Philadelphia prosecutor pleads guilty to bribery charge, resigns

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 29, 2017 4:59 PM

By Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) - Philadelphia's top prosecutor on Thursday pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge and resigned his post, ending seven years in office.

The guilty plea, by former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, 50, ended a two-week trial. He was indicted in March on 23 charges including bribery and fraud.

Williams compromised himself and his elected office by using his office to help "those willing to secretly pay him with valuable items like money, trips, and cars," as well as by defrauding his political action committee and others, Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

Williams, who maintained his innocence until Thursday's hearing, will remain in custody until his sentencing on Oct. 24.

He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, federal prosecutors said in the statement.

Between July 2010 and May 2015, prosecutors said, Williams accepted trips, money and other items of value from a Philadelphia-area businessman, Mohammad N. Ali.

In return, the prosecutors said, Williams took steps including "contacting a Philadelphia police official in order to pressure and advise the official to assist Ali with security screenings at the airport."

Williams' attorney, Michael Diamondstein, did not immediately return a call requesting comment on Thursday.

Ali, 40, pleaded guilty in May to federal bribery and tax evasion charges.

Williams was also accused of soliciting bribes from two business owners that included a sofa, cash, clothing and a trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

The former district attorney, who according to local media reports was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, agreed in January to pay $62,000 in civil penalties to end a Philadelphia ethics board investigation into his failure to disclose gifts that also included NBA basketball tickets. It was the largest penalty the board imposed in its 10-year history.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Steve Orlofsky)