Posted: June 26, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The most sense for an elected official accused of a sex crime would seem to be to lie low, not keep it fomenting in public, but Vance Phillips brought in Joe Hurley to be his lawyer, anyway.

Phillips is the Sussex County Republican councilman who was blindsided a couple of weeks ago, when all of the state legislators were sent an anonymous letter accusing him of an improper relationship with a 17-year-old he encountered while both of them were working on the campaign for Glen Urquhart, the Republican congressional candidate in 2010.

In keeping with the longstanding practices of the Delaware General Assembly, where the unofficial motto could be the-buck-stops-somewhere-else, the legislators passed off the letter to other authorities who will not be up for election this year the way they are. The Attorney General's Office and the state police are therefore investigating.

The letter, which was signed "An Anonymous Sussex County Citizen," is the latest in a plague of problems for Phillips. He had a scuffle with Jeff Christopher, the Sussex County Republican sheriff who is on a constitutional tear for policing powers, and he also crashed an ultra-light plane he was learning to fly and has not been able to walk unassisted since.

Any connection among those events is not determined, but inquiring political minds are asking.

If Phillips had any intention of suffering in silence, the way not to do it was to enlist Joe Hurley as his lawyer. Hurley, a noted defense attorney, can make P.T. Barnum look like a wallflower.

Hurley once played the theme music to "The Godfather" during a political corruption trial, although he did not play it for long. The court was not amused.

He also went to the state Senate to object to a judgeship for Jane Brady, then the Republican attorney general, in an arrangement that let Ruth Ann Minner, then the Democratic governor, put the Attorney General's Office under the control of her own party, first through an appointment and then through Beau Biden's election.

Hurley famously mocked Brady's nomination by displaying a sign reading, "Judgeship for sale."

He is also known for sending out "Hurley-grams," notoriously indignant letters, when provoked, which can be easily done. Probably the best way to describe Hurley-grams is to say they typically read a lot like the press release he went ahead and issued on behalf of Vance Phillips.

It was classic Hurley, where extremism in the defense of a client is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of press coverage is no virtue.

"Councilman Vance Phillips was the victim of a bin Laden attack," the press release read.

"The terminology, which will always live in American ignominy, refers to a spineless coward, who sits in the darkness, and deliberately, and gleefully, inflicts pain on innocents in order to accomplish his deranged agenda. Pakistan had its bin Laden. Sussex County has one as well.

""Not content to attempt assassination of the character of Vance Phillips, Georgetown bin Laden targeted innocent members of the General Assembly. . . .

"Finally, and in what may be described as perhaps the most steroidal act of revulsion, Georgetown bin Laden maliciously identified a young lady as a participant in criminal activity alleged by him.

"Fortunately, the United States of America had Navy SEALs at its disposal to dispatch the Pakistani spineless excuse for humanity into kingdom come. Unfortunately, Vance Phillips does not have that luxury. All that Vance Phillips can do, and now does, is to challenge Georgetown bin Laden to come out of his nest," etc., etc.

The press release seems like some sort of switch and bait. Switch the attention to the anonymous letter writer and try to bait whoever it is out into the open.

Wherever there is Joe Hurley, there is hurly burly.