Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams appeared in federal court as a criminal defendant Wednesday, and was arraigned on 23 counts of charges that included bribery and extortion.
He entered a not guilty plea.
Williams left court without commenting to the news media, and has not addressed whether he will resign. Federal prosecutors on Tuesday dropped the bombshell announcement that he would be charged.
His defense attorney, Michael Diamondstein, urged the public to give Williams a chance to fight the charges before considering him guilty.
“This indictment is 24 hours old, and yet too many politicians and commentators have already tried and convictedSethWilliamsin themedia,” Diamondstein said outside the courthouse Wednesday afternoon. “Simply because thegovernmentmakes explosive allegations in the complaintdoesn’tmean they’regoing to prove it in a court of law.
“Seth Williams categorically denies, categorically denies that he is guilty of any crime and he asks only that this rush to judgment stop.”
News of the indictment sent shockwaves through the community. Williams’ star had been on the rise. Elected in 2010, he was Philly’s first black district attorney.
He is accused of using his position as the city’s chief law enforcement officer to acquire sports tickets, free vacations to exotic locales, a Jaguar convertible, fancy furniture and other gifts.
Federal prosecutors also say Williams took $10,000 intended for the nursing home care of his mother, as well as her Social Security and pension benefits, and spent it on himself.
In January, Williams was fined $62,000 by the city Ethics Board for failing to report $160,000 in gifts, the largest fine the board has ever issued.
Federal prosecutors have noted that the case does not jeopardize any convictions the district attorney’s office has won under Williams’ tenure, and does not reflect on the conduct of any prosecutors working in the office.
Seth Williams leaves course after arraignment w/o comment. Lawyer denies all charges pic.twitter.com/nLsRjOY5ih
— Sam Newhouse (@news_haus) March 22, 2017