No One is Above The Law: Ex-Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Sentenced to Prison

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Former District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams will spend 5 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to accepting bribes, according to CBS News. His tenure as the first black DA is over. Instead of a promising career in law enforcement; he is now a federal inmate.

Per CBS News, in the summer, during a federal bribery trial, startling details emerged. A review of Seth Williams’ financial records resulted in 29 counts of bribery, extortion, and fraud. “A nearly two-year investigation into Williams’ financial affairs resulted in a wide-ranging indictment in which he was charged with accepting cash and gifts, fraudulently using thousands of dollars from his campaign fund for personal expenses, missing city vehicles and misappropriating money intended to fund his mother’s nursing home care.”

Per The Justice Department, Williams is charged in a superseding indictment with 11 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery contrary to Pennsylvania law (The “Travel Act counts”). Additionally, Two counts of Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, two counts of honest services wire fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.

Per The Justice Department, Each of the Travel Act counts is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right and the wire and mail fraud charges are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each count carries a potential fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

In addition, the indictment also seeks forfeiture of a total of approximately $64,878.22, representing the sum of approximately $33,765.52 worth of bribe proceeds and approximately $31,112.70 worth of fraud proceeds.

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As a result of the damaging testimony of a lavish Caribbean vacation and a Jaguar convertible, his defense attorney changed directions. Instead, Williams’ pleaded guilty to a single count of accepting a bribe from a businessman who admitted giving him a $3,000 sofa and thousands of dollars in cash payments, according to the report.

Despite, what was presented in court, prosecutors waived 28 of the counts and Williams was sentenced to only one count. Therefore, he waived his right to appeal his conviction.

Nevertheless, bribery is a crime. Public officials are sworn to uphold the law. In acceptance of anything of value in exchange for influence on a government/public official is the definition of bribery. In spite of what Williams’ thought he violated the law by accepting lavish gifts and money.

Admittedly, he regrets his actions and showed remorse. In addition, Williams’ lawyer read a prepared statement on behalf of his client. “Rather than holding myself to a higher standard, I squandered that trust placed in me,” the statement said.

Following that, U.S. Judge Paul Diamond stated, “the 50-year-old Williams ‘humiliated’ his office and the city by selling it to parasites.” He continued, “Your profound dishonesty has to be deterred.”

U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer Comments

Per Courthouse News, U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer was appalled at Williams. The former prosecutor requested that the court show him leniency based on his years of public service.

Zauzmer warned that showing him leniency could impact other public servants. They may commit a crime and expect a lighter punishment. Ideally, this should not give anyone the right to expect a lesser punishment.

On the contrary, “to be exposed to an elected official who sold his office for favors has a devastating effect on them and their pursuit of justice,” stated Zauzmer. In fact, he believes that Seth Williams is a criminal and was a criminal for a long time. Ordinally, a prosecutor should have enough insight into the laws to know better than taking bribes.

 

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