PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia’s top prosecutor has three days to find a new lawyer in a federal bribery case against him although it’s unclear whether he has the money to pay anyone.
District Attorney Seth Williams still declined to apply for court-appointed counsel on Tuesday and promised to have new lawyers in place by Friday.
Williams is accused of taking more than $100,000 in cash, trips and gifts in exchange for help with a criminal case and a felon’s liquor license. He has acknowledged he got into financial trouble amid a divorce, despite his $175,000-a-year salary and several part-time jobs, but has pleaded not guilty.
“We had hoped that this matter was going to resolve … without indictment,” Williams said in court, apparently referring to plea negotiations that had been underway.
The city paid his lawyer during a nearly two-year FBI investigation but stopped paying once he was indicted last week, leading that lawyer to step down. A lawyer friend who accompanied him to his arraignment for free last week was told he might be in the case for good unless Williams finds a replacement.
“It’s a very significant time in our city’s history where the chief prosecutor is charged by the federal government,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice said. “I want to make sure … this doesn’t drag on unnecessarily.”
Lawyer Michael Diamondstein said he couldn’t continue to represent Williams for free, given evidence that includes 80,000 pages of documents and 300,000 emails. Williams said he would return to court Friday with his new lawyers in tow.
“No disrespect meant to the court, or to Mr. Diamondstein, who was just trying to help an old friend,” Williams said.
Williams, a two-term Democrat, has said he regrets “mistakes in my personal life and in my personal financial life.”
The 23-count indictment lists gifts that include a five-star Caribbean vacation, a custom $3,400 sofa and $9,000 in cash or checks from various friends. Williams also failed to report at least $175,000 in gifts on required financial forms, including $21,000 in plane tickets and a free roof on his home, authorities say.