Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’s trial starts today.
Williams faces 29 corruption charges, including wire fraud, extortion and bribery-related charges. Prosecutors say that, among other offenses, Williams stole from his own mother, spent campaign funds on personal expenses (like spa treatments and fancy dinners), used his political influence to collect gifts from local business owners (like a Jaguar convertible, a custom sofa, and vacation to Punta Cana), and drove government vehicles on his own time.
Williams has pleaded not guilty to the charges. In January, he agreed to pay a $62,000 fine to the City of Philadelphia Board of Ethics (the largest of its kind in city history) for failing to disclose gifts in the years prior, some of which were prohibited.
U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond is expected to select a jury today. Its 12 members (and four alternates) will come from a 140-member pool of potential jurors from nine southeastern Pennsylvania counties. Prosecutors, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer, expect to take two to three weeks to present their case. Williams’s lawyer, Thomas Burke, said the defense would take less than a week.
Williams, a 50-year-old two-term Democrat, announced he wouldn’t run for reelection in February. Despite protests and calls to resign from dozens of officials, including Mayor Jim Kenney and Gov. Tom Wolf, Williams has remained in office since prosecutors first filed charges against him in March. He’s shifted into a $175,000-a-year administrative role and is currently working without a law license.
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