A state legislator has resigned amidst charges she took money from an undercover operative as part of a sting operation led by the attorney general’s office, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced Wednesday.
Williams accepted State Rep. Louise Bishop’s no-contest plea to one count of a fraudulent statement of financial interest, considered a misdemeanor. She’ll be placed on six months probation, resign from office immediately and pay a $1,500 fine in restitution and pay $5,000 in prosecution costs.
The undercover sting was first brought to light by the Philadelphia Inquirer last year. It revealed Attorney General Kathleen Kane shut down a sting operation initiated by her predecessor, Tom Corbett, which dug into politicians accepting unreported gifts. Kane claimed the probe was racially motivated and un-prosecutable. All politicians implicated are black.
The investigation spurred criticism from several local and state lawmakers, including state Rep. Mark Cohen, who lashed out at Williams for resurrecting the Corbett-spawned probe.
In a letter dated Dec. 4 and addressed to Williams, Cohen scratched out Williams’ typed, formal name and scrawled, “Seth.”
Citing an article in the Daily News, Cohen impassionedly wrote, “[analysis in the story] deeply offends my conscience” and “raises serious and fundamental questions as to whether the setting up to commit crimes of my colleagues Louise Williams Bishop…was fair, just and impartial.”
Cohen claimed – and still does – that “key officials” deliberately manufactured the crimes and targeted black electeds, particularly females, out of racial hatred, racial stereotyping, contempt for women in the workplace and contempt for the political process as a whole.
Reached my phone Wednesday, Cohen told Metro, “I am glad that, at age 82, [Bishop] faces no prison sentence. I remain queasy about the government manufacturing the situation enabling and encouraging the commission of crimes, the publicly available memo targeting the members of the black caucus for investigation and expressing contempt for elected officials and working women.”
But Williams said Bishop's choice to drop a motion exploring selective prosecution proved that it was not a racially motivated investigation.
“The withdrawal of the defense’s motion of selective prosecution based on race clearly shows that the investigation and prosecution of these elected officials was never based on race,” Williams said in a statement.
“The plea and subsequent conviction of Ms. Bishop shows that I have done what my office has been charged by the citizens of Philadelphia to do: fight corruption and make this city safe."
Williams called this investigation a particularly difficult one, since he has personally known Bishop since he was four years old.
Thomasine Tynes, the Tiffany & Co. bracelet-accepting former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge who pleaded guilty to corruption last summer, is one four elected officials who have entered pleas stemming from the undercover operation.
State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown is the only local politician of six indicted for illegally receiving gifts who has not yet pleaded guilty or been convicted. Brown returns to court Jan. 11.