If you are a profligate prelate, a prosecuting-shirking D.A., or an editor with loose lips, the last person you want on your case is Ralph Cipriano, an old-fashioned ball buster.
The 67-year-old lapsed liberal and unlapsed Catholic has more scalps on his belt than an Apache war party.
I know that Native American imagery will awake the woke.
Ralph doesn’t care, and I don’t care.
Disdain for ubiquitous Political Correctness is one thing we have in common.
He was the first Philadelphia Inquirer reporter to sue the paper for libel, in 1998.
In his footsteps, I am suing the paper for defamation, but my attorney, Mark Schwartz, says I am not free to comment on the suit.
In Ralph’s case, the editor of the paper said Ralph’s reporting was “untrustworthy.” That could be a career-killer, and, it was untrue.
In brief, the controversy’s roots were planted when Inquirer City Editor Robert Rosenthal recruited Ralph, a self-described “fallen Catholic,” to become the paper’s religion writer.
Ralph had arrived four years earlier from the Los Angeles Times, where he covered local government and exposed police brutality. Ralph was one of the breed of newspaper vagabonds, moving from one paper to the next.
His first job at a daily was with the Meriden Record-Journal, not far from his hometown of Waterbury, Conn. He then did a couple of years at the Albany Times-Union, before heading to L.A.
In Philadelphia, after he allowed Rosenthal to talk him into the religion beat, he produced a number of stories, including some critical of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
The church pushed back with its hired communications howitzer, Brian Tierney, who likened Ralph to a “low grade infection.”
Several years later Tierney, with perhaps good intentions, led an investment group that wildly overpaid $515 million for the Inquirer and Daily News, putting him in a financial hole he could never climb out of. Four years later, he sold the operation for about one-quarter of what he had paid for it.
Ralph returns Tierney’s compliment by calling the communication chief “the biggest bloated fraud I can think of” who “covered up for priests raping kids.”
Brian Tierney didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Ralph was yanked from the religion beat, but three years later was asked to do a long profile of the cardinal for the paper’s Sunday magazine. It was a ballsy, but politically stupid, call by the magazine’s editor.
Ralph learned the church spent $5 million on vanity projects, including $500,000 on a lavish (secret) media center, and rehabbing the church’s massive seashore property, while it was closing parish churches while pleading poverty, and that the cardinal was spending an inordinate amount of time with a parish widow.
Threatened with a boycott by the church, the Inquirer chickened out and ran a short, sanitized version of his story. Ralph sold his lengthy, original version to the National Catholic Reporter.
Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post called to ask the Inquirer why it hadn’t printed the original story.
Rosenthal said, “There were things we didn’t publish that Ralph wrote that we didn’t think were truthful.”
That is a scarlet letter. It makes a reporter unhirable.
Ralph sued. He was fired, creating a “tough time” of unemployment and economic panic for him and his family, he says, running his hand through a head of Al Pacino hair, more salt than pepper. His two sons were on the glide path to college. His artist wife of 39 years went back to work as a biomedical illustrator to help keep the family afloat, as Ralph freelanced. [I am withholding the names of his family for the same reason I withhold mine — too many trolls out there with too much time on their hands.]
Prior to being kicked off the religion beat, a spark of faith was ignited in the agnostic Ralph because the Inquirer “sent me into too many Black churches,” he laughs. While on assignment in the Mideast, he was baptised in the Jordan river and now considers himself a born-again Christian.
Back in Philadelphia, after more than three years of foot-dragging and putting Ralph through the ringer, the Inquirer settled out of court in 2001. The amount was not announced, but was reported as “several million” by the Washington Post’s Kurtz.
Ralph was hired in 2004 by Jim Beasley, who had sued Ralph’s employer, to help write his autobiography, which became a biography after his death. Ralph also covered trials for a legal-oriented website called TheBeasleyFirm.com. “They were paying me, it was great,” says Ralph. Then a second website was launched — BigTrial.net.
Over time, Beasley bailed, but Ralph kept it.
BigTrial.net is avidly read by cops, lawyers, and some journalists. His top number of hits was 94,000, typical might be around 50,000.
Like StuBykofsky.com, there is no advertising, no charge to readers. He says it’s an expensive hobby. (His other hobby, which he jokes is “downwardly mobile,” is wine-making, an ethnic throwback to his Italian grandfather. His mother is Lebanese.)
So why run BigTrial.net?
He thought about bagging the website a couple of times, he told me as we sat at the table in his airy, modern kitchen.
Then Larry Krasner was elected D.A.
The reporter who had gone after brutal cops in L.A., suddenly turned into the city’s most ferocious critic of the man nicknamed “Let ‘Em Loose Larry,” the former anti-cop defense attorney who is George Soros’ fair-haired boy in Philadelphia.
Why did he go after Krasner?
Because no one else did, notably the Inquirer, he says.
Ralph has excoriated Krasner for hiring young lawyers who could not pass the bar exam, for failure to communicate with victims’ families, for not prosecuting criminals, for filing the lowest possible charges against defendants, and for having assistants on his staff who are criticized by judges for their tactics.
He covers the D.A.’s office like the dew, and has more friends in the office than does Krasner. They keep dropping dimes because of a trust in Ralph that has developed over the years. That is what great beat reporters do.
Some examples of his work:
 “District Attorney Larry Krasner compounded his prior sins of arrogance and deceit by doubling down on stupid… He views himself as the Messiah. A Messiah who’s leading a criminal justice revolution to free the oppressed, which constitutes anybody who’s currently behind bars.”
 “As of yesterday, the city’s body count over the first 47 days of the New Year was up to 71 murders… And meanwhile, over at police headquarters, what was Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw up to? Why in her latest crimefighter effort, the P.C. was ready to embark on a meet and greet tour of the city’s beauty salons, barber shops and nail salons.”
 “Krasner, who has zero interest in prosecution, is also playing politics. And he’s betting that by floating some legal gibberish and hiding behind the police commissioner and the pandemic, he’ll get his sorry ass out of this scrape.”
”The police commissioner is a timid puppet of the mayor, who does whatever he tells her to. We’re talking about the mayor who employed the same campaign manager that is working right now on the D.A.’s reelection campaign. All progressives feed at the same trough.”
”And so Uqdah was in custody yesterday, charged with rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, with no thanks to the brain dead district attorney’s office. Now we can only hope that Let-’Em-Loose Larry doesn’t let Mr. Uqdah out of jail again.”
”District Attorney Krasner and his loyal spokesperson, Jane Roh, did not respond to a request for comment. At least they’re consistent. For the past 19 months, I’ve been firing questions at Krasner and Roh regarding some 80 stories that have documented the incompetence and corruption in the D.A.’s office under Krasner. And for the past 19 months, Krasner and Roh have been stonewalling. But they sure love to talk to their progressive comrades at the Philadelphia Inquirer, which will continue to function as the official house organ of the corrupt local Denocratic Party.”
Inquirer Editor Gabe Escobar declined comment.
”But more than a year before the case went to trial in October 2019, the D.A. huddled behind closed doors for more than three hours with the accused killer and his legal defense team composed of four lawyers and an investigator. In contrast to how he treated Linda Schellenger, [the victim’s mother] Krasner had plenty of time — and sympathy for [accused murderer] Michael White.”
That gives you an idea of what you’re missing.
Ralph’s journalism has several earmarks — a relish in sometimes over-the-top name-calling, fearless finger-pointing, and great length as you might expect from a man who has written four books: “The Hit Man,” a biography of Mafia murderer John Veasey; “Courtroom Cowboy,” the story of legendary Philadelphia lawyer Jim Beasley; “Target: The Senator,” the full story of former Pennsylvania State Sen. Vince Fumo that no one else would tell, and “Doctor Dealer,” written with Inquirer crime reporter George Anastasia.
Anastasia wise-cracks that Ralph writes about “the real mob” — the Catholic Church.
Like all his work, Ralph’s books are meticulously detailed, heavily anecdoted, filled with fury.
I wanted to know more about this guy, so much like me, so I visited him at his 4-story home in Francisville. He works out of what he called his “man cave,” but it is upstairs, the east half the fourth floor. His wife has her art studio on the west side.
His religious transformation was matched by a similar political metamorphosis.
“I was a classic liberal Democrat when I moved to Philadelphia. Seeing progressivism in action, that’s what did it to me,” he says, stretching the long legs of a 6-footer.
But, as a contrarian, “If you plunked me down in RepublicanLand, it would be the same thing.”
As if to prove it, he adds, “My contempt for Republicans is higher than my contempt for Democrats. I watched them run a bag lady for mayor.”
If he comes off like an angry man, that’s because he is an angry man. That’s part of what gets him going, and keeps him going, specifically his contempt for hypocrisy.
“I hate hypocrisy. I hate bullshit and all I see in this town and in the world is bullshit. Where is the bullshit detector? The newsrooms we grew up in,” he says looking at me, “were freewheeling, people took each other on, there were no sacred cows. Now everything is sacred.”
He takes a breath.
“We have a mayor who is the classic emperor with no clothes guy, he has sold out the city at every turn, and the only benefit has been his political aspirations.”
Ralph is a registered independent, which is also how he thinks, and how he acts.
Because I do it myself, I know how time consuming a blog can be, especially for Ralph, with his love of detail and telling everything he knows.
He confesses, “I could use some paying gigs,” says his 2009 Nissan needs replacing, but he has no plans to stop BigTrial.net.
Without making it sound too grandiose, he says doing it in some way pays a debt he thinks he owes to journalism.
“We all have to do something,” he says with a smile, “this is what I do.”