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Williams to Charge Two Philly State Reps in Sting

Seth WilliamsState Representatives Ronald Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown, both Democrats, are to be charged by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams in a covert sting operation.

The operation started in 2010 by the Attorney General Tom Corbett, was dubbed “too flawed to prosecute” by current AG Kathleen Kane.

According to the Craig McCoy and Angela Couloumbis of the Inquirer, “Waters pocketed the most money from the undercover operative of any of the five politicians caught up in the sting – $8,250 in eight payments. In the documents, Brown is described as having received the second most – $5,000, in six payments.”

Waters, 64, coasted to his ninth term this November in a district containing parts of Philadelphia and Delaware counties. He is expected to negotiate a plea deal, pleading guilty to a felony conflict of interest charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping his bribery charge. This is key because while the felony conviction would bar him from office, a bribery conviction would take away his pension.

His attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr., said Waters will turn himself in Tuesday morning.

Brown, 48 is the chair of the legislative black caucus and also sailed to victory last November. January would mark her 4th term representing Western Philadelphia. Brown’s respective attorney Luther Weaver III, provided no comment about his client’s involvement and next steps.

Both Waters and Brown make $84,012 annually as legislators.

28 Responses

  1. @dude, this site is full of racist commenters who loved what Chris Martinez had to say.

  2. Doug-

    1) Is it a “gift” or a “bribe”? If there was no intention to change a vote, I wouldn’t define it as a bribe. So, I don’t accept the assertion that it was a bribe unless it altered an outcome.

    2) Plenty of innocent people take plea deals to avoid the expense of a trial, or the risk of a bad jury pool.

    3) These officials are likely corrupt, but if the investigation is tainted, that is worse.

  3. Nobody from Philadelphia or environs should be elected to statewide office – ever. Corruption is a way of life there. As to the two bribe-takers, they are guilty as sin, and should do jail time. As to Fina, Kane, Williams et al., they are sleazebags. That isn’t illegal per se.

  4. I missed the part where you said that two elected officials were not actually caught taking cash bribes. That is probably the most relevant information to a case that involves two officials accused of taking bribes.

    The article says one of them is probably taking a plea deal. In other words, even the criminals have admitted they are guilty. So I doubt they will have any use for your questions. Good luck with the whole corruption apologist thing though, it will be just as successful as Kathleen Kane has been so far.

  5. “LOL look at everyone scrambling, grasping for anything that distracts from the fact that two public officials were caught dead to rights taking cash bribes.”


  6. Doug-

    The questions here are:
    1) whether there was entrapment
    2) whether the targeting was racial
    3) whether the targeting was political
    4) whether absolving Ali was proper given his own crimes
    5) why didn’t this case go forward before Kane took office?
    6) how much porn did Fina and his team send/receive from each other
    7) does anyone believe that Seth Williams gives a rat’s @ss about this case other than to promote himself for a run for A.G.?
    8) whether the officials changed their vote

    The first 7 go toward misconduct by prosecutors.

    If you take a “gift” for doing what you were going to do anyway, especially for a unanimous Dem vote, how do you convince a jury that the money made any difference? It’s not like the taxpayers or voters were defrauded.

  7. LOL look at everyone scrambling, grasping for anything that distracts from the fact that two public officials were caught dead to rights taking cash bribes.

    Oh but hey some gossip blog has quoted an anonymous bartender who claims to have taken money from an informant! No need to verify that in any way, even if it had any relevance to the above, I’ll just believe it!

    You guys are hilarious, never change, seriously

  8. If the defense has any brains, they will put Fina on the stand, under oath, and ask him all the questions he got a gag order on for Kane to speak about. I hope the defense asks Fina how many pornographic emails he send during the sting operation, and if any of them were to other people managing the sting, and if any of the pictures were racial in nature. Then ask for “discovery” of the emails to see if they were and show them to the jury.

  9. The other part of this story is that Seth hired Corbett’s team to put fear in the hearts of his political enemies in the first place. Second, how nice is it if (mark my words) when he runs for Congress in the 2nd district he has already eliminated 3 or 4 West Philadelphia competitors. All those in the sting represnt different swatches of the 2nd. Clearing the field, anyone?

  10. Read to the end. Good article that was posted in Casablanca in August. EXCLUSIVE: BARMAID GOT CASH FOR VACATION FROM ALI DURING “STING”

    Confidential Informant Tyron B. Ali, while living a free-spending lifestyle at taxpayer expense in 2010 and 2011, at least once handed a Harrisburg barmaid an envelope containing $400 cash for her Caribbean vacation.

    The barmaid declined to speak for the record for fear of losing her job or damaging her establishment’s reputation.

    Ali spent more than $90,000 in taxpayer funds while working as an informant for then-Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina in 2010 and 2011. The money includes about $22,100 in “payments to suspects.” Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who declined to prosecute the sloppily-executed sting, said $32,600 was unaccounted for.

    It’s unclear whether the cash Ali gave to the barmaid is among those expenses.

    Ali befriended the barmaid during 2010 as he was trying to establish the persona of a high-flying Harrisburg lobbyist. The ruse was part of a sting, supervised by Fina, intended to ensnare legislators and others involved in the state political scene.

    During that time, the barmaid was planning a vacation in the Caribbean. Ali told her not to buy a plane ticket, because he would take care of it for her. As the date of her trip approached, Ali still hadn’t provided her with a ticket, despite her regular inquiries. About a week before she planned to leave, as she was asking about the ticket, he went to his car and retrieved an envelope, which he handed to her. It contained $400 cash, which he told her to use for her trip.

    It was only after the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the story on March 17 that the barmaid realized that the money likely was part of the taxpayer-funded slush fund Ali was using to attempt to bribe legislators.

    Were plane tickets to the Caribbean for Ali’s barmaid pals among the legitimate expenses Fina approved for the failed sting? Or was this $400 part of the $32,600 that went unaccounted for? Were there other spontaneous acts of generosity benefiting Harrisburg’s hospitality workforce? As much as $32,600 worth of spontaneous generosity?

    There seem to be only three possibilities: (1) The $400 was Ali’s own money – unlikely, since at the time the taxpayers were covering all of Ali’s expenses right down to his bowties and expensive cigars. So, if it wasn’t Ali’s own money, either (2) Frank Fina approved of Ali handing out cash to his barmaid friends, or (3) he had absolutely no idea what Ali was doing with tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

    Did Fina know Ali was handing out cash for friends’ exotic vacations (and the like), or didn’t he? And which is worse?

  11. DD,

    The total was not $430,000. The $430,000 was invented by Kane. The total was less than $100,000, which is makes a lot more sense.

  12. I sincerely hope they say in court “but I was going to vote that way anyway!”

    Also, comparing the use of an informant with the handing an envelope of cash to an elected official is downright adorable.

  13. How about the Philly DA using the case to attack Kane as part of a political plan to run for A.G. himself?

  14. The position of the defendants as holders of the public trust is also a consideration, David. It’s why a witness leaking grand jury testimony is not as big a deal as the AG doing so.

  15. Larry and dude

    If it didn’t change the outcome, what would have been the point?

    Fina lets Ali off the hook for $430,000 to entrap black democrats by giving them a few thousand dollars to vote the way they would have voted anyway.

    Seems like Fina should be on trial for gross malfeasance and misconduct for letting Ali go free for worse crimes.

    You’re supposed to let the little fish go to catch the big fish, not the other way around. You don’t let a murderer get away so he’ll help you catch a pickpocket.

  16. Correction PoliticsPA – Ron Waters’ district comprises almost entirely of PHILADELPHIA, NOT Delco, he represents only half of two very small borough’s in Delco. Please correct article.

  17. DD and Doug, it doesn’t matter if the reps voted differently. It only matters if they took the money with the understanding that they would vote a certain way. I read somewhere that there is evidence of an agreement to do just that.

  18. DD doesn’t care about the truth, he only cares about the D party. Hey DD, did you notice that when these lawmakers took these illegal gifts, they acted like they have done it dozens of times before? Does that matter to you? Tyson Ali should be in jail too, but it looks like when he got busted, he ratted on what went on behind the scenes and the AG’s office decided to use it. Earlier reports confirmed that this was even a bipartisan thing. Maybe you should be a little more upset about our elected officials behaving like corrupt idiots and our Attorney General once again making a fool of herself.

  19. Doug and novadust-

    I don’t recall the particulars but I think one of the supposed votes was a vote where 100% of the Dem delegation voted the same way. So, to assume that these reps were intending to vote differently and were bribed to change their vote is pretty ridiculous.

  20. let’s see now: 4 state legislators n a traffic court judge took a total of just under $19k in cash n gifts from an undercover witness. sleazy, yes, but what was the quid pro quo? the witness took $430k from a food program for low-income kids n seniors. all charges against the witness got dropped in exchange for his cooperation. isn’t that a quid pro quo? why don’t the officials who made that deal get charged with bribery? n who pays for this prosecution n that so-called investigation n that lost $430k? oh. wait.

  21. “Ali became an undercover agent for the Attorney General’s Office after facing legal problems of his own. He was charged by state prosecutors in 2009 with defrauding a state food program for low-income children and seniors out of $430,000. In exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges.”

    Considering that they let Ali slide on $430,000 in fraud to go after black representatives and bribe them with a few thousand dollars, and don’t have a quid-pro-quo voting pattern, the defense should be attacking the credibility of Ali and the entire process. Is it a bribe if it doesn’t produce a change in voting behavior?

  22. Long memories here know there’s a lot of crow to be eaten by commenters predicting[, nay betting their credibility on,] no indictments.

  23. These two state legislators represent predominantly Black districts. They make over 80,000 per year plus per diems that are ridiculous. Most of the households that these two represent don’t bring in that kind of money.
    Maybe the targeting was racially motivated. But Mr. Ali did not put a gun to either one of their heads and make them take the money.
    Finally the nonchalant manner by which they took the money makes me think this is not an isolated incident.

  24. What is sad is, one the ladies recognized last week as being one of the top 40, was granted immunity when she testified in Bonus Gate. What does she do now – the same job she had when Bonus Gate happened. Of course, these two are Democrats and Ms.
    Bonus Gate is a Republican. Go Figure!

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