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Philly D.A. Indicted for Bribery and Corruption, Pleads Not Guilty
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DA Seth Williams

Summary: The district attorney of Philadelphia was indicted on bribery and corruption charges in addition to stealing his mother’s nursing home care money.

The district attorney of Philadelphia was indicted by a federal grand jury on bribery and corruption charges Tuesday. Officials described a five-year spree by Seth Williams of taking tens of thousands of dollars and other bribes from businesses. This included a trip to the Dominican Republic and a 1997 Jaguar.

  
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The charges also claim that Williams, 50, took money that was supposed to pay for a relative’s nursing home care for his own personal use. The Philadelphia Inquirer confirmed that the relative was his mother.

Williams pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of fraud, extortion, and other bribery-related charges today in court.

Acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick announced the formal charges the day before. The case includes extortion, bribery, honest services wire fraud, and defrauding a nursing home and family friends. Some of the evidence against Williams includes text messages he sent to two business owners, offering up himself as a resource. The honest services fraud charge originates from the act of a public official denying someone their intangible right to honest services.

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Fitzpatrick said, “The indictment alleges that as District Attorney, Mr. Williams compromised himself and his elected office by standing ready to help those who were willing to pay him with money, trips, and cars. Mr. Williams’ alleged willingness to compromise his position of public trust in exchange for private financial gain is all the more unfortunate given that he was elected to protect the interests of the people of Philadelphia as their chief law enforcement officer.”

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recused his office from the investigation. Williams is being represented by Michael Diamondstein, who told the Inquirer, “Mr. Williams vehemently denies that he ever compromised any investigation, case, or law enforcement function.” Diamondstein explained that Williams rejected a plea deal earlier in the week.



Williams was elected in 2010 with over 75 percent of the vote and under a big celebration since he was the first black district attorney in Philadelphia and the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Williams was the president of the Undergraduate Student Government and the Student Black Caucus during his time at Penn State. He then graduated from Georgetown University’s law school as a Public Interest Law Scholar.

Williams spent ten years as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia before moving up. He launched and led a Repeat Offenders Unit. Soon after taking over as district attorney, Williams went after an abortionist that killed infants who survived the procedure. The abortionist was convicted and sentenced to life.

By 2015, Williams was no longer seen as the favorable star he once was. He was rebuked for not going after prosecutors sharing porn and racially derogatory emails on government computers. This year the Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics fined Williams $62,000 for not disclosing $160,000 in gifts. They claim he tried to hide the bribes and gifts by filing misleading personal financial statements from 2012 to 2015.

From just one business owner, Williams accepted a trip to the Dominican Republic, a $502 dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant, an iPad, a custom sofa, a $7,000 check, $2,000 cash, a Burberry watch, and a Burberry purse for his girlfriend. In exchange for the gifts, Williams agreed to help the owner avoid security screenings when returning from international travel. Williams enlisted a police official to help the owner avoid the screenings.

From an owner of a bar, Williams was given 16-round trip tickets to San Diego, Las Vegas, and Florida. He asked for and was given a 1997 Jaguar XK8 and $900 in cash. The bar owner was given a position as a special advisor to Williams’ office even though the owner was on federal probation from a 2010 federal tax conviction.

The nursing home fund allegations state that Williams diverted pension and Social Security payments from his mother to himself to be used for personal expenses. The funds should have paid for his mother’s nursing home costs, of which Williams was under an agreement with the home to make the payments. Williams told a nursing home employee that another family member spent the money. When his mother’s friends gave him $10,000 to cover the nursing home expenses, he kept the money.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said, “It is deeply shameful that the city’s chief law enforcement officer has been implicated in such a flagrant violation of the law. At a time when our citizen’s trust in government is at an all-time low, it is disheartening to see yet another elected official give the public a reason not to trust us. That this comes at the head of our justice system is even more troubling. We must all greatly raise the bar for our behavior and show the citizens of Philadelphia that we are capable of carrying out our most basic responsibilities as elected officials, upholding the law.”

Philadelphia is already in a sensitive state with the relationship between the public and government heavily strained. In recent months two big stories have taken over the headlines. A former aide to former Mayor Michael Nutter was accused of using a non-profit as a “slush fund” for the mayor’s office. Former U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in prison for federal racketeering and bribery charges.

What kind of punishment do you think Williams should receive for not only abusing his role as a public defender but stealing from his own mother? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about other’s caught up in bribery charges, read these articles:

Photo: nydailynews.com



 

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