Clean and Sober

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Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Download

00:54 Download June 25th, 2021

Gary Hendler and Mark Sigmund are joined by former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.  They talk about life after prison.

Seth Williams is a former district attorney of the city of Philadelphia. He began his term January 4, 2010. He formerly served as an assistant district attorney. Williams is the first African-American district attorney in Philadelphia and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. On March 21, 2017, Williams was indicted on 23 counts of bribery, extortion, and fraud.  His trial began June 19, 2017. He resigned and pleaded guilty to one charge on June 29, 2017.

On November 3, 2009, Williams was elected District Attorney of Philadelphia. Winning more than 75% of the vote, he became the first African-American district attorney of Philadelphia and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was sworn on January 4, 2010, succeeding Abraham. During his period in office, Williams served as an adjunct professor at Temple and Villanova universities, as well as an advisory board member at Penn State Abington. He is a major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Army.

On March 21, 2017, the US Department of Justice announced that they had indicted Williams on “bribery and extortion charges”. Williams was disbarred effective April 13, 2017 by court order. Williams was accused of accepting bribes, totaling more than $175,000 in undisclosed “gifts,” for which he had already been fined $62,000 by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. Williams was also accused of having misappropriated more than $20,000 in Social Security and pension income that was intended to pay for his mother’s nursing home expenses and using those funds to pay his personal mortgage and utility bills.

On June 29, 2017, Williams pleaded guilty to one count of bribery contrary to Pennsylvania law, which is punishable up to 5 years in prison with the maximum potential fine of $250,000. The plea agreement was announced during the eighth day of his trial, as federal prosecutors outlined their 29-count corruption case against Williams. U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond announced to the court that though the plea agreement convicted Williams of one of the 29 charges he faced, Williams had to admit to the underlying facts of the other 28 charges, including extortion, fraud and bribery.

A request from Williams’ attorney that he be allowed to see his mother before serving his sentence prompted this response from the judge, “The English language doesn’t have the word to capture the outrageousness of that request,” said Diamond. “The defendant stole from his mother and now wants to visit her?”

Judge Diamond revoked Williams’ bail and remanded him to a federal jail in Philadelphia. On October 24, 2017, he was sentenced to five years. He was held in a federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia. His sentence was later reduced to less than three years on account of completing a drug rehabilitation program in prison and maintaining good behavior; he was released in April 2020 and returned to Philadelphia.

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