HARRISBURG - Two Philadelphia Democrats who allegedly have admitted accepting cash during a "sting" operation are to be sworn in Tuesday, each for another two-year term.
State Reps. Ronald G. Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown were charged last month by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams with bribery and other crimes for taking cash or money orders from an undercover operative in an investigation. Williams said both admitted wrongdoing while testifying before a grand jury in the case.
Though the two are not the first sitting legislators to face charges - even those convicted of a crime can keep their seats until sentencing - longtime Harrisburg observers could not recall any who had admitted wrongdoing and then were sworn in for a new term.
Michael Herzing, spokesman for the House Democrats, said nothing prevents the pair from taking the oath of office.
"Since Reps. Waters and Brown have not been convicted or pleaded guilty to any crime . . . they are eligible to be seated and are planning to be sworn in," Herzing said.
Reached by phone, Waters declined to discuss the allegations but noted he won reelection and was looking forward to the swearing-in ceremony.
"I will serve my district as long as I can," he said. "Who knows what the future holds? As long as I'm in office, I will continue to serve the people of my district."
Brown could not be reached for comment.
David B. Thornburgh, the president and executive director of the Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia-based political watchdog organization, said it made little sense for Waters and Brown to be sworn in. Addressing the two legislators, he said: "There is a clear sense that you did something wrong and you ought to resign your office. I don't know how you weave your way around this."
The sting investigation began in 2010, when Gov. Corbett was the state attorney general. After taking office in 2013, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane secretly shut it down.
After The Inquirer revealed the existence of the aborted sting last March, she said she shuttered the investigation because it was poorly handled and marred by racial targeting.
Williams revived the case last summer, and has since charged three of the five Democrats captured in the sting. Aside from Waters and Brown, Williams charged former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, who pleaded guilty in the case last month.