The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disbarred Philadelphia’s former top prosecutor, the latest blow to the jailed ex-district attorney who pleaded guilty in a bribery scandal earlier this year.
The court’s order regarding Seth Williams on Thursday was retroactive to April 13, when the court first suspended his license. He was indicted in March, pleaded guilty in June, and faces up to five years in prison when he is to be sentenced next week.
Williams, a two-term Democrat and the city’s first black district attorney, pleaded guilty to a single count of accepting a bribe from a businessman in exchange for legal favors. The plea came as a surprise development two weeks into a trial that included damaging testimony about a stream of money and gifts showered on him, from a lavish Caribbean vacation to cash bribes.
He was also accused of fraudulently using thousands of dollars from his campaign fund for personal expenses, misusing city vehicles, and misappropriating money intended to fund his mother’s nursing home care.
He had been charged with multiple counts of bribery, extortion, and fraud. Although all but one count was dismissed, prosecutors said that Williams admitted he committed all the conduct.
“I’m very sorry,” Williams said in court after the guilty plea.
He was immediately sent to a federal detention center by a judge who said he “sold” his office and couldn’t trust his assurances about appearing for his sentencing hearing. He was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Williams, a graduate of Georgetown Law School, spent years as an assistant prosecutor and became the city’s inspector general, tasked with rooting out corruption, before first winning office in 2009. His attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the supreme court’s decision.
He is the latest in a long run of Philadelphia politicians to be convicted of corruption. In the past 10 years, the ranks have included former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, found guilty in 2016 in a racketeering scheme; the former speaker and four other members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; two members of the Pennsylvania Senate; and a Philadelphia city councilman.