Philadelphia made national headlines this week, albeit for the wrong reasons. District of Attorney Seth Williams was indicted Tuesday on nearly two dozen counts of bribery, extortion and fraud.
Williams, a Philadelphia native, took office in January in 2010 as the city’s first African-American district attorney. Over his career, prosecutors claim Williams exploited his political power in exchange for favors and bribes.
Williams, who earned roughly $175,000 in his role as DA, was financially strapped for cash thanks to a combination of a recent divorce, costly private school tuition for his daughters, and his lavish lifestyle. He’s known to frequent upper-class establishments, such as cigar lounges. Some of the bribes Williams allegedly accepted include a 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible, a $6,000 vacation to Punta Cana, 16 round-trip airline tickets, a $3,400 custom sofa, an iPad, a Burberry watch and purse, and a Louis Vuitton tie.
These claims are substantiated by a series of text messages highlighted by the 50-page indictment published Tuesday, which can be viewed in full here.
Philly.com highlighted one noteworthy 2012 text message conversation between Williams and businessman Mohammad N. Ali, who funded a vacation in the presidential suite of a Punta Cana hotel of in exchange for Williams assistance with a friend who was under investigation by the District Attorney’s Office. The conversation can be viewed in full here.
To make matters worse, Williams has also been accused of misappropriating over $20,000 of his mother’s social security and pension fund in order to pay for his cost of living.
The indictment comes just a month after Williams announced he wouldn’t be running for reelection. On Wednesday, Williams was released on a $50,000 bond, after surrendering his passport and being fingerprinted by the FBI and under the condition that he refrains from leaving eastern Pennsylvania without permission. A trial date has not been set.
With all of the chips stacked against him, public outcry for his resignation and endorsements from the likes of Mayor Jim Kenney, former Mayor Michael Nutter, and longtime former DA Lynne Abraham for him to do so, it’s unclear when his resignation will come.
In a powerful public statement, Mayor 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 citizens’ 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.”
More news is sure to follow today and the early stages of next week as this story continues to unfold.