Seth Williams with Chris Matthews

Seth Williams with Chris Matthews in happier times. (Credit Image: © Ricky Fitchett/ZUMA Press)

Seth Williams had a really good thing in Philadelphia.  A graduate of elite Georgetown University’s law school, he was seen as a trailblazer in Philadelphia, the first black district attorney in the city’s history.  But then he got divorced, picked up financially troubles, and started accepting gifts that he didn’t report.  Two weeks ago, he was put on trial for a 29-count indictment of corruption, bribery, and fraud charges.

As CBS Philadelphia reports:

The 50-year-old Williams was accused of illegally accepting gifts from two businessmen in exchange for legal favors. He was also charged with fraudulently using thousands of dollars from his campaign fund for personal expenses, misusing city vehicles and misappropriating money intended to fund his mother’s nursing home care.

But it was not exactly a day to celebrate for the D.A.:

“I’m very sorry,” Williams told the court, choking up as he acknowledged he would resign.

U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond said he was not inclined to trust Williams’ assurances about appearing for sentencing set for Oct. 24, so ordered him immediately jailed. He was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Diamond said he was appalled by the evidence he heard during the jury trial, and had concluded Williams “sold” his office.

One thing going for Williams is that he will be serving time in a federal pen rather than in a state one, to which he would have sent a number of criminals in his two terms as D.A.  The U.S. attorney’s offices have stocked the federal prisons with inmates, so at least he won’t have to deal in the prison yard with people he convicted.

I suspect that Williams learned a lesson by observing the fate of fellow Philadelphia black politician Chaka Fattah, who fought all counts of his 29-count indictment and lost on all counts.  His crimes were strikingly similar to Williams’s:

Chief among his crimes – according to prosecutors Eric Gibson, Paul Gray, and Jonathan Kravis – was his theft of funds from an education nonprofit to repay an illegal $1 million campaign loan.

. . .

Through cash payments to the congressman’s children, college tuition payments for his South African au pair, and $18,000 given to help purchase a vacation home in the Poconos, prosecutors said, Vederman bought Fattah’s support in seeking appointment by the Obama White House to an ambassadorship.

Like Fattah, Williams remained in his elective office until his trial concluded, at which point he resigned.

After hearing damaging testimony in his own trial, Williams evidently decided that he was going to be convicted, and so the best course would be to go for a shorter prison sentence.  He then decided to plead guilty to one count out of the 29, and apparently, he won at least part of his gamble when Judge Paul Diamond of the U.S. District Court accepted his plea and dismissed the 28 other counts.

Although 28 counts were dismissed, a prosecutor said in court that Williams admits he committed all the conduct, Philly.com reported.

I hope he survives the prison term that lies ahead.  I make no excuses for Williams but must note that he was the D.A. who indicted and convicted abortion doc Kermit Gosnell (and was even sued by him after the convicton).  I wonder if any of his enemies acquired then had anything to do with his fate.

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