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Williams Will Not Fire Fina or Costanzo

frank finaEver since the infamous pornographic emails were revealed, everyone in Pennsylvania has been wondering what Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams would do to those involved who worked in his office.

Today, we got the answer. Nothing.

At roughly 4:30 on the Friday before Labor Day weekend (the perfect time for a news dump) Seth Williams released a statement to the press.

Williams concluded that since the activity did not take place during the time they worked for him, the men involved (Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington) would not be fired.

The DA also noted in his statement that Attorney General Kane had promoted rather than fired one of her employees who was involved in the distribution of the emails.

So despite the protests, just like Kane, Seth Williams is sticking by his people regardless of their conduct.

The rivalry between Kane and Fina has been the impetus behind this entire saga, yet so far both remain duly employed public officials of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Williams’ full statement is included below:

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 hardworking, 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.

63 Responses

  1. More money to Mr. Ali?

    Why not? Frank Fina already let him keep the $400,000.00 he stole … and then gave him $90,000.00 of taxpayer money for his slush fund. Did I mention the get-out-of-jail free card? Oh yeah … Fina dropped hundreds of criminal charges pending against Mr. Ali … letting him TOTALLY WALK … so that he could arrest some Philly Blacks … who would also TOTALLY WALK.

    Great job, Mr. Fina. I will be there to see Mr. Peruto cross-examine you. I’ll be the one with the popcorn (if the Judge lets me in with it).

  2. Ali absconded to the islands … amazing plot twist! I hear he is being pursued by some very bad people for ripping them off too. He didn’t just steal off the taxpayers, poor senior citizens and children, he stole from other criminals and they are looking for him to get pay back. There is no way he is returning unless DA Seth provided round the clock protection … will the taxpayer fro forced to pay-up to protect this scoundrel? Bishop and Brown are going to walk because of Frank Fina and Seth “the West Point Drop Out” is too stupid to know when he’s being con’ed. I too love Johnson’s Caramel popcorn!

  3. Absconded to the islands? Where has that been reported? Isn’t Mr. Ali a critical witness in the DA’s case against the legislative sting defendants? That can’t be true …

  4. by all accounts Ali absconded to the islands. guess that means Fina will have to put his hand on the bible and step into the witness box.

    Tables have turned haven’t they, Frank?

  5. MontcoPA,

    I agree that Mr. Williams seems to be inviting problems down the road. In fact, the legislative sting people who already entered guilty pleas should be lining up to withdraw their pleas. There was discovery material they were not given. And it has been reported here that Tyron Ali is no longer in the country.

    There is no way the Gov’t can prove those cases. It is clear that they brought charges to humiliate Kane and get favorable press for themselves.

    It seems to be backfiring now. Kane and the FBI/U.S. Atty’s Office made the right decision on that legislative sting case. Seth Williams is either the “sucker” who got conned by Fina and Costanzo; or, he is a pitiful excuse of a black man who was willing to get in bed with these men to further his own career.

  6. kanesdriver …. oh, kanesdriver …. where ARE you ???

    Yeah. I love POPCORN too. I have been eating some here as I read the Daily News editorial regarding the decision to keep racists criminals on as prosecutors.

    I need a toothpick …

  7. My popcorn is ready for these sting cases, though. My flavor of choice: Johnson’s Caramel — Ocean City, NJ

  8. Great article in the Tribune too:

    Looks like Seth’s attempt at a Friday afternoon news dump is not working. This is not going away.

    Shame on the NAACP and Black Clergy for not being heard on this.

    And where is Women Against Rape? Someone needs to stand up for children forced to pose for pictures so that people like Fina and Costanzo can be entertained.

  9. Montco – Why doesn’t Seth Williams pit the e-mails on his website? That way, the citizens of Philadelphia can decide. After all – these are the men that Seth Williams has chosen to send to Court to represent the citizens of Philadelphia.

    I want to see the e-mails. I want to know what these former State prosecutors used my taxpayer dollars to do. If they are “obscene,” then Fina and Costanzo are criminals. To me – a photo taken where a little boy and little girl were forced to pose in a positions where the little boy was looking into the little girl’s underwear – THAT IS OBSCENE.

    An image of black men attacking a white man to get to his fried chicken is OBSCENE. Suggesting that female employees need to perform oral sex on their male bosses to succeed at work is OBSCENE.

    Seth – What am I missing?

  10. Another thing to think about in addition to what was raised in the DN editorial: what doors have been opened for formerly charged and/or convicted subjects of past Fina/Costanza/Blessington investigations? Shouldn’t minorities, LGBT, or women who were targets of these three be able to argue that they were charged by prosecutors who have a demonstrated bias against them? There may be dozens, possibly hundreds, of these cases waiting in the wings. The longer they work for DA Williams, the more of these cases they create.

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