Seth Williams represents what’s wrong with Philadelphia’s justice system
The Ernest Opinion: The leadership under Philly’s current District Attorney reveals nasty double standards that are harming our city’s ability to ensure justice.
If you aren’t a straight, privileged man in Philadelphia, don’t expect the District Attorney’s office to do all they can to give you justice.
There were two major moments for our District Attorney, Seth Williams, to defy the current distaste that many locals have for our legal system and he just dropped the ball. Not only dropped it, but didn’t give a damn that he did.
Last week, two of the three suspects in the September 2014 attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia entered guilty pleas that banned them from Center City – but received no jail time. While the victims were satisfied with the decision and Williams made the excuse “about honoring the wishes of the victims to make sure they can continue to heal and gain closure,” I’m not pleased.
Not because I don’t think victims shouldn’t have a right to move on from pain – but because I believe there’s racial and sexual orientation bias. Two straight white men who committed a hate crime are granted freedom while an exponential number of black men who carry a small weed-bag would’ve done some hard time. If this were a straight couple assaulted, the men would have been handcuffed and sentenced swiftly.
But when you are white, privileged and homophobic, your bigotry still allows you to go home to your families. Anyone else would have been behind a cell. Go do a headcount at the Philly police department if you don’t believe me.
While our District Attorney prides himself on pleasing the victims – and still showing the rest of us that “separate, but equal” punishment is becoming the law of the Philly – his ability to hold his own staff accountable is even worse.
When Williams didn’t fire three Philly prosecutors, including two central to Attorney General Kathleen Kane's grand jury perjury case, for forwarding and not reporting the pornographic and racially offensive emails they received while working in the attorney general's office – I was disgusted.
“None [of the emails] were circulated to or by them while employed in my office,” said Williams to the press in justifying his decision to not fire them, but offered Frank Fina, E. Marc Costanzo and Patrick Blessingtonsensitivity training instead.
So let me get this straight – if you accept and tolerate sexist and racist messages via email on taxpayers’ dollars, you only get sensitivity training? If a schoolteacher did that while on the job would the same punishment be given?
Williams’ lax attitude towards homophobic and sexist misconduct reflects a double standard that should be questioned at the political level. Why isn’t anyone in his party questioning these un-progressive transgressions? If we have prosecutors employed that enjoy viewing the degrading of women and people of color – why would anyone think they would be the best people to have defending our diverse city’s liberty?
Seth Williams either needs to step up or get out of office, because my black gay feminist life matters and I want to be assured that it does at the D.A’s office.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metro US.