This weekend the Philadelphia Daily News' Chris Brennan broke the explosive revelation that Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams investigated and is now prosecuting State Representative J.P. Miranda even though the two were (are?) rivals in a love triangle that included an unnamed woman:
"Defense Attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. yesterday accused District Attorney Seth Williams of investigating state Rep. J.P. Miranda and charging him with a crime because they 'were both dating the same girl at the same time...I think it's a vindictive prosecution that singled out J.P. Miranda because J.P. Miranda and Seth Williams were both dating the same girl at the same time,' Peruto said. 'I think this is one way to eliminate your competition.' Peruto declined to identify the woman, saying he did not want to 'besmirch' her in the media." (Daily News 3/2/14)
It speaks volumes that there was no denial from Williams on the claim of a shared romantic interest. Setting aside a debate of Miranda's guilt, this certainly illustrates an incredible degree of poor judgement on the part of the District Attorney. Avoiding the perception of knee-capping a rival suitor is surely the strongest of reasons to refer this case to the US Attorney or Pennsylvania Attorney General. Although, there is reason to believe that Williams doesn't care and has carefully put in place a team of prosecutors to do his bidding for both his personal and political advantage.
After all, Williams did hire Frank Fina, Patrick Blessington, and Marc Costanzo onto his staff following their stints as Assistant Attorney Generals under now Governor Tom Corbett.
At the time, Williams said it was to crank up efforts to crack down on political corruption:
"Earlier this month, Williams received court approval to create a new investigative grand jury, which allows prosecutors to subpoena documents and compel testimony...To help staff the Special Investigations Unit, Williams hired two former state prosecutors, Frank Fina and E. Marc Costanzo. They joined a previous hire, Patrick J. Blessington, who was also a colleague from the Attorney General's Office...Williams is taking a different tack than his predecessor...Abraham repeatedly referred political corruption cases to state or federal prosecutors. She always defended the referrals, arguing that she had a potential conflict of interest if she sought to pursue fellow Democrats." (Inquirer 4/29/13)
However, from what we've seen over the past year, Williams brought these former Corbett cronies on board to do for him what they did very well for Corbett - base prosecutorial decisions on personal and political considerations.
Williams told the Inquirer last April, "Philadelphians think we turn a blind eye to political corruption in Philadelphia. I wanted them to know that we don't - and that we will abdicate our responsibility of prosecuting the appropriate cases in Philadelphia." (Inquirer 4/29/13)
That sounds good, but we think otherwise. Williams hired Fina, Blessington, and Costanzo because he could count on them to turn a blind eye to corruption when ordered, especially when personally and politically expedient. Here's just a few examples of how these politically motivated prosecutors put their old boss Corbett's career ahead of justice:
- Fina, Blessington, and Costanzo were the same team that followed Corbett's instructions to leave his close political allies in the State Senate Republican Caucus untouched in the bonusgate investigations as Charlie Thompson from the Patriot News outlined last year (Patriot News 2/27/13). In fact, these three supposed corruption busters actually turned away the tipster who eventually brought down State Senator Jane Orie and Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin (2/21/13).
- They ignored a referal from the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission that found former Republican State Representative Matt Wright from Bucks County guilty of using his taxpayer funded legislative staff for the exact same purposes as the bonusgate defendants. Instead Fina, Costanzo, and Blessington followed Corbett's orders and ignored the referral because of strong connections in the case between Wright and the powerful Deon family (Inquirer 1/30/10).
- Fina, Costanzo, and Blessington were found by the Patriot News and the ACLU to have no problem helping Tom Corbett's nascent gubernatorial campaign by egregiously abusing the state grand jury system to silence political opponents (Patriot News 5/25/10)
- Worst of all is the unfolding scandal surrounding Fina's role in slow-walking the Jerry Sandusky investigation to avoid negative repercussions for Corbett's campaign for governor. As post-indictment riots attested the repercussions of the child molestation indictment proved quite harmful to the vaunted Penn State football brand and consequently quite unpopular. In fact, Fina and Costanzo were both still at the OAG when Corbett's replacement made the politically expedient decision to delete millions of emails. Both men stood by and allowed their destruction. (Pittsburgh Tribune Review 2/14/14)
This starts with ignoring a political corruption scandal in Williams' very own office. The Legal Intelligencer reported on the political macing conducted by Williams on his staff, yet not a peep from the big, tough political corruption buster Patrick Blessington (6/8/12) Of course, that is exactly why Williams hired someone like Blessington...he will turn his head when ordered.
When Williams announced his intentions to dig into public corruption within Philadelphia's borders, we thought perhaps he would have the intestinal fortitude to bring Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille onto to the carpet for initially allowing double dipping by one of the Family Court Building developers - and lying about it. Yet, nothing. Castille was able to continue lying about his knowledge, feign ignorance, spout some nonsense about the Marine Corps a la Bill Deweese, and not be troubled a bit. (Inquirer 7/25/10). Once again, when you have partisan-hack prosecutors like Fina, Costanzo and Blessington on the clock, they will make sure an influential judge is kept in the clear...especially a Republican.
Then, there is the ongoing Attorney General's investigation of State Senator Leanna Washington for running her campaign operation out of her taxpayer funded district office using her taxpayer funded legislative staff (Inquirer 10/24/13). We shouldn't be surprised that Williams didn't have his crack team of Fina, Costanzo, and Blessington on the case instead of the OAG. Washington is a strong political ally and one of Williams' campaign allies after all (Friendsofsethwilliams).