DA Seth Williams to make guilty plea with feds, mid-trial – Story

FOX 29’s Jeff Cole confirms the trial is over. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has made a deal with prosecutors. He’ll plead guilty to violation of the travel act and accepting a bribe. Other details including his penalty have not been released.

Williams had been on trial on 29 federal corruption charges since the beginning of last week. If convicted, he could’ve faced up to 20 years in prison.

The judge had been urging both sides for a swift trial because Williams remains D.A. with a suspended law license.

The corruption trial at federal court in Center City began with prosecutors saying Williams “was constantly on the take,” accepted bribes worth tens of thousands of dollars, and misused campaign funds in his public prosecuting job.

They said he accepted illicitly earned more than $160,000 in perks such as vacations, cash and a Jaguar convertible in exchange for legal favors.

“Whenever Seth Williams had a chance to put his hand in someone else’s pocket and take money, he did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri said.

Williams, 50, has denied the allegations. He said he got into financial problems after a divorce.

His legal team offered a simple response to the allegations: The things the DA was accused of doing are not crimes.

“What they’re saying he’s getting, he’s getting, but he’s not soliciting. And they’re not in a briberous relationship,” defense lawyer Thomas Burke said.

Williams was originally charged in a 23-count indictment in March. Then, in May, he was indicted on additional fraud charges stemming from his alleged use of political action committee (PAC) funds and official government vehicles for his personal benefit.

Earlier this week, Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Sullivan testified Williams urged him to help his friend and donor — local door and businessman Muhammad Ali — flow through Philadelphia International Airport when traveling.

Sullivan testified that in February, 2012, he sent an officer to a gate when Ali was returning home, only to learn Williams was with Ali coming back from a tropical vacation. Williams’ lawyer argued the DA never ordered Sullivan to walk Ali through airport security.

Before breaking for the weekend, last Friday, Ali testified about fancy dinners and vacations he gifted to Philadelphia’s top prosecutor. The defense argued those alleged gifts didn’t result in Williams giving anything to Ali in return.

Monday ended with local businessman Michael Weiss on the stand. The owner of the Center City bar Woody’s testified he’d cozied up to Williams in exchange for help.

Prosecutors also accused Williams of taking his mother’s pension and Social Security checks that were supposed to be used to pay for her nursing home.

His lawyer said the facility did not fully explain administrative processing procedures. “Nobody told him how it worked,” Burke said.

The jury consisted of 10 women and two men. Two of them are African American. The alternates are all women.

Williams took office in 2010 on the promise of reform and was previously tasked with rooting out corruption when he served as the city’s inspector general.

He could’ve run for a third term this year, but he decided not to seek re-election. The charges against him were announced in March and his law license was suspended, but he has refused calls to resign.

In April, even Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated his call for Williams to resign following the suspension of his law license and the pending federal charges he faced.

“While District Attorney Williams, like any defendant, is entitled to the presumption of innocence, it is clear that his focus should be on his defense and it is beyond time for him to step down immediately from his post as District Attorney,” Governor Wolf said in a press release.

“The people of Philadelphia need a district attorney fully focused on, and legally capable of, executing the important duties of the top law enforcement official in Pennsylvania’s largest city. His resignation will allow the employees of the office to focus on their work and help the citizens they serve move on.”

In March, Philadelphia Mayor Kenney said, “I’ve made it clear that he can’t do his job in his current condition and really I’m not going to say and talk about it every day.”

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court temporarily suspended William’s law license as he awaited trial on federal bribery charges after a joint motion by Williams’ lawyer and the office of disciplinary counsel.

Separately, in January, Philadelphia Board of Ethics reached a settlement agreement with Williams after allegations he failed to disclose gifts and sources of income. They agreed Williams would pay $62,000 in fines – the largest imposed by the Board in its ten year history — and will also pay back nearly $3,000 in the estimated value of gifts he accepted.

The board said Williams failed to disclose five sources of income and 89 gifts on the City Statement of interests he filed from 2010 to 2015.

At the time, Williams put out this statement:

“I have agreed to a settlement with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics that resulted in my being fined for failing to fully and properly disclose payments I received from previous employers and gifts I received from friends.

“These mistakes were my own and I accept full responsibility for my failure to do everything that was required of me as a public official.

“It was wrong to fail to fully and accurately disclose the payments and gifts I received. I apologize to the people of Philadelphia, the hardworking and talented staff of the District Attorney’s office, my supporters, the friends who supported me and asked nothing in return and most of all to my family, who have had to endure unwarranted attacks for my shortcomings.

I will work every day to earn back the trust and respect of all of you.”

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