DA convenes grand jury on cash probe involving Philadelphia lawmakers

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PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has convened a grand jury to investigate whether several state lawmakers accepted money from an informant in exchange for political favors.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane had abandoned the case over concerns about its integrity and whether the lawmakers were targeted because of their race. Amid criticism, she then challenged Mr. Williams to prosecute the public corruption case.

Today, he accepted the baton.

“If crimes occurred here, of this magnitude, of this nature, then we can’t be indifferent, we can’t put our heads in the sand,” Mr. Williams said at a news conference. “Pennsylvania and the accused deserve due process. They have been denied that.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that four black Democratic state lawmakers from Philadelphia were captured on videotape accepting cash from an informant working for the state attorney general’s office. Mr. Williams said he would not be pursuing the case if the tapes weren’t compelling.

State prosecutors agreed in late 2012 to drop more than 2,000 charges against the informant, businessman and lobbyist Tyron Ali, who began to secretly record his contacts with public officials from Philadelphia after being charged in a fraud case five years ago.

Mr. Williams declined to name any of the lawmakers or others under investigation in the case, and said the probe may be broader than first reported.

He had criticized Ms. Kane’s decision to drop the case and defended two investigators who worked on the probe for the attorney general’s office. Mr. Williams, who is black, denied that prosecutors were motivated by race. The prosecutors now work for him.

“I’m not going to comment on the attorney general, what she has done or whether she should be in office,” Mr. Williams said.

First Published June 18, 2014 12:00 AM

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