Philadelphia prosecutor to be charged in $160k gifts probe

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2017 1:12 PM
Philadelphia prosecutor to be charged in $160k gifts probe

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The city's top prosecutor will be charged in a corruption case Tuesday after a nearly two-year investigation by the FBI, IRS and others, according to a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation.

The investigation into embattled Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has centered on $160,000 in gifts that the Democrat failed to report, including a new roof, a $2,700 couch and luxury vacations.

The law enforcement official wasn't authorized to release the information ahead of a Tuesday afternoon news conference and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Williams, the city's first black district attorney, announced last month he would not run for a third term this year. The 50-year-old said he showed poor judgment and regretted "mistakes in my personal life and in my personal financial life."

As recently as January, Williams had hoped to weather the scandal, vowing to earn back the "trust and respect" of his staff and the public. However, questions about the investigation dogged him as he tried to carry out his duties.

The AP left messages for his spokesman and lawyer seeking comment on the charges.

Williams, who earns $175,000 in the job, has said he encountered financial problems amid a divorce and tuition costs for his children. He also teaches law school and serves in the National Guard.

Williams failed to disclose five sources of income and 89 gifts on financial statements from 2010 through 2015 and omitted 10 items on an amended statement. The gifts also included sideline passes for Philadelphia Eagles games for several years, nearly $21,000 in free airfare and a $6,500 Rolex watch from a girlfriend.

At the same time, he led a high-profile prosecution of Philadelphia lawmakers who had taken cash or jewelry, valued at perhaps a few thousand dollars, from an informant.

"My poor judgment caused distractions, and made the already difficult job of my ... staff even more difficult," Williams said.

During his seven-year tenure, his office filed the first charges against several Roman Catholic priests and earned a trial conviction against the first U.S. church official ever charged over the handling of priest sex-abuse complaints. The conviction has since been overturned, although the official served nearly three years in prison.

State laws require public officials to file annual reports and list gifts over $250. City officials cannot take anything worth more than $99 from anyone with an interest in any "official action." Federal bribery laws typically involve a "quid pro quo," or evidence the person got something in exchange for the gift.

Williams grew up in Philadelphia and served as student president of Pennsylvania State University.