Judge sets trial date for Philadelphia’s District Attorney

 Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (Nathaniel Hamilton for Newsworks, file)

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (Nathaniel Hamilton for Newsworks, file)

The federal judge overseeing the corruption case against Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said the trial could start next month.

Prosecutors asked the judge to push back the trial date, but U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond denied the request.

Because of the enormous volume of evidence, prosecutors argued they need more time before putting Williams on trial. Both the judge and Williams’ defense attorney have said the hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence could have been evaluated before the indictment. 

“Nothing compelled the government to charge defendant before it had completed its investigation,” Diamond wrote in his order. “Having brought the charges that will, until they are resolved, have an obvious and possibly calamitous effect on the city’s criminal justice system”

Under federal rules, a defendant’s trial must start 70 days after charges are filed. In complex cases, that rule is usually waived.

But Diamond wrote he doesn’t think this case is that complicated. It involves three alleged schemes in which Williams is accused of receiving illegal gifts or being bribed. In all, Williams is accused of taking in more than $100,000 in gifts in exchange for assisting the benefactors in his official capacity as the city’s top law enforcement official, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors additionally accuse Williams of bilking his elderly mother out of $20,000 intended for her nursing home expenses.

Diamond said he can’t think of any instance where the public’s right to a speedy trial is more pressing.

“The largest prosecutors’ office in the Commonwealth is being run by someone who is not licensed to practice law and is himself charged with 23 federal crimes,” he wrote.

Lawyers for both the government and Williams did not offer comment.

The trial is tentatively set for May 31.

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