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Seth Williams will resign and face up to 5 years as part of guilty plea

District Attorney Seth Williams has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.
Seth Williams (Reuters)

In a surprise twist, two weeks into his federal corruption trial, District Attorney Seth Williams pleaded guilty to bribery charges on Thursday.

The guilty plea included his written agreement to resign "humbly, sincerely and effective immediately," according to the Inquirer. He reportedly must pay $64,878.22 in restitution, and he will face up to five years in prison at his Oct. 24 sentencing hearing. He was ordered detained until sentencing. U.S. Marshals reportedly led him out of court in handcuffs.

Federal jurors heard witnesses describe how Williams failed to pay his aging mother's nursing home bills while spending her funds on his own lifestyle.

They also heard from former Bucks County businessman Mohammad Ali, who candidly discussed exchanging gifts with Williams in return for favors, such as sending a police escort to help Ali skip screening at the airport. (Ali previously accepted a plea deal for bribery charges.) And staff from Williams' political action committee said their funds went to the former DA's social life, while they couldn't afford their own phone bills.

"Mr. Williams compromised himself and his elected office by using his office to help those willing to secretly pay him with valuable items like money, trips, and cars, as well as defrauding his political action committee and others,” acting U.S. Attorney of New Jersey William Fitzpatrick said in a statement announcing the guilty plea. “Today, Mr. Williams admitted all of that conduct."

Williams made history as the first African American district attorney of Philadelphia when he was elected in 2009, taking office in 2010.

"“From his first day in office, Seth Williams sought to portray himself as a man of the people – a principled public servant and reformer, devoted to the cause of justice,” Michael Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, said in a statement. “Mr. Williams talked a good game. Unfortunately, ‘talk’ is all it was."

The Philadelphia DA's office is currently led by first assistant district attorney Kathleen Martin, who released a statement after the guilty plea was announced praising her staff for continuing to do their jobs since Williams was indicted in March and technically remained D.A.

Martin told the the city that with Williams gone, "their District Attorney’s Office continues the pursuit of justice and the hope for a safer city endures."