ABOVE PHOTO: Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams arrives for his arraignment on bribery and extortion charges at the federal courthouse, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
By Denise Clay
When you want a lot of things that you can’t afford, it’s said that you have champagne tastes, but a beer budget.
District Attorney R. Seth Williams had champagne tastes. He liked to hang out at the Union League and nosh on $162 tasting menus and $200 cheese plates at the venue’s 1862 restaurant. He liked to take his daughters to Daddy/Daughter events at the private club.
He liked to buy things for the ladies in his life at Juicy Couture on Walnut Street.
And according to the 29-count indictment that he’s fighting in Judge Paul Diamond’s federal courtroom, Williams did all of these things with a combination of the money that was to go to his mother’s long-term medical care and money from his PAC because he couldn’t afford those things.
Williams, the city’s first Black District Attorney, is on trial for a variety of offenses including honest services fraud, bribery, extortion and wire fraud. He is also charged with defrauding a nursing home caring for a relative speculated to be his mother, Imelda, who is battling Parkinson’s Disease, and Luther and Sylvia Randolph, the family friends who gave him the $10,000 that was supposed to go to his mother’s care, but allegedly found its way into his personal bank account instead.
On Wednesday, Patricia Tobin, the assistant general manager at the Union League, detailed a range of pricey luncheons, private dinners that included $200 cheese plates and high-end cocktails enjoyed by Williams and his friends that were allegedly paid for though his political PAC because he couldn’t afford these things on his $175,000 a year salary.
Opening arguments were held on Tuesday in Diamond’s courtroom at the Federal Courthouse at 7th and Market.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Veneet Gauri began the day by telling the jury of 10 women and two men that Williams didn’t want to accept his budgetary constraints and traded his office to get what he wanted. “Seth Williams was constantly on the take,” Gauri said.
Thomas Burke, Williams attorney, disputed that by giving a different reason for this case to be in court.
The case was the result of a fishing expedition that put the squeeze on Williams’s friends—Businessman Muhammad Ali and Woody’s owner Michael Weiss—and made them turn gifts and vacations into something more salacious.
“If you’re looking for a back room deals kind of case, this isn’t it,” Burke said.
The trial resumes on Monday.