Former Philly DA Seth Williams released from federal prison after three years

Williams was convicted of accepting bribes from two wealthy businessmen.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams leaves the federal courthouse during his corruption trial. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams leaves the federal courthouse during his corruption trial. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams was released from federal prison last Thursday after serving nearly three years behind bars for public corruption charges.

In October 2017, Williams was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of bribery. Defense attorney Thomas Burke said the 53-year-old was released early for good behavior.

“He didn’t get special treatment. He was a model prisoner,” said Burke, adding that the coronavirus pandemic delayed his client’s release date by three weeks.

Williams was serving his sentence at FCI Morgantown in West Virginia, a minimum-security facility. He’s now on supervised release for the next three years.

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Burke would not disclose where Williams is residing.

Federal authorities indicted Williams in March 2017. Prosecutors said the two-term Democrat accepted roughly $34,000 worth of bribes from two wealthy business owners in exchange for being “ready to help should the need arise.”

The gifts included a trip to the Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, airline tickets to Florida, Las Vegas and San Diego for Williams and his family, a custom sofa, a used Jaguar convertible, and at least $9,000 in cash and checks, authorities said.

“Whenever Seth Williams had a chance to put his hand in someone else’s pocket, he did,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri during Williams’ trial.

In exchange, Williams allegedly helped get a favorable plea deal for a friend of one of the businessmen. He appointed the other to be a special advisor and wrote a letter to help him in a business dispute, according to the indictment.

Williams was also accused of stealing more than $20,000 from money earmarked for his mother’s care at a nonprofit nursing home, and using campaign cash for personal expenses, including lavish dinners at the Philadelphia Union League.

Two weeks into his criminal trial, Williams abruptly resigned from his office and pleaded guilty. In a surprise move, U.S District Judge Paul S. Diamond immediately had the city’s top prosecutor handcuffed and placed into custody.

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