Archive for the ‘Press Release’ Category


October 5, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 5, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today released the following statement on the death of former NAACP President Jerry Mondesire:

The City of Philadelphia and the working men and women of our region lost a great champion and public servant yesterday. On behalf of the employees of the Office of the Philadelphia District Attorney and myself, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Jerry’s friends and his family.

I had the privilege of learning from and working with Jerry for decades and came to admire him, not just for his unending dedication to our city, but for his kindness and support. Jerry was a champion for social, racial and economic justice – a truly powerful force for good in our city’s many neighborhoods.

Personally, Jerry was like a father to me. As Chief of Staff to former Congressman Bill Gray he chaired the committee that offered me an appointment to attend West Point, and even after I left the military academy and went to Penn State, he regularly checked on me and remained a mentor. Jerry was a key adviser on my 2005 campaign for DA and was always there for advice and just to talk. Simply put, he was never shy and never sugar coated it. During my campaigns for office he would call me like clockwork at 7 a.m. to make sure I was out shaking hands. And as DA, he would reach out to remind me to always do the right thing regardless of the political consequences.

Jerry, I’ll miss you and your signature boots and Stetson and know that you and your family will be in my prayers.



September 11, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (September 11, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that the Hon. Timika Lane sentenced twenty-six-year-old Leon Watson to 114 – 228 years of incarceration. Watson was convicted by a jury of his peers on January 15, 2015, for sexually abusing five children between the ages of eight- and ten-years-old and one developmentally delayed adult.

“When Leon Watson created Little Vicks, his N. Philadelphia youth football team, and recruited children from the neighborhood, he was not trying to be a mentor and a coach. He was creating a scheme to become a sexual predator,” said R. Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney. “Mr. Watson deserves every one of the 228 years that he received today, and I’d like to thank the entire team from my Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, Judge Lane and courageous victims who gave statements today for their hard work and strength.”

On November 10, 2013, the Department of Human Services (DHS) received an anonymous tip that the children living in the defendant’s home were being sexually abused. When DHS spoke to the defendant he told investigators that there were no children in the home except for a fourteen-year-old and a ten-year-old who were ordered by the defendant to provide fake names and birth dates. After a Philadelphia Police Department search of the house, officers found two additional children, an eight-year-old and his nine-year-old brother, hidden upstairs.

When interviewed, all the children and the developmentally delayed twenty-one-year old victim who helped with the team said that the defendant had been sexually abusing them for months. They also said that the defendant forced them to beg for money outside Philadelphia sporting venues for up to twelve hours a day.

Judge Lane stated the long sentence was necessary “because the defendant has demonstrated that he cannot live within the confines of a civilized society.” She noted that the “defendant not only raped each child but would often force the other boys to watch.” Addressing two of the victimized boys in court, Judge Lane told them that “this does not define your life; you are both very brave young men.

ADA Brandon Jaycox stated, “These boys showed enormous courage in not only disclosing this horrific abuse but also in facing this rapist again in court.” ADA Branwen McNabb further remarked, “Judge Lane has removed a dangerous, serial predator from our community for the rest of his life and thereby protected innumerable children who might have become his victims in the future.”



September 4, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (September 4, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that he has concluded his review of the Aug. 26, 2015, released emails and is issuing the following statement:

I’ve looked at the e-mails released, and yes, like everyone else, I could see immediately that they are offensive. They contain numerous graphic images with captions that are derogatory towards women, a few that have racist connotations, and a smaller number with negative comments about gays. As the father of three daughters, as an African-American, as a law enforcement official, I was disappointed, and angry, that these messages were considered acceptable.

As I began my review, I found that many people I talked to in the community over the last few weeks didn’t know all the facts – they assumed from press reports that hundreds of e-mails were released, and that they were generated by a small group of employees here in my office.

I take my responsibilities in this situation with gravity. The easiest reaction would have been just to fire anyone named in the press, without any inquiry. Instead I assembled my senior staff, consisting of blacks and whites, women and men, and we carried out a thorough process to make sure I got all the information necessary to make serious decisions.

In choosing what, if any, action to take, I considered my obligations. The first is to my conscience – to make the best decision possible. The second is to the citizens of Philadelphia – they deserve wise, well-reasoned actions by their elected officials, especially the chief law enforcement officer. The third is to the very hard-working women and men who seek justice every day as my colleagues in the District Attorney’s Office. Finally, I have an obligation to the subject individuals – to fair and individualized treatment.

My process had several elements. The three employees in question – Pat Blessington, Marc Costanzo, and Frank Fina – were individually interviewed by a panel. We also questioned people they worked for, people they worked with, and people who worked for them, both in the District Attorney’s Office and in the Attorney General’s Office. We reviewed all e-mail communications still available from their time in my employment. We looked at the work of the Philadelphia investigating grand jury assigned to the “sting” case, which reviewed internal documents from the current attorney general’s office relating to charges of racism, and which heard testimony from employees of the current attorney general. I personally contacted and spoke with prosecutors and other elected officials around the country, with Fortune 500 executives, and with leaders of non-profits and community groups.

We found that none of the e-mails in question were created or originated by these three employees, and none were circulated to or by them while employed in my office. The large majority of the released e-mails – there are 20 altogether – date from five to six years ago. They were part of address chains covering literally hundreds of employees in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, who received and radiated the same images in widening circles.

None of those hundreds of employees – who were colleagues of the three prosecutors now working in my office – were ever disciplined for improper e-mail activity during the years in question, either by the previous or by the present attorney general. At least one AG employee, who served as a central hub for the e-mail distributions and who continued those activities even after the current AG took office, has actually been promoted and given a substantial raise.

We found no evidence or suggestion of any inappropriate e-mail behavior by these three employees during their time to date in my office, but if we did I would certainly terminate them.

We found that the derogatory elements appearing in the attorney general e-mail chains were not reflected in the work relationships of the three specific employees who have been the focus of the attorney general’s filings. On the contrary, the employers, employees, and colleagues with whom we spoke – and who included both women and blacks – described these employees as hard-working, dedicated prosecutors who were never disrespectful to them as females or minorities.

We reviewed the findings of the Philadelphia grand jury investigating the “sting” case. Before deciding whether charges were appropriate, the grand jurors, who represent the diversity of Philadelphia’s citizens, examined public claims that the original “sting” investigation was the product of racism on the part of the prosecutors now employed in my office. The grand jurors had access to internal documents generated under the current attorney general, and heard sworn testimony from many of the individuals who were involved in the original investigation. The grand jurors concluded that allegations of racism against these prosecutors “were simply false.”

Finally, I have spoken to the employees in question myself, face to face. I believe they have regret and remorse for the conduct of which they were a part. They recognize that the e-mail chains in which they participated were demeaning, unprofessional, and wrong.

In an ordinary situation, I would not publicly discuss these matters of employee conduct, but I recognize that we are not in an ordinary situation. So, I have described our process and conclusions, but will not broach the confidentiality of internal deliberations and discussions.

Under all the circumstances, I have chosen awareness and education over termination and am directing these employees to attend sensitivity training. Insensitivity often has its genesis in unfamiliarity. That’s why diversity is so important. I have worked to make sure that my office reflects the diversity of the city we serve. We have strong human relations policies, more African-American attorneys than any law firm in the Commonwealth, and as many women as men both in the ranks and in leadership positions. In the year 2015, the times of winking at racism, sexism, or homophobia are over. On my watch, I won’t tolerate it.



August 31, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (August 31, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement on the hit-and-run death of Philadelphia Police Officer Lamar Poole:

On behalf of the 600 men and women of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, we extend our deepest condolences to the friends and family of Officer Lamar Poole and to the entire Philadelphia Police Department. Officer Poole’s death is the second death of a Philadelphia Police Officer by vehicle in as many weeks, which is nothing short of tragic and a powerful reminder that we all have a responsibility to be safe and respectful on our roads and highways.




August 26, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (August 26, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement about today’s email release for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:

Today the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office received the court filings, exhibits (including e-mails and attachments) released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court related to litigation in the Thirty-Fifth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. The Office has clear human relations policies, so the District Attorney believes that a thorough review is necessary of the email chains and any actions current office employees took in their distribution. We will conclude this review as soon as possible.



August 6, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (August 6, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement about the indictment of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane:

As DA Ferman said, this is a bad day for law enforcement; but it’s also a bright one. The affidavit asserts that members of the attorney general’s office have used surreptitious and illegal means to target other prosecutors whose official acts were perceived to harm the AG’s interests. Even the attorney general, however, is not beyond the efforts of local prosecutors, judges and grand jurors to uncover evidence of abuse of office. I’m gratified that the legal process is now proceeding on a proper course.


July 28, 2015

Philadelphia – During the course of an ongoing investigation, detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Theodore Gaines for registering a vehicle with a fraudulent financial responsibility identification card. Detectives retrieved the Penndot title history for Gaines’s 2004 Chevrolet Impala and learned that he registered the vehicle on December 12, 2011 with an Access General Insurance Company financial responsibility identification card. Detectives contacted a representative from Access General and learned that the listed policy number was not valid. Gaines was arrested on July 21, 2015 for Insurance Fraud, Criminal Conspiracy, Forgery, Tampering with Records, Securing Execution and Unsworn Falsifying. Gaines is next listed for a status hearing on August 4, 2015 in Philadelphia Municipal Court.


July 28, 2015

Philadelphia – During the course of an ongoing investigation, detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Unique Blocker for registering two vehicles with two different fraudulent financial responsibility identification cards. Detectives retrieved the Penndot title history for Blocker’s 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix and learned that she registered the vehicle on December 18, 2012 with a Sentinel Insurance Company financial responsibility identification card. Detectives contacted a representative from The Hartford insurance company, who oversees Sentinel Insurance, and learned that the listed policy number was not valid. Blocker’s Penndot title history also revealed that she had registered a 2001 Pontiac Montana with an Access General insurance financial responsibility identification card on October 11, 2012. Detectives contacted an investigator from Access General Insurance Company who confirmed that the listed policy number was also not valid. Blocker was arrested on July 23, 2015 for two counts of Insurance Fraud, two counts of Criminal Conspiracy, two counts of Forgery, two counts of Tampering with Records, two counts of Securing Execution and two counts of Unsworn Falsifying. Blocker is next listed for a status hearing on August 4, 2015 in Philadelphia Municipal Court.


July 28, 2015

Philadelphia – Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Chivon Ford after receiving a referral from The General Insurance Company. On August 1, 2014, Ford was driving her 2010 Nissan Maxima when she struck the back of a parked SEPTA Route 23 bus. Although the bus did not sustain any damages, Ford’s Nissan incurred heavy front end damage and her airbags deployed as a result of this collision. On August 4, 2014, Ford called The General Insurance Company to reinstate her lapsed policy. A few hours later on that same day, Ford called and reported that she had just struck a SEPTA bus and had damaged her vehicle. Detectives retrieved SEPTA surveillance footage and incident reports which contradicted Ford’s account. SEPTA documentation showed that the accident had in fact taken place on August 1, 2014. The investigation revealed that Ford’s insurance policy had been cancelled for non-payment on July 28, 2014 and that when Ford hit the SEPTA bus she was driving uninsured. Ford obtained her The General insurance policy three days after the accident had actually occurred. Ford was arrested for Insurance Fraud and Theft by Deception on July 17, 2015. She is next scheduled for a status listing on July 24, 2015 in the Philadelphia Municipal Court.


July 28, 2015

Philadelphia – Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated Darryl Sewell after receiving a complaint from one of his customers. Sewell owns PSK Auto Body and was previously arrested in November of 2013 by DAO Insurance Fraud detectives for cashing insurance claim checks but failing to properly repair vehicles. In this incident, the complainant brought her 2012 Toyota Camry to PSK Auto Body after receiving a recommendation from a friend. The car was involved in an accident and had damage to the driver’s side rear bumper, trunk lid and tail light. Sewell told the woman that her 2012 Toyota Camry would be repaired within several weeks; however, Sewell failed to return the Camry for approximately six months. When the complainant finally did receive her vehicle, she discovered that there was damage inside of her truck, her GPS was missing, there was dog hair in the back of her car and several lights were out. When the woman took her vehicle to a car dealership for an inspection, she also learned that the factory airbags were taken out of her car and replaced with after-market airbags. The complainant stated that the airbags had not deployed in that accident nor had they deployed before that incident. Therefore, there would have been no need to replace the airbags.

Detectives retrieved the Allstate claim file which contained photographs of the damaged vehicle taken by the Allstate appraiser. When the complainant was showed these photographs, she denied that any of these damages were present when she dropped her vehicle off at PSK Auto Body. Sewell received a total of five thousand dollars to make repairs to the Toyota Camry. He failed to do the proper work and instead enhanced the damages and replaced original parts with shoddy after-market substitutes. Sewell was arrested on July 10, 2015 for Theft by Deception, Insurance Fraud, Theft by Unlawful Taking and Theft – Receiving Stolen Property. He is next scheduled for a status listing in Philadelphia Municipal Court on July 20, 2015.


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