Philadelphia DA says no conflict of interest in legislative sting case |

Philadelphia DA says no conflict of interest in legislative sting case

HARRISBURG — Pressing for a case file, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said on Thursday he has no conflict of interest that would prevent him from reviewing an abandoned legislative sting case and possibly prosecuting.

Williams suggested that Attorney General Kathleen Kane raised the issue of his potential conflict as an excuse not to send him the file she promised two weeks ago.

“(Kane) doesn’t really believe I have a conflict, or she wouldn’t have repeatedly suggested I take over this case,” Williams said. He expects to respond by letter to Kane immediately.

Kane’s office told Williams he couldn’t have the file until he resolved a potential conflict — that two of four House members who took cash from an undercover informant in the 2010-12 sting investigation had endorsed Williams for district attorney in 2009.

But, Williams pointed out, the same Philadelphia Democrats — Reps. Ron Waters and Vanessa Brown — endorsed Kane for attorney general in 2012.

Kane is prosecuting a state representative who gave her $1,000 in September 2012. Kane in March charged LeAnna Washington, D-Philadelphia, with using her state staffers to do campaign work. Kane spokesman J.J. Abbott, asked whether Kane has a conflict similar to the one she raised with Williams, said, “We determined there wasn’t a conflict and filed appropriate charges as recommended by a grand jury.”

Endorsements alone don’t matter as much as the extent of support and its influence, said Richard Long, executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

“If someone raises several million dollars, just hypothetically, that’s different than a supporter who cut them a $25 check and voted for him,” Long said.

“Were hundreds of people endorsing this candidate?” Long said.

About 60 organizations and individuals endorsed Williams’ campaign, including clergy, unions, neighborhood groups, police, 12 former assistant district attorneys and a sitting U.S. senator and congressman.

Waters and Brown were among 15 state representatives and senators who backed his campaign. The Committee to Elect Ron Waters donated $300 to Williams’ campaign in December 2008, according to Philadelphia campaign finance records.

Lambasted for dismissing the sting case, and denounced by Williams for criticizing the former state prosecutors who handled it, Kane this month told Williams in a letter that he could have the case if he wanted it. Two former prosecutors and an ex-agent from the Attorney General’s Office ran the sting for former attorneys general.

Kane claimed one reason she dumped the case was that the informant, Tyron B. Ali, appeared to target black lawmakers.

Pennsylvania’s first black district attorney, Williams strongly objected to the idea race factored into the case.

A letter Kane wrote Williams on Wednesday led to their latest exchange about conflict of interest.

Analysts find it unusual that two top Democratic prosecutors would feud.

“It has been two weeks to the day that Ms. Kane requested that I take this case, and I find it odd that in all of this time she has never mentioned this so-called ‘conflict of interest,’ ” Williams said.

He reiterated that he would review the case for possible charges if he gets the file.

Prosecutors enlisted Ali, who was charged with defrauding the state Education Department, to approach public officials as a lobbyist in an investigation that began under former Attorney General Tom Corbett, now the state’s governor, and his Republican successors. Kane dismissed 2,088 charges against Ali last year, under an agreement reached two months before she took office.

Ali recorded his encounters with officials, including Democratic Reps. Michelle Brownlee and Louise Bishop of Philadelphia.

Brad Bumsted and Mike Wereschagin are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Bumsted at 717-787-1405 or [email protected] and Wereschagin at 412-320-7900 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.