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Curbing corruption in Philadelphia | Commentary |

Former District Attorney Seth Williams was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for accepting a bribe.

The sentencing was the latest chapter in a sad and disappointing story of a career prosecutor who was once seen as a rising political star.

But Williams’ two terms as Philadelphia’s first Black D.A. ended in a corruption scandal.

 An investigation into Williams’ financial affairs resulted in a wide-ranging indictment in which he was charged with 29 counts of bribery, extortion and fraud including accepting cash and gifts, fraudulently using thousands of dollars from his campaign fund for personal expenses, misusing city vehicles and misappropriating money intended to fund his mother’s nursing home care.

Two weeks into his June trial, Williams pleaded guilty to a single count of accepting a bribe from a businessman who admitted giving him a $3,000 sofa and thousands of dollars in cash payments.

Prosecutors said Williams admitted to committing all the misconduct although 28 counts were dismissed.

The 50-year-old Democrat didn’t speak during the hearing and instead had his attorney read a statement in which he apologized and said he had failed the people of Philadelphia.

“Rather than holding myself to a higher standard, I squandered that trust placed in me,” the statement said. As his lawyer read the statement, Williams’ wiped away tears.

U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond said Williams “humiliated” his office and the city by selling it to “parasites.”

“Your profound dishonesty has to be deterred,” Diamond said before ordering that Williams be imprisoned immediately.

The judge is right that corruption must be deterred. The question is how?

What the judge said about Williams could have been said to any number of Philadelphia politicians who have been found guilty of corruption.