lose everything – his property and assets worth millions. Prosecutors are reportedly seeking more than $688 million in restitution.
A former investment banker, Hallinan started his Bala Cynwyd-based lending empire in the 1990s, operating under such names as “Instant Cash USA” and “Your Fast Payday.” His companies pioneered a new online model in an industry that once worked only out of storefronts in poor neighborhoods. Hallinan skirted state laws limiting interest rates by “renting” the names of banks and American Indian tribes, prosecutors say. His scheme raked in millions, charging triple-digit interest rates to hundreds of thousands of cash-strapped people across the U.S.
Four other people tied to Hallinan’s businesses have pleaded guilty to similar charges. And experts say his conviction likely means more heads will roll in the shady world of payday lending.
New dining ‘CHOICE’ in Bryn Mawr
A couple Ukranian gents, Vladimir and Igor, are putting the finishing touches on CHOICE, an upscale BYOB in the former Vge space in central Bryn Mawr next to Tiffin.
We’re told the menu will have more, er, choices – including steaks and seafood – than its vegan predecessor. It’s slated to open in late December.
Amenity-rich Canvas seeks active empty nesters
Mature Main Liners (55+) have a new place to hang their hats: Canvas Valley Forge in the King of Prussia Town Center. The first renters are slated to move into the five-star, five-story apartment complex behind Nordstrom Rack this week.
After our tour, we decided Canvas lacks only one thing: ports of call.
Yup, the place is so laden with amenities, it’s like a luxury liner: smallish personal living spaces, colossal communal rooms.
“It’s an 18,000 sq. ft. extension of your home,” Residential Services Director Diana Meyer tells SAVVY, referring to the cavernous club room, community kitchen, Genius (computer) Bar, game room, woodworking shop, craft room, beauty salon, library and fitness center.
Like Julie on “The Love Boat” (if you don’t get the TV reference, you’re too young for Canvas), it’s Diana’s job to dial up the fun: daily fitness classes, wine tastings, book clubs, group hikes, themed parties, museum outings, travel clubs, author visits, chef demos, volunteer opportunities and more.
And if – despite Diana’s best efforts – you get cabin fever, simply stroll outside to the Town Center’s shops and restaurants or chill out by the infinity pool or fire pit.
Canvas is a prototype community for the site’s developer, Bozzuto, the folks who also brought us Malvern’s all-ages Eastside Flats apartments.
Bozzuto settled on the Canvas concept after its “extensive regional psychographic and demographic studies” showed a market for active baby boomers looking to “right size” their homes and simplify their lives. Also targeted: Folks who want to walk to “town” (even if it’s manufactured) but aren’t quite ready to take the Center City plunge.
Rents range from $2,100 for smaller one-bedrooms (@ 750 sq. ft.) to $4,100 for the largest two-bedrooms (1,540 sq. ft.).
Which begs the question: should downsizing empty nesters rent or buy? Main Line realtor Brett Furman, who’s poised to downsize himself, says most of his 55+ clients prefer to buy. Still, he says renting makes sense IF:
- You aren’t sure where you want to settle for the long haul and want to try something new. (Canvas offers a 60-day guarantee.)
- You lack cash or you prefer to invest your home’s proceeds instead of tying them up in another property.
- You don’t want to pay maintenance, taxes and insurance costs.
55+ buyers should beware of overspending on new construction, Furman says. “I’ve watched several of the higher-priced, newer townhomes in areas like Wayne & Haverford resell below their original purchase price … The spread between the new and used has gotten too large. This swings the pendulum to the resale marketplace.”
Twenty of Canvas’ 231 units were leased at the time of our tour. Management wouldn’t share who’s moving in – except that, so far, it’s a mix of working and retired folks, including some with summer and winter homes who want to stay close to adult children in the area.
The public can tour Canvas during the King of Prussia Town Center’s 2nd Annual Winterfest, 10 to 2 on Saturday, Dec. 2, and at two free special events: Manicures and Martinis, 4:30 – 6 on Saturday Dec. 9; and Holiday Appetizer Cooking Demo, 4 – 6 on Thursday, Dec. 14.
So long, Saxbys
After 10 years in Haverford, Saxby’s served its last latte Nov. 3. A company spokesman tells SAVVY the coffee shop left because its lease was up. Staff was shifted to cafés at the Ardmore Farmer’s Market and elsewhere.
Based in Philly, Saxbys has 23 locations, including 12 in Center City.
Muzzling a proposed leash law for Tredyffrin parks
Folks are fired up about a proposal that could end Teegarden Park’s long run as the area’s unofficial (and unfenced) dog park.
Seems the Parks and Rec board received complaints about unruly dogs and unscooped poop over the summer. The board talked it over and voted unanimously to recommend that township officials review dog control ordinances with an eye toward requiring dogs “on leash” at all township parks.
When word got around, Teegarden dog owners got busy. They pleaded their case at the Parks and Rec board meeting Nov. 8 and two days later posted an online petition asking the township to allow dogs to remain “off leash and under control” at Teegarden. Signatures to date: 427.
Leader of the pack is Berwyn realtor Betty Angelucci, who administers the Friends of Teegarden Dog Park Facebook page and wrote the petition. She’s also drafted a code of conduct for dog owners that she hopes to post at the park.
Teegarden is tailor-made for dogs, Betty tells SAVVY. It has wide-open fields, a natural train-track “fence,” and a stream for parched pooches to whet their whistles. Countless friendships – both canine and human – have been forged there, she says.
While some in Tredyffrin are pushing for a traditional, fenced-in dog park, Betty’s group opposes one. They think dogs are more likely to fight when confined to a smaller spaces. One or two irresponsible owners shouldn’t spoil the park for everyone else, Betty says. She plans to present her petition to township officials in January.
Beating tough times – and the buzzer – at a Sixers game
How’s this for a feel-good story? Mike Shelly, a 17-year-old from Newtown Square, won one of those impossible shooting challenges during a timeout at the Nov. 18 Sixers game, sinking a three-pointer, then a half-court shot at the buzzer.
Making his improbable feat even sweeter: Mike spent two years battling stage IV lymphoma in high school and his big brother died in a car crash last summer.
When Mike’s backstory got out, the Sixers piled on the prizes, awarding him court-side seats a few nights later, letting him ring the pregame bell, and presenting him with a custom Markelle Fultz jersey. In March, Mike will fly on a team plane to Atlanta where he’ll see a game and tour the headquarters of the challenge’s sponsor, Chick-Fil-A.
“This kid has been beating the odds his whole life,” the 76ers Chris Heck told Philly.com. “To have that moment of pure joy … which of course we all had watching him … it was a gift.”
A happy footnote: The Marple Newtown High School senior was declared cancer-free last year.
From your closet to theirs
The Main Line mingled with fashion designer Nanette Lepore at Neiman Marcus on Tuesday – and raised a boatload for the nonprofit, Our Closet.
Lepore presented a show of her 2017 Holiday and Resort lines, a highlight of Our Closet’s annual “Fashion for All” fundraiser. Some 250 women raised an impressive $135,000 for the nonprofit founded by Bryn Mawr’s Jill Aschkenasy.
Powered by JFCS and 2,000 volunteers, Our Closet collects, then gives away clothes to people of all ages at boutique-like pop-up shops throughout the Philly area.
This and That…
For the second straight year, a funnyman will headline the Academy Ball. Steve Martin, 72, will do an opening monologue then play the banjo with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Jan. 27 concert and white-tie benefit for the Academy of Music. Last year’s celebrity host was comedian Martin Short. Not quite as musically accomplished as Martin, Short played the triangle. Past performers include superstars Billy Joel, Sting and James Taylor.
Legendary pop artist Peter Max, 80 years young, will meet his adoring fans at the KOP Mall’s Wentworth Gallery Saturday, Dec. 9, from 6 to 8. His rare appearance – free and open to the public – kicks off a new six-decade Peter Max retrospective exhibition at the gallery. The show and sale includes Max’s most famous works including his iconic portraits and never-before-seen photos and footage from his early career.
Bryn Mawr Hospital will be $400,000 richer Friday, when the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair presents its big fat annual check to Main Line Health. The money goes to Bryn Mawr’s $253M construction project, the biggest in the hospital’s 123-year history. Its centerpiece – a seven-story, state-of-the-art Patient Pavilion with private rooms and space for families, a surgical suite and labor-and-delivery unit – is slated to open next year. The Horse Show has pledged $2 million to the project, donating a record $500K in 2015 and $430K last year.
Parking alert: The King of Prussia Town Center will be hopping this Saturday, Dec. 2. The new lifestyle center near Wegmans is hosting its second annual Winterfest from 10 to 2. On tap: free restaurant tastings, school choir concerts, ice sculptures, cookie-decorating and hot-chocolate stations, and visits from Elsa from “Frozen” and Santa (at 12:15). If you go, tote an extra coat to donate to the event’s charity partner, Cradles to Crayons.
Kudos to Conestoga’s boys soccer team, state champs for the second straight year. Paced by star forward and Drexel recruit Chris Donovan who scored a record 56 goals and 9 hat tricks this season, the Pioneers went undefeated: 26-0-1. Apparently, they play nice, too. The team has won the Central League’s Sportsmanship Award for five straight years.
Pitch Perfect … on the Main Line. For 54 years and counting, the Bryn Mawr Mainliners have been winning awards and singing up an a cappella storm – show tunes, patriotic numbers, timeless standards and current fare.
Available for concert bookings, the all-male Mainliners also send out barbershop quartets to deliver singing Valentines and birthday greetings. Catch the holiday spirit at their 24th annual Christmas show 2 p.m. on Dec. 10 at General Wayne Elementary in Malvern. Tickets are $15 – $20; $5 for kids and students.
New, locally-created Christmas gift set (brought to you by SAVVY sponsor, Mister Sprinkle)
Hey, Frosty, Rudolph, Elf on The Shelf: You better watch out, better not cry; Mister Sprinkle is coming to town.
A local family hopes you’ll make this cute Christmas character – a star-shaped cookie – the centerpiece of a new holiday reading and baking tradition.
Because Mister Sprinkle’s not just any cookie. He’s magic.
His sweet story began three Christmas Eves ago, when 3-year-old Andrew Giacoponello asked his parents a precocious question: “How does he do it? How does Santa Claus visit children all over the world in just one night?”
Quick on his feet, his dad answered, “There’s magic in the cookies. They give Santa special powers.”
His mom improvised further, explaining that Santa’s strength grows with every bite of the cookies that boys and girls leave out for him all over the world.
Since then, Jeff and Danielle Giacoponello took their impromptu story and ran with it. They’ve created a Christmas gift set starring – you guessed it – the most magical cookie of all, Mister Sprinkle.
The set includes:
- “Mister Sprinkle and the Secret of Santa’s Magic,” a 36-page rhyming picture book, written by Jeff, who works in Radnor for Lincoln Financial, and his daughter, Catrina, a kindergarten teacher in Atlanta.
- The secret recipe for baking magical cookies for Santa.
- Cookie cutters of Mister Sprinkle and his friends, Snap and Bell.
- A plush, embroidered Mister Sprinkle tree ornament.
The Giacoponellos envision families gathering to read about how to give Santa his magical powers, then baking Mister Sprinkle cookies year after year. A new tradition on the order of say, sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall or seeing the lights at Longwood.
“We hope parents, grandparents, loving aunts, uncles and friends will use the gift set to grow the holiday spirit in their homes,” says Jeff Giacoponello, whose family of six includes three-month-old twins. Goes without saying that holiday baking is huge in their house.
The Mister Sprinkle set is the first product launched by the Giacoponellos’ new company, Experience in a Box. Its mission: to promote family time and create new traditions.
A bonus: The first $5,000 of each year’s Mister Sprinkle sales will be donated to CHOP’s Children’s Fund, a hospital that Giacoponello says has been “magical” in its treatment of a friend’s daughter.