Seth Williams Reacts to Lawsuit Report

Seth Williams

District Attorney Seth Williams today responded to a Daily News report that his office had settled a racial discrimination lawsuit with a former employee, taking to the paper’s letters-to-the-editor page to assert: “I am proud of my record, my decisions and the way I have run the District Attorney’s Office.”

The paper reported Tuesday that the suit was brought by MK Feeney, a white female homicide prosecutor who says she was fired in 2011, accused of being “untruthful” in the aftermath of a Daily News cover story about turmoil in the the prosecutor’s office. Her suit said that a fellow homicide prosecutor — a black man, and a member of the same fraternity as Williams — later confessed to leaking the info, but was not fired. The city settled the complaint for $190,000, and Williams admitted no wrongdoing.

“In the (Daily News) story, the reporter failed to mention two things,” Williams wrote today. “First, that he was the reporter who received the leaked information in 2011 from the individual profiled and failed to disclose that in his article. Second, that the individual who was not fired was treated differently because he was honest, remorseful and admitted that he conspired with the profiled employee to improperly share expungement information that could harm another assistant district attorney.”
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Report: City Settled Race Discrimination Suit Against D.A.

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

City Hall in 2014 settled a racial discrimination lawsuit aimed at District Attorney Seth Williams, the Daily News reported today.

The suit was brought by MK Feeney, a white female homicide prosecutor who says she was fired in 2011, accused of being “untruthful” in the aftermath of a Daily News cover story about turmoil in the the prosecutor’s office. Her suit said that a fellow homicide prosecutor — a black man, and a member of the same fraternity as Williams — later confessed to leaking the info, but was not fired. That man has since left the D.A.’s office.

“She would not have been fired if she was black. She was not the right color. She was not in the same fraternity,” a source told the paper. Read more »

Supreme Court Gives Hundreds of Philly Juvenile Lifers a Chance at Parole

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that their 2012 decision Miller v. Alabama, which ended life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder, applies retroactively. The ruling will give thousands of prisoners nationwide — many of them Philadelphians — a shot at parole and new sentence hearings.

Pennsylvania has more juvenile lifers than any other state, and Philadelphia is home to nearly 300. Read more »

D.A. Wants New Court Hearing on Lynn Case

In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia. The landmark conviction of the Roman Catholic church official imprisoned over his handling of abuse complaints in Philadelphia has been overturned for the second time. A Superior Court ruling, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 awarded Lynn a new trial.

In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia. The landmark conviction of the Roman Catholic church official imprisoned over his handling of abuse complaints in Philadelphia has been overturned for the second time. A Superior Court ruling, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 awarded Lynn a new trial.

District Attorney Seth Williams said Monday he will ask the Pennsylvania Superior Court to re-hear arguments in the case of Monsignor William Lynn, the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted in the church’s sex abuse scandal.

Last week, a 2-1 panel of the court ordered Lynn to receive a new trial in the case, saying that evidence from the church’s “Secret Archive” — material that included evidence of acts that took place decades before Lynn became secretary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — unfairly tainted his original trial. He was convicted of endangering the welfare of children.

Williams will ask the entire superior court — not just a three-person panel — to hear the appeal. Read more »

WATCH: Noisy Taxi Cab Protest of UberX, Lyft Snarls Center City Traffic

taxi-protest-940x540

With horns blaring and marchers chanting “No UberX! No Lyft!” hundreds of Philadelphia cab drivers converged on City Hall with their vehicles to demand that laws cab drivers must follow regarding insurance, licensing and training be enforced with the aforementioned ride-sharing services as well. Joining in the protest that snarled lunchtime traffic for blocks around City Hall were drivers for UberBLACK, the limousine service that uses the same sharing technology as UberX but which is regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority as the cabs are. Read more »

Why Doesn’t Frank Fina Quit?

• Frank Fina, (pictured right, behind Seth Williams) who investigated the case and then moved to the D.A.’s office, used op-ed space to challenge Kane to be more forthcoming on her decision. Why didn’t he use his op-ed space — or any public forum — to make the argument for what charges should’ve been brought, and why?

Frank Fina, pictured right, behind Seth Williams.

So why doesn’t Frank Fina simply resign?

For weeks now, and really longer, his boss — District Attorney Seth Williams — has been under pressure to fire Fina, as well as two other staff attorneys caught up in the “Porngate” controversy: Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington. Williams, in turn, has done everything he can short of firing the trio: He’s put them through sensitivity training. He’s reassigned them to lower-profile jobs that lack prosecutorial powers. None of it has satisfied Williams’ critics, and the scandal doesn’t appear to be going away.

“He should just fire them,” City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez told the Inquirer this week.

There are some reasons — some compelling, some less so — why Williams might not want to pull that trigger. The reason that gets the most traction is that the Porngate emails weren’t swapped on his watch: As he pointed out to Philly Mag’s Holly Otterbein in September, the attorneys now working for him were working for then-Attorney General Tom Corbett when the activity took place. Do you punish your workers for misdeeds that took place in another workplace?

That would explain why Williams hasn’t fired Fina. It doesn’t explain why he’s still working in the D.A.’s office. Read more »

Seth Williams Re-Assigns ‘Porngate’ Prosecutors

• Frank Fina, (pictured right, behind Seth Williams) who investigated the case and then moved to the D.A.’s office, used op-ed space to challenge Kane to be more forthcoming on her decision. Why didn’t he use his op-ed space — or any public forum — to make the argument for what charges should’ve been brought, and why?

D.A. Seth Williams has reassigned “Porngate” figures in his office, including Frank Fina (right).

District Attorney Seth Williams has for now resisted calls to fire three prosecutors linked in various ways to “Porngate,” the scandal that found state employees were sending and receiving pornographic and/or offensive emails on government email accounts. But, in a memo sent to his staff yesterday and obtained by the Daily News, Williams has demoted Patrick Blessington, Marc Costanzo and Frank Fina.

Fina, the former state prosecutor who Philadelphia magazine wrote “lit the match” on Kathleen Kane’s downfall, goes from special investigations to civil litigation. Costanzo goes from special investigations to appeals, while Blessington goes from insurance fraud to post conviction relief.

Each of the three goes to a lower-profile job. Williams moved the same day City Council passed a resolution calling for the three to be fired. The Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women — once a major ally of Williams — has been calling for their dismissal in a Change.org petition (currently at 760+ signatures). Even Milton Street got in on the action when not meeting with Donald Trump. Read more »

Milton Street: I’m Going to Take Donald Trump to K&A

Milton Street and a supporter

Milton Street and a supporter at a rally outside District Attorney Seth Williams’ office on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

T. Milton Street wants to take Donald Trump to K&A.

Street — the former state representative and senator, perennial mayoral candidate, ex-convict, advocate for the poor and track suit enthusiast — met with Donald Trump yesterday at a rally for the presidential candidate in Virginia. He spoke about his meeting with Trump at a “Porngate” protest he held outside the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.

“My question to Trump was, ‘Will you come to Philadelphia into the black community?’” Street said. “I don’t want to bring Trump to Philadelphia and have the black community come to the Convention Center. Everybody goes to the Convention Center. Right? I want to take him to South Philly, the middle of North Philly, A and Kensington Avenue and see the real deal.” He said he would himself take Trump to K&A, the notorious intersection that’s become shorthand for Kensington’s open-air drug market.

“He indicated that he would do that, but we’ll see,” Street said. “It’s in his interest to.” Street said he’d be calling Trump’s office after today’s protest. The brother of former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, a Democrat who has switched parties in the past, said he was not himself a supporter of Trump. But he said if Trump accepts his invitation to go into black neighborhoods in Philadelphia and meet with members of the community, he would re-evaluate his position.

“What’s intriguing to me about Donald Trump — and I’ve been in politics for a while — is if he makes a promise to me, that there’s no contributors to say to him, ‘Withdraw that promise you made to Street. If you go down there we’re going to close our wallets to you,’” Street said. “He doesn’t have that problem, right? So when he makes a commitment, it’s his commitment. He can either keep it, or he can break it. That is a unique situation, one I’ve never been confronted with in all my years in politics.… if that was the case with Donald Trump I would never have spent my time talking to him.” Read more »

Williams Revamps Senior Leadership in D.A.’s Office

Seth Williams

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams created a new position in his office today: Chief of Staff, General Counsel and Chief Integrity Officer. He appointed Kathleen Martin to the new position, in addition to promoting George D. Mosee, Jr. to first assistant district attorney.

“Ms. Martin brings experience in Pennsylvania criminal law as well as a deep knowledge of the history and unique facets of Philadelphia courts and criminal practice,” Williams said in a release. “I am very proud of the work we have accomplished in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office so far and am excited about the opportunity to strengthen the office and to help the 600 men and women of the office make a difference in our city.”

The District Attorney’s office has been rocked in recent months by the Porngate scandal, with everyone from state senators to Senate candidates to City Council members calling for the firing of three city prosecutors who sent or received pornographic and/or offensive emails while working for the state. Read more »

Porngate Prosecutors Get Their Sensitivity Training

Seth Williams, left. Paul Meshanko, right.

Seth Williams, left. Paul Meshanko, right.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams released a statement today detailing the sensitivity training his staff underwent in the wake of the “Porngate” scandal — and probably none too soon. In recent weeks, a growing chorus of elected officials and activist groups have called on Williams to fire three of his prosecutors who’d been involved in the sending and receiving of pornographic, homophobic and racist emails while employed elsewhere. Williams said he wouldn’t fire the men–Frank Fina, Patrick Blessington and Marc Costanza–but he would implement training.

According to Williams, Paul Meshanko, president and CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, led the training. (According to his Facebook page, he’s the former CEO, but other sites describe him simply as CEO.) Legacy is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, but Meshanko lives just outside of D.C. He is the author of The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace. The “neuroleadership” part of Meshanko’s theory is based on the notion that respect primes our brains to do their best work, and that the brain responds more happily—with serotonin and oxytocin—to respectful behavior in the workplace. When we are disrespected, this triggers cortisol and adrenaline and other negative mojo that unpleasantly drugs the prefrontal cortex. Read more »

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