Philadelphia’s top prosecutor pleaded guilty to corruption charges in federal court Thursday, admitting he accepted a bribe from a businessman, the Associated Press reports.
The presiding judge sent Seth Williams, the Democratic district attorney for the city of Philadelphia who is now resigning from office, to jail immediately from the courthouse. U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond, who expressed astonishment from the evidence, said he couldn’t trust Williams, particularly to appear for his sentencing hearing.
A federal grand jury indicted Williams in March with 23 corruption-related charges. An investigation originating in nearby New Jersey apparently showed he took more than $100,000 in cash, luxury presents, and tropical vacations. In return for the lavish gifts, Williams would reportedly implement official policy that benefitted two business owners who were the original benefactors.
In one of the alleged instances, 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. He even supplied the man with an official badge and letter of appointment.
Williams also allegedly collected a $7,000 check from another unknown business owner in exchange for help with security screenings following the confidant’s return from travel abroad. Williams is specifically accused of receiving 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.
Williams, though, only pleaded guilty to a single count of accepting a bribe, according to the Associated Press.
“I’m very sorry,” Williams reportedly told the court while choking up.
The FBI agent tasked with the original investigation says it’s incredibly dishonest and shameless for any person to commit such crimes, especially the premier person in charge of enforcing the law in the fifth largest U.S. city.
“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,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster said, according to an official press release issued in March. “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 sentencing is scheduled for October 24, the Associated Press reports. He could face up to five years in prison.
Williams isn’t the only elected official in Pennsylvania to be convicted of corruption, or similar charges. (RELATED: Three Elected PA Officials Faced Corruption Charges In Just One Year)
Former Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in prison in December after being found guilty on 23 charges in a corruption case dealing with an illegal $1 million campaign loan from an affluent friend. Fattah reportedly needed the money to finance his failed campaign for Philadelphia mayor in 2007.
Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the first Democrat elected to the position in the state, was convicted of nine criminal charges in August, including for criminal conspiracy and perjury, after she leaked sensitive information from a grand jury and then lied about it.
Prosecutors alleged Kane purposefully exposed classified info regarding a rival prosecutor in order to get revenge on him for purportedly divulging a sting operation incriminating Philadelphia officials. She was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in prison in October after initially pleading for clemency.
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