Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category

Letter to the Editor Responding to DA Settles Lawsuit (01/26/16)

January 27, 2016

I want to set the record straight about the Daily News’ 01/26/16 story entitled DA Settles Lawsuit. In the story, the reporter failed to mention two things. First, that he was the reporter who received the leaked information in 2011 from the individual profiled and failed to disclose that in his article. Second, that the individual who was not fired was treated differently because he was honest, remorseful and admitted that he conspired with the profiled employee to improperly share expungement information that could harm another assistant district attorney. I am proud of my record, my decisions and the way I have run the District Attorney’s Office.

When I chose to prosecute Dr. Kermit Gosnell, people thought I did it for political reasons. I did not, I did it because he was committing horrific crimes.

When I chose to charge Monsignor William Lynn with shielding pedophile priests, people thought I did it because I was anti-Catholic; that is outrageous. I did it because priests who rape and victimize young boys should not be hidden.

When I chose to prosecute six African-American Philadelphia elected officials – men and women – who were taking bribes for political favors, people thought I did it because I was against African-American elected officials. I chose to proceed with the case because what they did was illegal.

When I chose to stand up for and support a young African-American Assistant District Attorney, some thought I was wrong, but now that young lawyer has made a great success of himself in our legal community.

When I prosecuted a police lieutenant for punching a Hispanic woman at a parade, I was not anti-police or pro-Hispanic, I was just doing my job.

When I reorganize my office and put women at the top of my organizational chart, I’m not anti-male.

When I did to not fire career prosecutors who participated in the exchange of offensive emails at a previous job, people said I’m anti-black, anti-women, anti-gay and pro-white; which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

When I choose to discipline employees – men and women, black and white – to differing degrees; I’m not pro- or anti-anything, I’m attempting to be fair and not discriminatory.

And when the Philadelphia Daily News says that I’m pro-black, anti-woman and someone who regularly uses discriminatory practices to run my office, I can’t help but be disappointed.

I want to make this clear; I treat everyone in my office equally and make decisions based on the merits and facts at my disposal. My number one job is to keep all Philadelphians, regardless of gender, race, age or political affiliation, safe from crime, fraud and corruption and I take that role seriously.


Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney


January 26, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 26, 2016) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams announced that Corrections Officer Yolanda Grier turned herself in today after being charged with Tampering with Public Records [F3], False Reports to Law Enforcement Authorities [M2], Unsworn Falsification to Authorities [M2], Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function [M2], Official Oppression [M2] and Harassment [S].

“What Yolanda Grier did, making up an incident and then allowing an innocent inmate to be falsely charged, is outrageous and a complete failure of her duties and the oath she took to serve the Philadelphia Prison System and the citizens of our City,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “I’d like to thank our partners in the Philadelphia Prison System for helping us with this investigation and today’s arrest.”

Grier alleged that she was threatened by a female inmate at the Riverside Correctional Facility on October 7, 2014. In her statement to the police, Grier alleged that the inmate responded to her request to turn over the pass she was using to see a visitor with cursing, screaming and threats to shoot Grier. Based on Grier’s statement, detectives obtained an arrest warrant for the inmate and arrested and charged her with one count of Terroristic Threats.

In actuality; after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO), Special Investigations Unit reviewed surveillance video from the incident; Grier’s description of the incident turned out to be false. The video shows that the inmate quickly produced her pass and Grier, after taking it from the inmate, taunted the inmate by pretending to give and take back the pass multiple times. Eventually, Greir escalated her harassment of the inmate by pulling out her mace despite the lack of any threatening behavior by the inmate. In addition to filing charges against Corrections Officer Grier, the criminal case against the inmate has been withdrawn.

Yolanda Grier (date of birth: March 28, 1964) was hired by the Philadelphia Department of Corrections in 1993 and has worked at the Riverside Correctional Facility since 2009. Grier is no longer employed as a Philadelphia Corrections Officer due to her arrest.


January 20, 2016

Drug return boxes are safe, secure and will help prevent prescription drug and heroin abuse

PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 20, 2016) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today launched a pilot program in six Philadelphia Police Districts so anyone can safely and anonymously dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. In addition to a public safety issue, unwanted and unused prescription medications are a public health risk because prescription drug abuse often leads to opiate and heroin abuse.

“Overdoses don’t discriminate based on race, gender or economic status. Prescription drug, opioid and heroin abuse have created victims in all walks of life in our City and throughout our Nation. In fact, the crisis was one of the very first points President Obama mentioned in his recent State of the Union Address,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “I thank all of the partners who are here today and I know all of us are looking forward to bringing drop boxes to every Police District in the City so we can reduce the availability of unwanted prescription drugs and slow the spread of heroin abuse in Philadelphia.”

Philadelphia has the highest rate of drug overdoses in Pennsylvania, nearly 42 people per 100,000. There were more than 650 overdose deaths in Philadelphia in 2014 and approximately 370 of those who overdosed had prescription opioids in their system. Heroin was found in the system of more than half of those who overdosed.

“The Philadelphia Police Department is happy to take part in this pilot program, which will provide a safe alternative for disposing of unwanted or expired prescription medications as opposed to them being left in a place where they can fall into the wrong hands,” added Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.

“We need to get the word out about the potency of today’s prescription drugs. Too many families have learned the hard way the dangers of not properly securing or disposing of powerful medications,” Council President Clarke said. “I encourage all Philadelphians to audit your medicine cabinets and take advantage of this disposal program – especially if you have kids in the house, or have been touched by drug addiction. And I thank District Attorney Williams and Police Commissioner Ross for their leadership on this critical public health and safety issue.”

The pilot program is beginning with boxes in the 1st, 15th, 19th, 22nd, 25th and 35th; and once concluded and evaluated, it will be expanded into every Police District throughout the City.

“We know, The United States of America, accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume 75 percent of prescription drugs in the world. Another fact I find very troubling is that one in five teens have abused prescription medications. In 2010, I introduced a resolution to explore the creation of a drug take back program in Philadelphia. My staff and I commend District Attorney Seth Williams and his team, the Philadelphia Police Department, Bernie Strain and all partners who worked tirelessly to craft a process for citizens to safely dispose of prescription drugs in the City of Philadelphia,” said Councilwoman At-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown.

The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) will house the boxes and Philadelphia District Attorney (DAO) County Detectives will collect the medications and transport them to Covanta, which is located in Conshohocken, where they will be burned at no cost. The boxes were made available to the DAO through a grant from the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.



January 8, 2016


PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 8, 2016) – The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) today announced that Griffin Campbell was sentenced to 15 – 30 years in prison and Sean Benshop was sentenced to

7 1/2 -15 years in prison for the death of six people, and injury to others, in the June 5, 2013, Market St. Salvation Army Building collapse. Campbell’s and Benshop’s sentence reflects the nature of their crimes and the suffering of the victims. We now know justice has been served.

“I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and grief Mr. Campbell and Mr. Benshop caused the friends and families of those who lost their lives, and those who were injured, when the Market Street Salvation Army Building was crushed by a four-story, unsupported masonry wall in June of 2013,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “The Assistant District Attorneys who prosecuted this case and me hope that today’s sentences make clear the need for safe demolitions in our city and, most importantly, it helps to bring closure to the victims’ loved ones who are still dealing with this tragedy.”

In October of 2015, Griffin Campbell was found guilty by a jury of his peers of six counts of Involuntary Manslaughter, 13 counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, one count of Causing a Catastrophe and one count of Aggravated Assault. Campbell was responsible for the demolition of the property that was located at 2140 Market St. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations at the site, Campbell put in place a demolition plan that left a four-story masonry wall unsupported above the Salvation Army Building.

In July of 2015, Sean Benschop plead guilty to six counts of Involuntary Manslaughter and the additional charges of Aggravated Assault, Conspiracy, Causing a Catastrophe and thirteen Counts of Reckless Endangerment. Benschop was the operator of an excavator that was used to demolish the building next to the Salvation Army building when it collapsed killing Juanita Harmon, Roseline Conteh, Mary Simpson, Kimberly Finnegan, Anne Bryan and Borbor Davis. Mariya Plekan suffered serious and permanent injury.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber who is the Chief of the DAO’s Homicide Unit and Edward Cameron who is the Assistant Chief of the DAO’s Homicide Unit prosecuted the collapse cases.


December 31, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 31, 2015) – The Philadelphia District Attorney and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey today reminded all Philadelphians to celebrate safely this New Year’s Eve, especially when it comes to irresponsible gun use.

“If you and your friends want to celebrate 2016, do so, but do it safely and don’t fire your gun in the air,” said District Attorney Williams, “Remember, this is the City of Philadelphia with more than 1.5 million people living in it and firing your gun in the air has real consequences. People can get hurt, maybe lose their life and if you are caught you will be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Joe Jaskolka, whose life almost ended because of celebratory gun fire, joined the District Attorney and the Commissioner for the announcement. On Dec. 31, 1998, Joe Jaskolka was struck in the head by a bullet that was fired in “celebration” while he was walking in South Philadelphia. Joe, who was only 11-years-old at the time, still has the bullet lodged in his head and the person who fired the gun has never been caught. As a result of his injury, Joe is paralyzed on the right side of his body and can’t use the left-side of his vocal chords. He is now 28-years-old and has undergone 33 surgeries to his brain and 21 surgeries to his eyes. The Jaskolka family estimates that insurers have paid more than $15 million dollars to cover the cost of his surgeries.

“Celebrating the New Year in a safe and joyful manner is smart, celebrating with a gun is not, leave the guns in the house. Firing a gun in the air isn’t a celebration for anyone, especially for those killed or injured as a result of this type of reckless action and there is zero tolerance for it,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “We want everyone to be safe and to be able to enjoy the New Year without harm or any tragic incidents.”

Anyone caught shooting a firearm into the air could be charged with Recklessly Endangering Another Person and receive several years in prison. If the bullet hits another person, the shooter could be charged with Aggravated Assault, Attempted Murder or even Murder.

The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) received 78 reports of gunshots fired between 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2014 and 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2015. On an average, the PPD receives about ten reports of gunshots fired each night.



December 28, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 28, 2015) – The Philadelphia District Attorney today released the following statement after filing an application for En Banc Reargument in the case of Commonwealth vs. William Lynn with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania Eastern District:

One in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before the age of eighteen and ninety percent of those who are sexually assaulted know their attacker.

The victim in this case knew his attacker and Monsignor William Lynn covered up Father Avery’s record. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring the safety of all the citizens of Philadelphia and, today specifically, the victim of Monsignor Lynn. My office will continue to use all its resources to ensure that Defendant Lynn remains in state custody as ordered by Common Pleas Court Judge M. Theresa Sarmina. It is our position that the trial court properly admitted into evidence “other bad acts” evidence which showed a pattern and practice of concealment and protection of child-sexual-predator priests by the Defendant. This same evidence also established the Defendant’s expert knowledge of the characteristics of pedophiles and thus was essential to meeting the Commonwealth’s burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A Philadelphia jury of twelve men and women heard all the evidence and after thoughtful deliberation found Defendant Lynn guilty of Endangering the Welfare of Children. The evidence presented at trial, showed the Philadelphia jury and the world that the Defendant’s handling of Father Avery was completely typical of his handling of other similar predator priests and established that the Defendant knew just how dangerous such priests were.

Today, my office filed a Petition for En Banc Reargument so the entire panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court can decide all of the outstanding issues on appeal which remain unconsidered and to reconsider the 2-1 panel majority granting a new trial.

Meanwhile, we will fight to keep Monsignor Lynn in state custody where he belongs.

The announcement is in response to the Superior Court’s Dec. 22, 2015, decision to reverse the conviction of judgment of sentence for Endangering the Welfare of Children.



December 18, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 18, 2015) – The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office today announced that a jury of Kathryn Knott’s peers has found her guilty of two counts of Recklessly Endangering Anther Person, Simple Assault and Conspiracy for Simple Assault, all misdemeanors, for her role in the attack of a gay couple at 16th and Chancellor Sts. in Center City Philadelphia on Sept. 11, 2014.

“Hate has no place in this great city of ours; not in Center City, not in the Gayborhood and not on one of our neighborhood street corners – from North to South and from East to West,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “Kathryn Knott’s actions on that night in September of 2014 were disgusting and what she did hurt all of us, especially the LGBTQ community. I’d like to thank the jury for their service and ADAs Mike Barry and Allison Ruth for prosecuting this case.”

This past October, Knott’s co-defendants pled guilty for their role in the attack. Kevin Harrigan pled guilty to one charge of Simple Assault and one charge of Conspiracy. He was sentenced to three years of reporting probation and had to pay $314 in restitution. Phillip Williams pled guilty to one charge of Aggravated Assault and one charge of Conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years of reporting probation and had to pay $628 in restitution. Harrigan and Williams also agreed to perform 200 hours of community service at a LGBTQ organization/cause and are prohibited from going into Center City Philadelphia for the duration of their probation.

The jury chose not to find her guilty of Aggravated Assault. Kathryn Knott will be sentenced on February 8, 2016.



December 16, 2015

Special investigation has led to a total of five pleas

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 16, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that PA State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop has pled to one count of Statement of Financial Interest which is an ungraded misdemeanor in violation of 65 Pa.C.S. § 1105. She will be placed on six months of probation, agree to resign from office immediately, and pay $1,500 in restitution and $5,000 in prosecution costs.

“The withdrawal of the defense’s motion of selective prosecution based on race clearly shows that the investigation and prosecution of these elected officials was never based on race. The plea and subsequent conviction of Ms. Bishop shows that I have done what my office has been charged by the citizens of Philadelphia to do: fight corruption and make this city safe,” said District Attorney Williams. “Personally, today’s announcement has marked the end of a difficult chapter in this special investigation because I’ve known Rep. Bishop since I was four years old and tremendously respect her and her work as a community leader, elected official, radio personality and member of the clergy, but she did the right thing today by not contesting the facts we presented in court and withdrawing her motion.”

Recorded evidence showed that Bishop accepted and did not report a gift of $1,500. The same special investigation has yielded pleas from the following elected officials:

  • Former President Judge of the Philadelphia Traffic Court Thomasine Tynes on December 15, 2014, plead to Conflict of Interest and Conspiracy charges. She was ordered to serve 11 ½ to 23 months in prison and pay $2,500 in prosecution costs;
  • Former PA State Rep. Harold James on June 1, 2015, plead to one count of Conflict of Interest. He was ordered to pay $750 in restitution and $2,000 in prosecution costs, resign from office and was placed on 12 months of reporting probation;
  • Former PA State Rep. Michelle Brownlee on June 1, 2015, plead to one count of Conflict of Interest. She was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution and $3,500 in prosecution costs, resign from office and was placed on 18 months of reporting probation; and
  • Former PA State Rep. Ronald Waters on June 1, 2015, plead to nine counts of Conflict of Interest. He was ordered to pay $8,750 in restitution and $5,000 in prosecution costs, resign from office and was placed on 23 months of reporting probation.

The remaining elected official charged in the District Attorney’s ongoing investigation is PA State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown. Rep. Lowery Brown’s next listed court date is January 11, 2016.

Today’s hearing, which took place in Dauphin County, was presided over by the Hon. Scott Evans of the Court of Common Pleas. Assistant District Attorneys Mark Gilson and Brad Bender prosecuted the elected officials as a result of the office’s special investigation and the grand jury’s recommendation of charges.


December 7, 2015

Pilot offering education, life skill supports, employment and expungement is the first of its kind in the nation

PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 7, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today launched a new pre-trial felony diversion pilot program called Future Forward to provide individuals who have been charged with a non-violent felony crime an alternative to incarceration. The program, which is the first of its kind in the nation and the creation of the District Attorney himself, is designed to increase access to educational opportunities and reduce recidivism.

“There have been lots of calls for prosecutors to give people who have been charged with a non-violent crime more alternatives to incarceration and more paths for defendants to expunge their record. Today, we’re announcing another way for that to happen,” said Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams. “We all know that crime goes up when people can’t gain access to the classroom, so we’re going to break that cycle by giving more of our city’s young men and women the opportunity to start fresh and reap the benefits that come from a post-secondary education, new life skills and a clean record for themselves and their families.”

During the year long program, enrollees will earn a minimum of 24 credits at Community College of Philadelphia, complete life skills classes and engage in a student support group. Throughout the program, participants will also be assigned a case manager and have their progress monitored during regular status hearings before the Honorable Sheila Woods-Skipper. If they remain arrest free for one year after completing Future Forward, they will also have their record expunged.

The pilot program is a partnership between the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) and the College and their Reentry Support Project of the Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society (RSP) with the support of the First Judicial District, the Defenders Association of Philadelphia, and Brown’s ShopRite.

Eligible candidates must be 24 years of age, earned a high school degree or equivalent GED, be charged with a non-violent offense, have no more than one prior non-violent misdemeanor, and no violent offences on their record. They cannot have any outstanding warrants, must meet the College’s admission requirements, be eligible for federal financial aid, and attend the required classes and workshops.

“Community College of Philadelphia is a hub that transports tens of thousands of Philadelphians to a prospering future,” said Dr. Donald Guy Generals, President of the College. “Future Forward provides both access to opportunity and timely supports to Philadelphians who have slipped in life but are willing to work toward their life goals. Instead of facing a trial and possible conviction, this program provides the opportunity for college credits and the possibility of a future which includes a college degree.”

“Our ShopRite stores are excited to partner with Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams on his new Future Forward initiative. We have committed to hiring local community members from the inception of our business, including those who have made mistakes in the past. We believe that giving people the opportunity to advance their education and secure a career opportunity, is a life-changing option,” stated Jeff Brown. “We look forward to supporting this program and working with the participants to become successful members of our ShopRite Supermarket team and to ultimately realize a brighter future for themselves and the future of Philadelphia.”

“I would like to thank the Community College of Philadelphia and all of our partners for helping us make today a reality, and to all of the men and women of the District Attorney’s Office and at the College who are excited as I am to get this pilot program fully up and running, let’s get to work,” added Williams.

Participation in Future Forward is voluntary for those who meet all eligibility requirements. Tuition, textbooks, supplies and college fees associated with the program will be covered by federal student aid in the form of a Pell Grant for as long as each participant meets the eligibility requirements.


December 3, 2015

Thousands of defendants avoid convictions by resolving their cases through community service and substance abuse treatment in a non-trial diversion program

 PHILADELPHIA (December 3, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced a major milestone: 20,000 criminal cases have been diverted into the city’s Accelerated Misdemeanor Program (AMP). AMP is a pre-trial diversion program for individuals charged with non-violent misdemeanor crimes. Defendants can resolve their cases without being placed on probation or sentenced to jail, often resulting in no criminal conviction.

“Twenty thousand cases have been diverted out of our courtrooms, which helps our courts, and thousands and thousands of Philadelphians who have received the second chance they deserve for a poor decision in an otherwise law abiding life – like I often say – that is smart on crime,” said District Attorney Williams. “In addition to the team at the District Attorney’s Office, the Municipal Court of Philadelphia, the Defenders Association of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Health Management Corporation deserve congratulations for working in partnership and for reaching this impressive milestone.”

AMP began as a pilot program in 2010 focusing on community service for first time offenders. In October 2011, AMP was expanded to its current two-tier system in which non-violent misdemeanor cases are resolved without trial. Since that time, the program has accounted for over 20 percent of all misdemeanor cases.

Under a restorative justice model, AMP Tier 1 provides first-time offenders with an opportunity to resolve their case by completing up to 18 hours of community service at court approved sites in the neighborhood where their crime was committed. Once their community service is complete and court costs paid, their case is withdrawn and they may apply to have the arrest expunged from their record.

Defendants with no recent history of violence in their background who have had reoccurring contacts with the criminal justice system, are also eligible for this diversion opportunity as part of the second tier of AMP. In AMP Tier 2, defendants work to address the underlying issue that caused them to come into contact with the criminal justice system. The majority of these cases involve substance abuse and in lieu of a potential jail sentence or probation, defendants agree to engage in a program to address their addictions. Many of these cases also resolve without a conviction and with an opportunity to expunge the arrest from the defendant’s record.



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