Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams reminds us of that kid on the playground who's always trying to get someone else to take on the bully he's too afraid to confront himself.
Ever since Attorney General Kathleen Kane revealed that two members of his staff engaged in a sloppy sting investigation possibly tainted by racial targeting, Williams has been obsessed with branding her a liar. There is, of course, one sure way to do so: by successfully prosecuting the case she says is unprosecutable. But he won’t.
The lead investigator, who now works for Williams, told Office of Attorney General staff "that he was instructed by his supervising OAG Attorney to focus only on members of the General Assembly's Black Caucus, and that when he had information of potentially illegal acts by white members of the General Assembly he was specifically told not to pursue it.”
The agent, who was promised a promotion and cash bonus for working on the investigation, has been forced to recant. Williams trotted him out for a Fox 29 interview, in which he denies racial targeting, but curiously, he never denies telling OAG staff that he was instructed to focus on members of the Black Caucus. Not that was he asked. Tsk, tsk, Fox 29.
Another reason Kane declined to prosecute the case is that “federal law enforcement officials with knowledge of Case File No. 36-622 have shared with current members of the OAG executive staff their opinion that the case is flawed and not prosecutable.” Williams has pounced on her assertion, insisting that neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to pursue the case. Kane never said they did. She never asked them to.
But even if, for some reason, Kane is lying about all of this - if there was no racial targeting, if federal officials never shared an opinion about the case – that won’t explain why Williams himself won’t prosecute.
If Williams is correct that Kane should have prosecuted, and the feds could have prosecuted, he opens himself to the question, why won’t he prosecute?
If the case is solid, Williams should pursue it. If it’s not, he should shut up.
We’re at a loss why the Inquirer keeps indulging him in his insistence that Kane is lying about the case being flawed, and the feds never said it was flawed, when he himself admitted it’s flawed. He told the Inquirer it would be difficult for his office to prosecute the cases because Confidential Informant Tyron Ali apparently no longer had any legal obligation to testify against those he had taped because the charges against him had been dropped. “There's no way I can use him under any prosecutorial theory I can think of," Williams said.
It was Williams’ own Assistant District Attorney Frank Fina, the supervising OAG attorney on the case, the one who told the lead investigator to focus on members of the Black Caucus, the one who promised him a promotion and cash bonus for working on the case, who dropped the charges. And he did it 45 days before Kane even took office.
Williams contends it was Kane who dropped the charges, but he’s being disingenuous. Fina prepared and signed the agreement on Nov. 30, 2012. Kane didn’t intend to dismiss the case, but Ali's lawyer filed a motion in court demanding action on the agreement and she had no choice. The agreement could be revoked only if Ali broke the terms, and Kane was legally obligated to honor it.
But here again, if she’s wrong and he’s right, he could have pursued the charges. Fina left the OAG and joined the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in April of 2013, taking a copy of the rejected sting case file with him. Kane didn’t take action to formally dismiss the charges against Ali until October. If Williams didn’t think the agreement Fina signed in November 2012 rendered the case unprosecutable, why didn't he prosecute it? If he did, he should shut up.
Alas, he won’t shut up. And he’s too afraid to touch the case with a ten-foot pole. Meanwhile, who’s showing more political courage than Williams? Harrisburg gadfly Gene Stilp, who’s filed a private criminal complaint against some of the lawmakers targeted in the sting.