Brandon Tate-Brown Family Files Federal Class-Action Lawsuit

Tanya Brown-Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference in March. Dickerson’s son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December.

Tanya Brown-Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference in March. Dickerson’s son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December.

The family of Brandon Tate-Brown, a 26-year-old man who was fatally shot by police at a traffic stop last year, filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.

The lawsuit makes the same claims as a wrongful death suit that was filed in April by the family in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, which has since been withdrawn, as well as several additional claims. Attorney Brian Mildenberg said the new claims were based on an investigation that took place after the police department released several documents in June related to the shooting.

Mildenberg said the family “is asking the federal court to certify a class action on behalf of all persons who have been or may be injured by police due to lack of training and operational deficiencies identified by the United States Department of Justice.”

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a wide-ranging, critical report that found that police-involved shootings in Philadelphia had increased, use-of-force training was often inadequate, and the investigation of shootings was inconsistent. It also recommended several major police reforms. The federal government began reviewing the city’s police department after a request was made by Police Commissioner Charles RamseyRead more »

5 Porngate Questions Seth Williams Needs to Answer Immediately

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.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, you’ve got some explaining to do.

While previously working for the Attorney General’s office, your prosecutor Frank Fina was part of an email chain that exchanged racist, misogynistic, pornographic and just plain stupid messages. Last week, the state Supreme Court unsealed that bounty of emails, and we gotta say, they make Fina look like he’d be a better fit in a frat house than a courtroom.

One email contained an image of a woman giving oral sex to a man, with the caption, “Making your boss happy is your only job.” Another had a photo of a white man carrying fried chicken and getting into a confrontation with two black men, alongside the caption, “Bravery at its finest.” There was also a photo of a woman with a T-shirt that read “WIFE: Washing, Ironing, F**ing, Etc.”

In a statement following the document dump, you said “the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has clear human relations policies, so the District Attorney believes that a thorough review is necessary of the email chains and any actions current employees took in their distribution,” and that the office will complete that review ASAP. OK, fine. We understand that these things take time. But there are five questions that you can answer — and need to answer — right away:

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Seth Williams’ Month Just Got Even Worse

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is having a heck of a bad month.

Just over a week ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a federal grand jury is looking into the possibility that Williams used campaign contributions to pay for personal items. Then the state Supreme Court unsealed a batch of pornographic, misogynistic emails that were forwarded and received by Williams’ employee, Frank Fina, when he previously worked in the Attorney General’s office. On Friday morning, the Philadelphia Daily News called the turn of events “Seth Williams’ summer of discontent.”

And then things got worse for Williams. On Friday afternoon, NewsWorks reported that Cameron Kline, Williams’ spokesman, “has resigned his board membership in a Democratic LGBT group following a complaint from a city Republican official about his political activity.” Ed McCann, Philadelphia’s first assistant district attorney, also told NewsWorks that Kline is meeting with the city’s Ethics Board Monday to discuss the matter. Read more »

Kathleen Kane on Report of Seth Williams Probe: Don’t Look at Me

Attorney General Kathleen Kane and District Attorney Seth Williams | Photos by Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Attorney General Kathleen Kane and District Attorney Seth Williams | Photos by Matt Rourke/Associated Press

[Update: 2:30 p.m., Aug. 22.] In a statement released late Friday, the campaign committee of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams denied that it was the subject of a grand jury investigation. The statement, from Williams campaign spokesman Mike Barley, draws attention to Attorney General Kathleen Kane‘s past remarks regarding Williams, seeming to insinuate that she may be connected to the report in the Philadelphia Inquirer that claimed Williams is the under investigation. Kane, speaking through a spokesman, denied on Friday having any connection to the newspaper article.

[Original: 4:48 p.m. Aug. 21.] Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she has nothing to do with a news article in the Inquirer about a federal grand jury investigating Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

“Neither the attorney general nor this office would have any way of knowing whether or not there is a federal investigation of the district attorney, and certainly had no role in exposing it to the media,” said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Kane.

Jeff Cole, a reporter for Fox29, tweeted Friday that Williams claimed the story about the probe “is Kathleen Kane retaliating against prosecutors doing their jobs.”

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Report: District Attorney Seth Williams Is Subject of Federal Investigation

AP-SETH-WILLIAMS-matt-rourke-940x540

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that District Attorney Seth Williams is being investigated by a federal grand jury. Citing unnamed sources, the Inquirer reports that the grand jury has subpoenaed Williams’ campaign finance records “to determine if he misspent funds on personal expenses.”

Chris Brennan writes:

Subpoenas were served as recently as two weeks ago to Friends of Seth Williams, his political action committee, said the source, who described the investigation as a joint effort of the FBI and IRS, with a grand jury impaneled at least two months ago.

Williams, who won office in 2009 and is serving his second term, is seen as one of the city’s elite political stars, and his name has been in the running as a potential candidate for U.S. Senate (he passed) and as a potential challenger to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Williams’ statewide profile has grown over the last year, largely owing to his public spat with Kane, who deep-sixed a corruption investigation that had caught-up six Philadelphia elected officials. Williams took those cases on, and so far he’s extracted four guilty pleas. The two remaining targets are still fighting the charges.

The Inquirer took a look at Williams’ campaign expenses, and highlighted a few transactions, including dues at the Sporting Club and more than $28,000 for meals, dues and a fundraiser at the Union League. You can take a look at Williams’ 2014 campaign finance report at the bottom of this post.

Typically, enforcement of campaign spending regulations is relatively lax, particularly in Pennsylvania. Under state law, any expense that meets the standard of “influencing the outcome of an election” is considered a permissible expense. And there are plenty of city officials who have chosen to interpret that standard very broadly. The campaign of Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, for instance, has used campaign funds to pay the water bills of constituents and help fund the Olympic training of Philadelphia athletes. It’s also not uncommon to see campaign funds used to purchase expensive dinners, pay for Ubers, clothing and other expenses that don’t appear to have an immediate connection to election day.

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#BlackLivesMatter Protesters Block Prosecutor’s Office

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference in March. Dickerson's son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December; DA Seth Williams announced earier in the day no charges would be filed in the death.

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference in March.

Activists seeking the re-opening of the Brandon Tate-Brown case protested at District Attorney Seth Williams‘ office today, briefly shutting down the street outside and blocking the door while they made their case. Protesters included Tate-Brown’s mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, and cousin, Asa Khalif.

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If Fattah Goes Down, Who Would Voters Replace Him With?

Clockwise from the top: Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams and state Sen. Vincent Hughes.

Clockwise from the top: Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, state Sen. Vincent Hughes and District Attorney Seth Williams.

It finally happened: Philadelphia Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was indicted on corruption charges Wednesday.

Already, political insiders are wondering if the congressman will resign in the coming months or simply choose not to run for reelection in 2016. If either scenario unfolds, who would replace him? And how would that work?

The question has been bubbling up ever since two members of Fattah’s inner circle pleaded guilty last year. You can expect more names than ever to be bandied about now.

Some of the bigger ones include Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams, Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, state Sen. Anthony Williams, state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Brian Sims, School Reform Commission member Bill Green, former mayoral candidate Doug Oliver, ward leader Daniel Muroff and real estate analyst Dan Kessler. That’s not even a full list. Check out some other possibilities here.

Watching some of these candidates confront each other in an open election would be a sight to see, but there’s no guarantee that’s what would happen. Indeed, there are five distinct scenarios that could unfold here. Let’s run them down.
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One of Us: Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Rufus Seth Broussard Williams. It’s a mouthful.

I go by “Seth” because … my parents always called me that. And “Rufus Doofus” is a tough one on the playground.

I grew up in … Cobbs Creek, West Philadelphia.

My relationship status is … divorced.

I started working … at age 11, packing bags at the A&P on Baltimore Avenue right outside Philadelphia.

I knew I wanted to be a lawyer when … medical school proved to be impossible. I got a medical discharge from West Point, because I was allergic to math and science. Read more »

Could Brandon Tate-Brown Family File Criminal Charges if D.A. Won’t?

Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray's police-custody death. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray’s police-custody death. Photo | Matt Rourke, AP

So D.A. Seth Williams won’t bring criminal charges against the officers who shot Brandon Tate-Brown. That doesn’t means the chances for a criminal prosecution in the case have been completely eliminated.

Tate-Brown’s family could still try to press criminal charges. So could activists groups here.

Pennsylvania law allows private citizens to initiate criminal complaints, a feature of the law that is mostly used in relatively minor cases. But a similar law in Ohio is being used by activist groups to press criminal charges against the officers who shot the teenager Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Philadelphia activists say they’re watching that case, and are willing to follow suit in similar cases here.

“I do think there are situations — perhaps the situation of Brandon Tate-Brown — that we should use that law to exercise our rights for justice in Philadelphia,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER, the activist organization that has helped organize #BlackLivesMatter protests in the city in recent months. (He also plans to join Tamir Rice protests in Cleveland during an upcoming trip to the city.)

It might not be easy, however. Read more »

Another Sting Target Pleads Guilty

Michelle Brownlee

Michelle Brownlee has become the latest Philadelphia Democrat to plead guilty to corruption charges arising from the investigation abandoned by Attorney General Kathleen Kane and revived by Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams. Read more »

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