DA Seth Williams makes guilty plea in federal trial

- FOX 29's Jeff Cole confirms the trial is over and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is going to prison. He made a deal with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to violation of the travel act and accepting a bribe. Williams will serve five years in prison. He also resigned and apologized.

Williams had been on trial on 29 federal corruption charges since the beginning of last week. If convicted, he could’ve faced up to 20 years in prison.

The judge had been urging both sides for a swift trial because Williams remained D.A. with a suspended law license.

Kathleen Martin, First Assistant District Attorney and Deputies for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, will hold a 2 p.m. news conference to address Williams' resignation. Look for live streaming on FOX29.com and also Fox29's Facebook page.

The corruption trial at federal court in Center City began with prosecutors saying Williams "was constantly on the take," accepted bribes worth tens of thousands of dollars, and misused campaign funds in his public prosecuting job.

They said he accepted more than $160,000 in perks such as vacations, cash and a Jaguar convertible in exchange for favors.

"Whenever Seth Williams had a chance to put his hand in someone else's pocket and take money, he did," Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri said.

Williams, 50, has denied the allegations. He said he got into financial problems after a divorce.

His legal team offered a simple response to the allegations: The things the DA was accused of doing are not crimes.

"What they're saying he's getting, he's getting, but he's not soliciting. And they're not in a briberous relationship," defense lawyer Thomas Burke said.

Williams was originally charged in a 23-count indictment in March. Then, in May, he was indicted on additional fraud charges stemming from his alleged use of political action committee (PAC) funds and official government vehicles for his personal benefit.

Earlier this week, Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Sullivan testified Williams urged him to help his friend and donor -- local door and businessman Muhammad Ali -- flow through Philadelphia International Airport when traveling.

Sullivan testified that in February, 2012, he sent an officer to a gate when Ali was returning home, only to learn Williams was with Ali coming back from a tropical vacation. Williams' lawyer argued the DA never ordered Sullivan to walk Ali through airport security.

Before breaking for the weekend, last Friday, Ali testified about fancy dinners and vacations he gifted to Philadelphia's top prosecutor. The defense argued those alleged gifts didn't result in Williams giving anything to Ali in return.

Monday ended with local businessman Michael Weiss on the stand. The owner of the Center City bar Woody’s testified he’d cozied up to Williams in exchange for help.

Prosecutors also accused Williams of taking his mother's pension and Social Security checks that were supposed to be used to pay for her nursing home.

His lawyer said the facility did not fully explain administrative processing procedures. "Nobody told him how it worked," Burke said.

The jury consisted of 10 women and two men. Two of them are African American. The alternates are all women.

Williams took office in 2010 on the promise of reform and was previously tasked with rooting out corruption when he served as the city's inspector general.

He could’ve run for a third term this year, but he decided not to seek re-election. The charges against him were announced in March and his law license was suspended, but he had refused calls to resign.

Chancellor Deborah R. Gross issued this statement on Williams’ resignation on behalf of the 12,000 members of the Philadelphia Bar Association:

"It was time for District Attorney Seth Williams to do right by Philadelphia and resign. The hard work of those professionals in the Office of the District Attorney should not be tainted by the actions of one individual.
"The integrity of our justice system is threatened when those who are elected to positions of trust and authority abuse those privileges.
"It has been a travesty to have our two highest law officers in the commonwealth be able to maintain their positions while operating with suspended law licenses.
"Our legislature must act to prevent this anomaly from occurring in the future. We need legislation that would require district attorneys to have an active law license throughout the tenure of their position."

In April, even Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated his call for Williams to resign following the suspension of his law license and the pending federal charges he faced.

“While District Attorney Williams, like any defendant, is entitled to the presumption of innocence, it is clear that his focus should be on his defense and it is beyond time for him to step down immediately from his post as District Attorney,” Governor Wolf said in a press release.

“The people of Philadelphia need a district attorney fully focused on, and legally capable of, executing the important duties of the top law enforcement official in Pennsylvania’s largest city. His resignation will allow the employees of the office to focus on their work and help the citizens they serve move on.”

In March, Philadelphia Mayor Kenney said, "I've made it clear that he can't do his job in his current condition and really I'm not going to say and talk about it every day."

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court temporarily suspended William’s law license as he awaited trial on federal bribery charges after a joint motion by Williams' lawyer and the office of disciplinary counsel.

Separately, in January, Philadelphia Board of Ethics reached a settlement agreement with Williams after allegations he failed to disclose gifts and sources of income. They agreed Williams would pay $62,000 in fines – the largest imposed by the Board in its ten year history -- and will also pay back nearly $3,000 in the estimated value of gifts he accepted.

The board said Williams failed to disclose five sources of income and 89 gifts on the City Statement of interests he filed from 2010 to 2015.

At the time, Williams put out this statement:

"I have agreed to a settlement with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics that resulted in my being fined for failing to fully and properly disclose payments I received from previous employers and gifts I received from friends.

“These mistakes were my own and I accept full responsibility for my failure to do everything that was required of me as a public official.

“It was wrong to fail to fully and accurately disclose the payments and gifts I received. I apologize to the people of Philadelphia, the hardworking and talented staff of the District Attorney’s office, my supporters, the friends who supported me and asked nothing in return and most of all to my family, who have had to endure unwarranted attacks for my shortcomings.

I will work every day to earn back the trust and respect of all of you."

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and First Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Martin released the following statement following William's resignation:

"The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office embodies the phrase that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Assistant District Attorneys and professional staff of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office are among the finest in the country. Throughout this unfortunate period they continued to display the diligence, fortitude, and integrity that has historically been a hallmark of the Office. I could not be more proud of how my hardworking colleagues have conducted themselves in light of the investigation and prosecution of Mr. Williams, and now with the conclusion of this case, Philadelphians should know that their District Attorney’s Office continues the pursuit of justice and the hope for a safer city endures."

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