Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said Wednesday he will convene a grand jury to look at evidence state lawmakers allegedly took gifts as part of an undercover operation by the Pa. Attorney General’s Office.
“The public was overwhelmed with reports and accusations about the conduct of the investigation and investigators,” said Williams. “There is only one way to get to the bottom of this.”
The investigation got the public’s attention in March when the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported on its existence.
The case began in 2010, before Kathleen Kane (D) took office as attorney general.
After she was sworn in, she says she was briefed on the case but found it had problems. She called the investigation “half-assed.”
For about a year-and-a-half, the confidential informant would offer gifts to lawmakers and other targets of the investigation. In Pennsylvania, it’s legal for elected officials to accept gifts, but those gifts must be reported.
The informant was identified as Tyron Ali, who in exchange for his cooperation, had more than 2,000 criminal charges against him dropped in connection with an unrelated fraud case.
The Inquirer identified Democratic state representatives Ron Waters, Michelle Brownlee, Louise Bishop and Vanessa Lowery Brown and Philadelphia Traffic Judge Thomasine Tynes as having accepted gifts. All have either denied wrongdoing or ever taking the money.
Kane said the investigators were told to target black lawmakers, which the investigators have denied.
A spokeswoman for Kane declined to comment Wednesday. Her office turned over the evidence to Williams in April.
“Philadelphians and the accused deserve due process, and I’m going to give it to them,” said Williams.