The Really Important Criminal Justice Conversation You Missed

The Atlantic panel on criminal justice reform included (left to right) Anne Morrison Piehl, District Attorney Seth Williams, WIlliam Cobb, Keir Bradford-Grey and moderator Ron Brownstein.

The Atlantic panel on criminal justice reform included (left to right) Rutgers professor Anne Morrison Piehl, District Attorney Seth Williams, Redeemed founder William Cobb, Keir Bradford-Grey of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and moderator Ron Brownstein.

The one discussion this week that will probably impact Philadelphia the most in the not-too-distant future took place in a bar on Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Seth Williams were among a handful of city officials who participated in “Rethinking Crime and Punishment: A Next America Forum,” hosted by the Atlantic in the Field House, that spot you absentmindedly walk past all the time on Filbert Street across from Reading Terminal Market. Read more »

Desperately Seeking Seth

Photograph by Nell Hoving

Photograph by Nell Hoving

Seth Williams is sitting on the porch of his home in Overbrook, taking a pull on a cigar and trying to find the right words to explain the bullshit that’s consumed his life for much of the past year.

It’s a warm, clear Saturday night in early June, and whatever plans he might have had were scuttled when his black Lab-mix puppy, Charlie, got sick. After he tended to the dog, his thoughts turned to a topic he can’t seem to escape these days, namely, why do so many people have an ax to grind with him? Read more »

American Airlines: Request for Criminal Probe Is a “Publicity Stunt”

philadelphia-airport-toxic-water-lawsuit

This photo, an exhibit in the lawsuit by American Airline employees, allegedly shows a worker filling a Deer Park water jug with that chemical. | Photo courtesy of Brian Mildenberg

On Thursday afternoon, dozens of workers from Philadelphia International Airport and their attorney Brian Mildenberg turned up at the office of District Attorney Seth Williams to ask for a criminal investigation into American Airlines for allegedly refilling Deer Park water jugs with toxic chemicals and then eventually sending them back to Deer Park to be filled again with water. Well, now American Airlines is referring to it as a publicity stunt. Read more »

The Agholor Sexual Assault Investigation Is Now With the D.A.’s Office

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The investigation into sexual assault allegations involving Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor is now in the hands of District Attorney Seth Williams.

“The [investigative] package has been sent to the D.A.’s Office for their review,” Police Commissioner Richard Ross told Philadelphia magazine on Thursday night. Ross declined to comment further on the case.

A 27-year-old dancer at Cheerleaders Gentleman’s Club accused the 23-year-old wide receiver of raping her inside the club earlier this month. Agholor’s attorney, Fortunato “Fred” Perri Jr., has maintained that Agholor did not commit a crime.

Read more »

FW: Frank Fina Has Left the D.A.’s Office

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, center, accompanied by investigator Frank Fina, speaks during a news conference Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, center, accompanied by investigator Frank Fina, speaks during a news conference Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.

Frank Fina‘s controversy-plagued tenure with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has quietly — like really, really quietly — come to an end.  Read more »

Report: FBI Eyeing Rent for DA Williams’ Ex-Wife

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

The Inquirer is reporting that a past campaign contributor to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams rented Williams’ ex-wife a house at a below market rate three years ago.

Robert Herdelin, the property owner, told the paper that he agreed to rent a Drexel Hill home to Sonita Williams for $1,000 per month. He told the paper he believes the property could have brought in $2,500 per month. Read more »

D.A.’s Office Enlisting Volunteers to Help Wayward Youths

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Let’s say you’re a kid, all of 15 or 16, and you get caught doing something stupid. (Go ahead, think back to being that age. Surprise — you did a lot of stupid stuff.) Maybe it’s enough to get you locked up, like petty theft, or vandalism, or sneaking a drink in a park with your friends.

Would you want to end up cowering in front of a judge in an imposing courtroom, or take your chances with a panel that’s comprised of some people from your neighborhood?

District Attorney Seth Williams hopes decent kids who make minor screw-ups will opt for the latter as part of his office’s Youth Aid Panel program. The program isn’t exactly new — it’s been around since the late 1980s — but its value seems more relevant in an era where diversionary programs are viewed as a viable way to improve the lives of small-time offenders and lighten the criminal justice system’s load.

Read more »

Councilwomen Slam DA Williams Over Porngate Prosecutors

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L to R: District Attorney Seth Williams and prosecutor Frank Fina | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

It was a pretty weak showing, said Councilwoman Cindy Bass, when District Attorney Seth Williams announced late on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend that three of his staff members who were caught up in the Porngate scandal would be given sensitivity training.

“I’m offended by these emails,” Bass said, describing a few of the blatantly racist email chains that were passed around the office. “If somebody sends me something that I’m offended by, I will email them back and say, ‘Don’t send me this anymore.’”

The exchange took place during budget hearings in City Council on Wednesday. Read more »

Police Stunned By Investigation Into Cop Who Apparently Died by Suicide

Philadelphia Philadelphia police Lt. Vince Testa holds a confiscated submachine gun at the force's north Philadelphia firing range Wednesday, July 25, 2007. The weapon, which police described as being assembled from a kit in the style of a World War II British Sten gun, was taken along with another weapon and narcotics as two men were arrested in south Philadelphia on Tuesday. (AP Photo/George Widman)

Lt. Vince Testa, who oversaw the Firearms Identification Unit, in 2007. | Photo by George Widman/AP

The apparent suicide earlier this week of Lt. Vincent Testa has left his colleagues in the Philadelphia Police Department with questions — so many questions.

Testa, 53, learned Tuesday that he was scheduled to be arrested on Thursday as part of a local grand jury investigation into a complicated saga that dated back to 2009, multiple law enforcement sources have told Philadelphia magazine.

On Wednesday morning, Testa was found dead by his girlfriend in his Northeast Philadelphia home. The city Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet released an official cause of death. But the sources said Testa ingested a large quantity of pills, and left a note behind for his loved ones.

News of Testa’s death stunned his former coworkers. But many were just as surprised to learn that the District Attorney’s Office had launched a grand jury investigation — now — into a case that had long ago been settled internally. Read more »

D.A.: No Charges for LeSean McCoy in Nightclub Fight

McNesby Shady Williams

District Attorney Seth Williams announced today that he won’t press criminal charges against Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy for scuffling with a trio of off-duty cops at an Old City nightclub earlier this year, prompting the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 to accuse the D.A. of “going south” on the case.

Yeah … there’s a lot to unpack here.

Let’s start with Williams.

With a handful of prosecutors at his side, Williams told reporters during an afternoon news conference that after a lengthy investigation, there simply was “insufficient evidence” to lock up McCoy or any of his pals — former San Diego Chargers running back Curtis Brinkley; former University of Pittsburgh player T.J. Porter; and Christopher Henderson — for the brouhaha that unfolded inside the Recess Lounge in the wee hours on February 7th.

McCoy’s group was hanging out at the club’s VIP area. So, too, was a group of off-duty cops: Officers Darnell Jessie and Roland Butler and Sgt. Daniel Ayres. Read more »

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