Philadelphia’s Democratic DA Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges

Seth Williams charged with taking more than $160,000 in luxury gifts, cash

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams / AP

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Philadelphia's top prosecutor, Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams, was charged Tuesday with taking more than $160,000 in luxury gifts, Caribbean trips, and cash, often in exchange for official favors.

Williams, a career prosecutor, was under investigation for nearly two years, according to an unsealed bribery and extortion indictment.

Williams earns $175,000 a year as district attorney but claims he ran into financial trouble after a divorce and by trying to foot the bill for his daughters' tuition for private school, CBS News reported Tuesday.

Investigators began looking into Williams' personal and political finances in August 2015, finding a series of ethics violations, including failure to disclose $160,500 in gifts and income. That amount included home repairs worth $45,000.

Gifts that Williams received in exchange for favors included stays with his then-girlfriend in a presidential suite of a Punta Cana resort, a $3,400 sofa, and a used Jaguar convertible, with insurance coverage.

In return, Williams once offered to help a friend receive a reduced jail sentence. In another instance, Williams took $7,000 for helping a business owner friend meet with an airport police official in an attempt to avoid enhanced screening when returning to the U.S. from foreign trips, according to CBS News.

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics imposed a $62,000 fine on Williams in January for violations–reportedly its largest fine ever. The board said Williams has until 2022 to pay off his penalty, paying $10,000 a year beginning in 2018.

The ethics board told CBS Philadelphia that Williams' deal can be amended should it learn of additional violations.

The investigation was triggered last summer when Williams amended his financial statements from 2010 to 2015. He disclosed an additional $160,000 in previously unreported gifts and income.

The board also found additional gifts that Philadelphia's top prosecutor did not disclose, according to CBS News.

In addition, the board found 20 gifts from prohibited sources, "individuals who had a financial interest that the district attorney was able to substantially affect through official action. They included criminal defense attorneys who were handling cases prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office, as well as subordinate employees and contractors of the District Attorney's Office."

Williams, who must also pay the city $2,840, the value of the five largest of the prohibited gifts, said last month he will not seek reelection for a third term.

Madeleine Weast

Madeleine Weast   Email Madeleine | Full Bio | RSS
Madeleine Weast is Assistant Social Media Editor for the Washington Free Beacon. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2014. Prior to joining the Beacon, she was a Communications Fellow at The Charles Koch Institute. Madeleine is from Prairie Village, Kansas and lives in Washington, D.C. Her Twitter handle is @MadeleineWeast.

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