R. Seth Williams Guilty: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Getty District Attorney of the city of Philadelphia Rufus Seth Williams listens to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross address media at a press conference in 2016.

Rufus Seth Williams has resigned from his role as Philadelphia’s district attorney after pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge Thursday.

By entering the plea, Williams abruptly ended his jury trial and was led out of federal court in handcuffs. It comes after details about his financial struggles and personal life were dragged out in court during the trial, which lasted almost two weeks.

Here’s what you need to know about Williams and the charges:


1. Williams Pleaded Guilty to 1 Bribery Count

Williams was indicted by a federal grand jury March 21 and faced 23 total counts related to bribery. He was charged with 10 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facility bribery contrary to Pennsylvania law, six counts of wire fraud, five counts of honest services wire fraud and two counts of Hobbs Act extortion.

The count that he agreed to plea guilty on was taking bribes from Bucks County businessman Mohammad N. Ali. The federal indictment said that Williams was showered with lavish gifts from Ali, including all-expenses paid travel and dinner at pricey restaurants. Ali said in court that he did so because be “wanted to get close to the DA.”

Ali spent four hours on the witness stand and spoke about his friendship with Williams. The reason that he said he wanted to bribe Williams was because “it’s good to know someone in power,” he said in court. “If you ever need anything, it’s good to have someone make a phone call.”

Ali said that he looked to Williams for many tasks over the years. Those included aid for passing through secondary security screenings at the airport and helping Ali’s wife, who’s from Belarus, gain United States citizenship. He said that although he provided many gifts, Williams rarely followed through on his promises.


2. The Plea Deal Meant Williams Had to Resign


Philly DA Seth Williams Will Not Seek Re-ElectionIn a press conference on Friday, Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams announced that he's not seeking re-election.2017-02-10T16:21:49.000Z

As part of his plea deal, Williams agreed to immediately resign from his role as DA, which he has served in for over eight years. He now faces up to five years in prison and is due to be sentenced in court October 24.

The judge in the case made Williams write a resignation letter following the plea deal.

Before the indictment was handed down, Williams had announced that he would not seek a third term as district attorney because of past misconduct.

“My decision to accept gifts and fail to report them brought much embarrassment, shame and adverse publicity to me and, unfortunately, to the office for which I love,” he said when making the announcement. “For this, I will always hold deep regret in my heart.”


3. Williams Allegedly Took Bribes From Other Businessmen, Too


Philadelphia's First African American DA Faces A 23 Count IndictmentPhiladelphia's first African American District Attorney faces a 23 count indictment which includes bribery, extortion, and fraud. The US attorney for New Jersey, FBI, and the IRS unveiled a 50-page indictment, accusing Seth Williams of accepting luxury travel and other gifts in exchange for offering to fix criminal cases. Want more Roland Martin? Watch NewsOne…2017-03-22T16:30:02.000Z

The original 50-page, 23-count indictment accused Williams of accepting gifts from not only Ali, but a slew of other businessmen in the area in agreement to offer favors. In addition to those favors, Williams was accused of taking money from one of his relatives’ pension plans and Social Security for his own personal use.

“Mr. Williams compromised himself and his elected office by standing ready to help those who were willing to pay him with money, trips, and cars,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said in a statement when the charges were announced. “Mr. Williams’ alleged willingness to compromise his position of public trust in exchange for private financial gain is all the more unfortunate given that he was elected to protect the interests of the people of Philadelphia as their chief law enforcement officer.”

Read the full federal indictment in the document below:

Williams had previously paid a $62,000 fine to Philadelphia's Board of Ethics when it was found that he didn't disclose over $160,000 in gifts he received.


4. Williams Came Under Fire for ‘Porngate’ in 2015


Phila. D.A. Seth Williams on "Porngate" email s…Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams tells Smerconish that the email "Porngate" scandal is a "political vendetta" by Attorney General Kathleen Kane.2016-01-02T16:05:11.000Z

In 2015, his office came under fire for not firing officers that were involved in a scandal where they shared pornographic and racially-charge emails on government computers. The scandal was dubbed “Porngate” by the media and it ended with the resignation of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and the suspension of J. Michael Eakin.

Williams did end up acting on the prosecutors involved, but didn’t fire them. Instead, he reassigned them.


5. Williams, Elected in 2009, Was Adopted as a Child

Williams was elected in 2009 and began his term January 4, 2010 after previously serving as the assistant district attorney. He became the first African-American DA in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

He was considered by many to be a rising Democratic star before scandals overshadowed his accomplishments.

Williams lives in Philadelphia with his three daughters and regularly attends mass at St. Cyprian Parish, a Roman Catholic church. It’s the same church where he served as an altar boy (it was called St. Carthage then).

When he was a child, his mother, who was unwed, gave him up for adoption when she felt she was unable to provide appropriate care for him.

“Seth Williams is a true Philadelphia success story,” his biography says. “Given up by an unwed mother and placed in foster care, Seth was blessed to be adopted by a devoted and loving family. He grew up in a hard-working West Philadelphia neighborhood, the only child of Imelda Williams and the late Rufus O. Williams who emphasized the importance of community service his whole life.”

In 2011, Williams and his wife Sonita issued a joint statement to say that they had decided to end their marriage. The statement said that the decision was made “after long and careful consideration.”

“We entered our relationship with love and it’s with love and kindness we leave it,” the statement read. “We ask respect for our family’s privacy at this time.”


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