Corruption Trial Begins for Philadelphia DA Williams

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Testimony began June 20 in the federal corruption trial of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who was elected as a reformer, and now is charged with accepting bribes and gifts and defrauding the government and his mother’s nursing home in what prosecutors say was his way of maintaining a lifestyle that exceeded his paycheck, reports. U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond spent all day yesterday selecting a jury of 10 women and two men from nine Southeastern Pennsylvania counties for a trial predicted to last from three to four weeks. Just two jurors are African American. Williams has proudly described himself on his office’s website as the city’s first African-American district attorney.

Prosecutors allege that Williams, 50, nearing the end of his second four-year term, was so indebted that he ignored his oath of office and professional ethics and accepted bribes and gifts, and defrauded the government and his own mother to maintain his lifestyle. The defense maintains that Williams’ wide circle of friends willingly lent him money and paid for vacations and other personal expenses. Williams’ use of government vehicles and money earmarked for his mother’s nursing home bills were well within the law, the defense says. In their trial memorandum, prosecutors broke down Williams’ alleged crimes into five schemes.

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