Once again, a dark cloud hangs over the City of Philadelphia and their elected officials. It was announced Tuesday by the Federal Bureau of Investigations that District Attorney Seth Williams has been indicted on more than 21 counts, including wire fraud, honest services fraud and bribery related charges. The charges stem from an investigation into Williams accepting gifts including travel to the Dominican Republic, a custom sofa and other gifts in exchange for offers to fix cases and ease law enforcement troubles for a friend and business owner.
The investigation included examples of the corruption and the allegation that Williams allegedly put the district attorney’s office up for sale. Included in the indictment were phone calls that occurred between Williams and businessman Mohammed N. Ali. The alleged favor was for a friend of Ali who was seeking a shorter sentence for a case that had been worked out in a plea deal. The indictment indicates that Williams followed through on the “favor” and was rewarded with a trip to the Domican Republic resort of Punta Cana. The cost of the alleged favor to this friend, $3000. The trip was allegedly arranged through text messaging with Williams replying, “I am merely a thankful beggar and don’t want to overstep my bounds, but we will gladly go.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey ran the investigation as the Philadelphia saw a conflict of interest. Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick spoke Tuesday about the charges facing Williams. Fitzpatrick stated that “Fitzpatrick said, “alleging that he engaged in a series of corrupt transactions, in which he sought and accepted bribes in the form of money, expensive vacations, airline tickets, a Jaguar XK8 convertible, expensive furniture and other things of value in exchange for his willingness to take official action as needed, and in some cases taking official action on behalf of the bribe payers.”
Williams is yet Philadelphia public official who have been charged with crossing the line between helping their constituents to profiting from the abuse. Chaka Fattah, a popular Congressman who served the area for over 20 years was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for federal racketeering and bribery charges. Prosecutors painted the congressman as an arrogant lawbreaker who repeatedly turned to the money of others taxpayers, charities, wealthy fund-raisers to cover his personal and political debts.
Another Philadelphian, Vince Fumo was indicted for defrauding the Senate and two nonprofit organizations, and staged a cover-up in a failed bid to thwart the FBI. For this action, Vince Fumo, was sentenced to 5 years, 1 month. After serving his time, Fumo found work, quite handsomely, advising corporate clients on how to work the levers of government.
Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania constituents have been the ones who have paid the price for the dishonesty of our elected officials. Kathleen Kane, Rob McCord, John M. Perzel and LeAnna M. Washington are just a few of the names of those who were convicted of profiting from their elected offices. Sadly, if convicted, Seth Williams will be just another name in the list of those who betrayed their constituents.
Agnes Bedard calls herself a daughter of the 60's. She stills believe that one voice can lead us out of darkness, that one person can start a change, and that one act of kindness can change one person's world. Politics is how the world works to change and that is why she is so passionate about it. As Agnes said we need to fight for our f.uture. Agnes Bedard is also the author of "Before I was Me" Bedard is also a wife, mother and grandmother