Former Philly DA Seth Williams faces sentencing this week

Seth Williams

Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams will learn Tuesday how long he might spend in prison following his guilty plea in a bribery case.

Williams is to appear in a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond, the same man who sent him immediately to the federal detention center in Philadelphia when he decided to plead guilty in the middle of his corruption trial June 29th.

In a sentencing memo, prosecutors are asking Diamond to sentence Williams to the maximum of five years for his offenses, “both to punish the offender and to send an unmistakable message that such criminality and hypocrisy by public officials will not be tolerated.”

Williams pleaded guilty to one count of his indictment, but he admitted to accepting bribes from two businessmen and defrauding the nursing home where his mother lived as well as his political committee and the city.

Prosecutors argued in the memo that Williams earned a comfortable salary when he was district attorney, but that “he chose a lifestyle he could not afford.”

Besides the five-year sentence, prosecutors want the court to require Williams to pay $58,422 in restitution to his fraud victims, and forfeit $33,765 to the government, which prosecutors say is the value of the bribes he accepted.

In Seth’s defense

Defense attorney Tom Burke said in his pre-sentencing memo that Williams “in no way seeks to minimize the nature and circumstances of his crimes.”

But he asked Diamond to also consider Williams’ efforts to improve the DA’s office, and the penalties he’s already suffered, including the loss of his city pension and law license.

Since his guilty plea Williams has been held in the federal detention center, segregated from the general population in conditions akin to solitary confinement. He’s in his cell 23 hours a day, permitted one hour for exercise.

Burke asked that after sentencing Williams be released on electronic monitoring before reporting to his assigned federal prison so he can see his 87-year old mother “in the event she passes while he is incarcerated.”

Burke noted that “similarly situated politicians recently convicted in Philadelphia were granted release after conviction before reporting to their designated prisons.”

Burke said he had consulted with prosecutors regarding that request, and that they have no objection to it.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.