On the first day of the trial for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, the first witness to testify, Kathleen Defriece, director of accounts receivable for Catholic Health Services, said that Williams was the most difficult representative of a client she had dealt with in more than 20 years.
“He basically didn’t have the time or courtesy to deal with this stuff,” Defriece testified on Tuesday.
Williams is currently on trial on 23 criminal charges, including bribery and extortion. The trial began Tuesday with opening arguments in which William’s attorney, Thomas Burke, argued “these are not crimes.”
But, with the first witness, prosecutors attempted to show how Williams actions rose to the level of criminal activity by inviting Defriece to detail the troubles she encountered in attempting to collect needed paperwork when Williams put his adoptive mother in a nursing home.
According to Defriece, shortly after Williams admitted his mother, Imelda Williams, to St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Darby in February 2012, officials there noticed necessary paperwork was missing.
Williams had signed on as his mother’s “responsible person” – which Defriece explained is the nursing home’s point of contact for needed financial information for residents. In April of that year, Defriece said, they didn’t have the financial documents needed to sign Williams mother up for Medicare. In fact, she said, they were missing “everything.”
“The only things we basically knew at that point was her social security number, her name and address,” said Defriece. “We had nothing… When I saw that, I became somewhat alarmed.”
Williams has been charged with taking more than $10,000 – intended for the nursing home – from his mother’s bank account to spend on himself.
Defriece said that over the course of several months, she personally – and members of her office – attempted to connect with Williams in order to obtain the needed paperwork. Instead, she said, they were only able to obtain a few bank statements – some of which, she said, showed evidence of spending that shouldn’t have been occurring.
Defriece told the court that she confronted Williams on several occasions about charges to his mother’s account on a variety of items – such as purchases at Old Navy, Lord and Taylor and a payment to a college loan for one of Williams’ children.
She said that the DA explained that his mother wanted to buy gifts for his kids, and she was paying off credit card debt.
When Defriece told Williams that it was unallowable for that money to be spent, because it was needed to pay for her nursing home care, she said, the DA laughed and “blamed it all on his mom.”
“He basically acted like it was our problem,” she said. “I had called him many times.”
Before the end of the first day of trial, Williams’ attorney had a chance to question Defriece. He asked about a misplaced acceptance document for Williams’ mother – that was later found misfiled – and asked repeatedly if she was certain that Williams was informed of his obligations, in detail, at the time his mother was admitted.
Defriece is expected to again take the witness stand when Williams’ trial resumes on Wednesday.