Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who leads one of the nation’s busiest prosecutor’s offices, is now having trouble getting an attorney to stay in his corner.
Williams’ lawyer has filed paperwork trying to get out of the case, citing Williams’ financial woes and the potential for conflicts of interest. The filing comes a week after federal authorities indicted Williams on bribery and fraud charges.
What happens now?
Sources say there are several different possibilities. Williams current lawyer Mike Diamondstein might be forced to stick around.
Or another attorney may step up and represent Williams pro bono.
Another potential outcome: a judge can appoint a federal public defender to represent Williams, who earns $175,000 a year as the city’s top prosecutor. Despite his salary, Williams has made his money struggles a public matter, telling reporters that alimony from a 2011 divorce and private-school tuition for his daughters have made it hard for him to eke by.
Those same struggles may make it tough for Williams to fork up enough cash to pay for a lawyer to help him defend against a 23-count corruption indictment.
“Due to the costs associated with defending this case properly, and the unique conflicts created by representing the sitting District Attorney of Philadelphia, my office has filed a motion to withdraw as counsel,” Diamondstein said. “I strongly believe in Mr. Williams innocence and wish him the very best going forward.”
Diamondstein, in a letter to the court, said because he is representing clients being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office, working for Williams would be “too challenging,” and that’s putting aside “whether Mr. Williams can afford to be represented by private counsel.”
A hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday in Philadelphia’s federal courthouse to determine whether Diamondstein can leave the case.
Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting for Williams to resign. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has called on him to step down, as has the Philadelphia Bar Association. All eight candidates running against Williams have also said he should step aside. On Monday morning, members of Pennsylvania’s Black Lives Matter rallied in front of the DA’s Office, echoing the same sentiment.
“We’re telling you: you are corrupt, and everything you touch now is tainted,” said the group’s Asa Khalif. “You must go, it’s as simple as that, or we’re going to cast you out!”