An organization of black clergy members in Philadelphia said allegations of political corruption against several state legislators and a former judge should have been left alone after the Pennsylvania attorney general dropped the case.
The clergy made a long-expected statement today about the case that was revived by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. The group is concerned that the sting operation — involving five African-Americans and shut down by Attorney General Kathleen Kane is now going — to a grand jury.
Before Kane was elected, the previous attorney general’s office employed a lobbyist — accused of fraud and theft — to present gifts and cash to Democratic lawmakers from Philadelphia who then failed to disclose them. Taking the gifts, as long as they are not a quid-pro-quo for a vote or official action, is not illegal in Pennsylvania, though disclosure is mandatory.
Rev. Terrence Griffith, President of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia, said it’s wrong to “use dirty people to bring in anybody” and that DA Williams made a mistake when he fomed a grand jury last week to look into case again.
“If the lead prosecutor in the state determines that she was not going to proceed, again we believe that our district attorney here should have put that file in a FedEx pack and sent it back to Harrisburg,” Griffith said.
Attorney General Kane said the prosecution of the sting had been racially tainted.
Griffith says he doesn’t have all the facts, so he can’t agree or disagree with Kane’s assessment. But he says the issue does offer an opportunity to address the disproportionate affect the criminal justice system has on African-Americans.
Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office said that if a crime is alleged to have happened in the office’s jurisdiction it is “incumbent upon this office to investigate those violations.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a store owner in Fishtown or a member of the Pennsylvania legislature,” Jamerson said.
When he announced the grand jury, DA Williams said he expected the investigation to take several months, including a review of what he calls “convincing audio and video” of alleged corrupt acts.