6:34 PM / Saturday February 24, 2018

27 Oct 2017

The Audacity of Nope

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October 27, 2017 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  R. Seth Williams. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond used a rocket launcher when he threw the book at former District Attorney R. Seth Williams on Tuesday.

By Denise Clay

When he returned to federal court on Tuesday, former District Attorney R. Seth Williams asked U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond for consideration in sentencing and the chance to see his ailing mother before beginning his federal prison term.

He got neither.

After verbally taking Williams to the woodshed for his crimes of bribery and corruption, Judge Diamond sentenced him to five years in prison, three years supervised probation, and $58,422.83 in fines and penalties.

Dressed in a dark tan t-shirt and dark tan khakis, Williams sat at the defense table and listened as his life was changed forever. He had clearly lost weight since being taken into custody in June and occasionally wiped tears from his eyes during the hearing.

When the hearing began, Thomas Burke, Williams’s lawyer, asked Judge Diamond to consider the totality of his client’s life when deciding his sentence.

While what Williams had done was clearly illegal, it was also a blip on an otherwise distinguished career in public service.

Seth Williams’ attorney, Thomas Burke, answers questions from the media post sentencing of the former DA of Philadelphia, in front of the Federal Courthouse in Old City.
(Photo: Solomon Williams)

“Consider the whole of Seth’s life,” Burke said. “Consider the good and the bad. Consider the lives he’s changed as District Attorney. Consider the victims he’s helped.”

To further buttress his point, Burke read a letter asking for leniency from Williams’s ex-wife Sonita.

“I am not here to pretend that Seth is a perfect man,” the letter said, “But, Seth is a good man, a family man, a man devoted to his community. Unfortunately, Seth is a flawed man and his flaws made him make flawed decisions.”

Burke went on to say that Williams isn’t a criminal, and he shouldn’t be treated that way, something that Robert Zauzner, the Assistant U.S. Attorney that prosecuted the case, vehemently disagreed with.


“He is a criminal,” he said. “His conduct had a devastating effect on the men and women of the District Attorney’s office. What he did was not a mistake. It was a years-long dereliction of his duty to the office.”

Judge Diamond agreed.

Almost from the time you took office, you sold yourself to the parasites you surrounded yourself with,” the Judge said.

In fact, Judge Diamond didn’t have a lot of use for anything Williams had to say. He called his allocution “a campaign speech”. He chastised Williams for dumping his mother, Imelda, into a nursing home “like a sack of potatoes” and forgetting about her.

So when it came to Williams’s request to see his mother before starting his sentence, the mother whose nursing home he was charged with defrauding for financing his lifestyle with money designated for her care, Diamond didn’t hold back.

“The English language doesn’t have the words to capture the outrageousness of that request,” the Judge said, remanding Williams back to custody.

Williams’s sentencing ends a dark chapter in the history of the District Attorney’s office.

A graduate of Penn State University and the Georgetown University School of Law, Williams came into office on a wave of criminal justice reform and presented himself as a breath of fresh air from former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who was best known for her adherence to the death penalty.

Over the summer, Kelley Hodge was appointed to fill Williams’s unexpired term. As part of the conditions for her appointment, she is not eligible to seek the office.

A new District Attorney will be sworn into office in January. Democrat Larry Krasner and Republican Beth Grossman are vying for the seat.

Election Day is Nov. 7

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