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Seth Williams faces up to 5 years at sentencing

Everything you need to know about tomorrow’s sentencing of Rufus Seth Williams.
Philadelphia DA Seth Williams (Charles Mostoller)

Former Philly DA Seth Williams’ fall from grace is expected to be fully complete Tuesday, when he goes before a federal judge to learn his sentence for abusing his office for gifts and favors.

But the disgraced DA has remained an optimist to the last, pleading in court papers filed last week for a lenient sentence – and for a few hours of freedom on electronic monitoring so he can visit his elderly mother, 87, and “get his affairs in order.”

“Williams in no way seeks to minimize the nature and circumstances of his crimes,” his attorneys wrote in papers begging federal Judge Paul S. Diamond for a lenient sentence. “Williams is acutely aware of his misconduct and the public shame he has brought upon himself, his family and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.”

But federal prosecutors have demanded Williams receive the max on the one count out of the original 29 that he pleaded guilty to: five years in federal lockup.

Williams also agreed to pay $64,878.22 in restitution as part of his plea, but could be ordered to pay even more at sentencing. And Williams was just disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Oct. 19.

But his attorneys are still hoping for a good outcome.

“The defense asks this court to consider … Williams’ entire life history in formulating an appropriate [sentence],” they wrote.

Williams graduated Central High, spent a year at West Point, and then transferred to Penn State before going on to attend Georgetown Law School and first starting work as a prosecutor in the DA’s office immediately after in 1992. He was also a major in the U.S. military reserves.

Williams has been detained at the Philly federal detention center as inmate #75926 after entering a surprise guilty plea on June 29, midway through his profile federal trial.

It was also only after the plea that he finally lost his $176,000-a-year post as DA, which he had held since 2010 after being elected the city’s first black DA.

Williams’ fall moved more swiftly than other disgraced Philadelphia politicians. After his federal indictment was filed on March 21, U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond ordered the case to move swiftly to trial – unlike the typical year’s delay from indictment to trial that other high-profile cases have seen – citing the “public interest” as grounds for expediting the matter.

Williams professional downfall was accompanied by his apparent financial ruin. Williams was forced to sell his Overbrook home, and upon pleading guilty, claimed he was only had $150 to $200 in the bank.

Williams’ crimes primarily related to peddling his influence as district attorney to enrich himself and get free trips, furniture and other gifts from friends. He and his daughters took a free trip to South America, and he got a free chocolate colored couch, that he had specifically requested in a text message which entered into evidence at trial.

He was accused of spending campaign funds on facials, parties and massages. He also allegedly dodged spending a dime on cars for years by relying on his city-provided car and using cars reserved for drugs

But he was also accused of other abuses, like using his city-provided car around the clock, and most notably, snatching up funds intended for his elderly mother’s nursing home care, spending them on himself.

Williams’ lawyer originally argued at trial that the gifts and favors “were not crimes,” but were merely related to personal friendships.

Interim district attorney Kelley B. Hodges, the city’s first black woman DA, currently leads the office, and the office is up for grabs this election day, Nov. 7, when candidates for DA Democrat Larry Krasner will face Republican Beth Grossman.