Describing himself as “merely a thankful beggar,” Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from deep-pocketed donors seeking his help with their legal woes, said federal authorities, unveiling a 23-count indictment charging the two-term Democrat in a sprawling corruption case. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that investigators accused the cash-strapped prosecutor of repeatedly selling his influence and offering to intervene in a case on behalf of one wealthy benefactor. In exchange, they said, Williams accepted luxury trips to foreign locales, a used Jaguar convertible, and other gifts including a $205 Louis Vuitton necktie and a Burberry watch.
Williams allegedly resorted to stealing from his own mother, draining $20,000 of Social Security and pension income intended to pay for her nursing home to cover his mortgage and electricity bills. “The alleged misconduct … is brazen and wide-ranging, as is the idea that a district attorney would so cavalierly trade on elected office for financial gain,” said FBI agent Michael Harpster. “The immense authority vested to law enforcement has to be kept in check, and that requires decision-makers and leaders with a steady ethical compass.” Williams began his eight-year career in office in 2010 with accolades for sweeping changes he promised to implement in the city’s justice system, only to be overshadowed by a series of scandals. As he announced his decision last month to forgo a reelection bid, Williams, 50, apologized for bringing “embarrassment and shame” to the District Attorney’s Office through repeated ethical lapses and vowed to win back the trust of the public and his employees. His lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, vowed that Williams would fight the charges in court. “Mr. Williams vehemently denies that he ever compromised any investigation, case, or law enforcement function,” he said.