A federal grand jury charged Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Tuesday with 23 corruption-related charges, after an investigation originating in nearby New Jersey allegedly showed he took more than $100,000 in luxury gifts, tropical vacations and cash.
In return for the lavish presents, Williams would reportedly implement official policy that benefitted two business owners who were the original benefactors.
In one instance, he is accused of accepting a Jaguar convertible before appointing an unnamed business owner to the position of “Special Advisor” to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, even supplying the man with an official badge and letter of appointment.
Williams also allegedly received a $7,000 check from another unknown business owner in exchange for help with security screenings following the confidant’s return from foreign travel. Williams is accused of accepting an all-inclusive vacation to Punta Cana worth $6,381, a custom sofa worth $3,212, a $502 dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant, a Louis Vuitton tie priced at $205, a Burberry watch, a Burberry purse for his girlfriend, and an iPad.
“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,” U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey William E. Fitzpatrick wrote in a press release. “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 FBI agent tasked with the investigation agrees with Fitzpatrick’s statement, saying it’s incredibly dishonest and shameless for the person in charge of enforcing the law to allegedly engage in such criminal acts.
“The alleged misconduct, as specifically laid out in this indictment, is brazen and wide-ranging, as is the idea that a District Attorney would so cavalierly trade on elected office for financial gain,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster. “The immense authority vested to law enforcement has to be kept in check, and that requires decision-makers and leaders with a steady ethical compass. When elected or appointed officials stray from their sworn oaths, they must be held accountable.”
Williams is officially charged with 10 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery, two counts of extortion, five counts of honest services wire fraud, and six counts of wire fraud. His arraignment date is yet to be determined.
Williams isn’t the first high-level legal official in Pennsylvania to be hit with criminal charges in recent months.
Kathleen Kane, the former attorney general of Pennsylvania, was sentenced in October to 10 to 23 months in prison after leaking sensitive information from a grand jury and subsequently lying about it.
Like the accusations against Williams, Kane’s case was a complete flouting of the law and featured complex internal workings including fraudulent acts.
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