Armstrong: Dems caught up in sting surprisingly sanguine about DA indictment

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Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams arrives for his arraignment on bribery and extortion charges at the federal courthouse, Wednesday, March 22, 2017 in Philadelphia.

If I were one of the Democratic politicos convicted in that infamous undercover sting, I would be feeling some kind of way about now.

 The gifts they admitted accepting pale in comparison to what  R. Seth Williams was accused of as part of the  sprawling, 23-count indictment handed down against the two-term Democrat. Williams has pleaded not guilty.  

I reached out to some of the Dems caught up in the sting earlier this week, fully  expecting to get an earful of the kind of outrage I've been hearing from friends and strangers alike, upset about Williams' indictment. I figured they'd be hopping mad and all going off about hypocrisy and the like. I know I would be. 

But  I didn't get that from them.  Not at all. They  were all surprisingly sanguine.

"I feel sorry for anybody who makes big mistakes,"  said former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, 73, who served nearly two years in federal prison after accepting a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet from an informant. "It's a shame but it seems like it's everywhere.  I read the papers and it seems like everybody is doing something wrong somewhere. "

"People get to the point where they've been in a position so long ... and sometimes they get confused about what's right or wrong," added Tynes, who pleaded guilty to a felony count of conflict of interest in 2014.     

At first I thought, well, that's just her. But former State Rep. Ronald Waters, who once was a big-time Williams supporter,  was equally charitable. In fact, he seemed at a loss for words when I reached him by phone Friday afternoon.

"This really has taken me by a major surprise," said Waters,  who pleaded guilty in 2015 to nine counts of conflict of interest and was sentenced to 23 months of probation.

 Waters also was ordered to pay $8,750 in restitution to the state - the amount in bribes he accepted - and $5,000 to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office for the cost of prosecution.

"I am right now looking back at what I went through and what my family went through and what my children went through. ... I can imagine what he's going through," Waters told me without a touch of glee or scorn in his voice. "I think people do expect me to be, like, rejoicing, but I'm not the kind of person who rejoices in someone else's problems."

Apparently, I'm not the only one raising eyebrows at how he's taking Williams' indictment. Everywhere Waters goes, people have been pulling him to the side and pointing  out the irony of his conviction versus what the DA faces.

"One thing I remember people saying is the true judge and the true problem solver is God," Waters told me.  "I just leave my life and my circumstances in God's hands."

Former State Rep. Louise Bishop, who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of failing to record a donation from an undercover informant, refused to get into finger-pointing, as well. 

"I won't say anything negative about Seth. He's got his own problems," she told me in that soothing, grandmotherly voice her Gospel radio fans have listened to for decades. "I'm not his jury. I'm not his judge. I'm not God."

Bishop, who's also an ordained minister, knew Williams, when he was growing up and was friends with her daughter.  

"Sometimes, time brings about a change in us," the former legislator said. "Sometimes success brings about a change."

"All I can say is, what goes around comes around," Bishop warned sagely. "Whether it's you, me, him or whoever. What we put out on the water comes back to us."

If Williams is found guilty, it will prove her right about that.   Still, if I were one of the convicted legislators, I would be hopping mad.