Philly DA Williams faces more federal corruption charges

Federal authorities on Tuesday filed additional charges against Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, pictured in this file photo, alleging he misspent campaign money and misused government vehicles.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams spent more than $10,000 in campaign donations on massages, facials, and pricey dinners for himself and a girlfriend, prosecutors said Tuesday as they added corruption charges to their case against him less than a month before his trial.

Most of the expenses detailed in a 29-count superseding indictment were incurred at the Union League on South Broad Street and at Williams’ gym a block away, the Sporting Club at the Bellevue. The district attorney has made no secret for years that he paid his membership dues to both clubs out of his campaign coffers, arguing that the payments were legal under the state’s relatively loose campaign-finance laws.

The new allegations added to the portrait investigators have sought to paint since March of Williams as a man who lived beyond his means on other people’s money.

In outlining their case Tuesday, investigators steered clear of any fights over whether membership dues were an acceptable political expense and instead focused on expenses at both places that they contend have no legitimate political purpose.

The list included a $777 dinner to celebrate the girlfriend’s birthday in 2014; more than $64 in fitness apparel, including a pair of women’s leggings; and a $616 personal trip to State College, Pa., which Williams later would report as part of his travel to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Prosecutors also alleged that Williams funneled an additional $4,136 to himself by issuing a campaign check to his longtime political consultant, William Miller V, who then allegedly returned most of it to Williams.

Miller did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

In addition, the indictment accuses the district attorney of using government vehicles – paid for by federal grant funds meant to fight narcotics trafficking – for his personal use, including trips to the New Jersey Shore and a Virginia resort.

It was not clear Tuesday how the new charges, which include eight additional counts of mail and wire fraud, might affect the district attorney’s May 31 trial date.  

But Williams’ lawyer, Thomas Burke, said he would not seek a delay – although he did ask late Tuesday for an additional week to file his pretrial motions, which would have been due Thursday.

“The government had all this for several years,” he said. “I question why they didn’t charge him with these crimes in the original indictment. If the government hopes that I will ask for a continuance, they’re sadly mistaken.”

Since Williams’ initial indictment in March, U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond has pushed for an early trial, and insisted it is in the public interest for the case to be resolved quickly.

Williams agreed to a temporary suspension of his law license while under indictment, but has vowed to remain in his post until the end of his term this year. He has limited himself to administrative duties and handed supervision of the thousands of criminal cases that move through his office each year to his chief deputy, Kathleen Martin.

He has denied any wrongdoing, but apologized for bringing “embarrassment and shame” to the District Attorney's Office by failing to report gifts worth more than $175,000 that he accepted from benefactors on his financial disclosure forms.

Several of those gifts feature in the government’s original case against Williams, which accused him of repeatedly selling his influence to a pair of businessmen seeking help with their legal woes. 

Williams announced in January that he would not seek a third term in next week's Democratic primary.

Staff writers Chris Brennan, Dylan Purcell, and Mark Fazlollah contributed to this article.

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