Two Philadelphia lawmakers charged with bribery

By Jim Boyle | Dec 18, 2014

Two Philadelphia-based state representatives have been charged by District Attorney Seth

Williams with criminal conspiracy, bribery, conflict of interest and failure to make required disclosures in statement of financial interests for allegedly accepting money in exchange for promised political actions.

The arrests of Ron Waters, 64, and Vanessa L. Brown, 48, are the result of a grand jury investigation into political corruption involving various Pennsylvania state legislators, public officials and other related individuals. The matter was submitted to a Philadelphia investigating grand jury after Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane dropped the probe in April of 2014.

In announcing the arrests, Williams took the opportunity to criticize Kane's handling of the investigation, which she ended earlier this year over allegations that it had been tainted by racism.

"Regarding the criticism that the investigation employed racial targeting, the grand jury found that such a claim was simply false," Williams said in a statement. "The grand jury heard testimony from numerous individuals, both black and white, both former and current state employees, who were involved in the original investigation. The grand jurors found their testimony to be credible."

The Office of the Attorney General had conducted its political corruption investigation from 2010 through 2012, which resulted in 113 recorded meetings or conversations. Twenty-six of those recordings allegedly featured Waters, who accepted nine cash payments from the confidential informant totaling $8,750.

Twenty-four of those recordings featured Brown, who accepted five cash payments totaling $4,000, according to the district attorney. That evidence was presented to the grand jury, which found that the cash payments were made because of the representatives’ official positions and their promises to perform official acts on behalf of the confidential informant. Moreover, both representatives testified before the grand jury and admitted to their criminal conduct.

In addition to the charges against Brown and Waters, the grand jury examined public criticisms about the investigation. In particular, the grand jury investigated claims that the original investigation was “racist,” that the confidential informant was not credible because of the alleged magnitude of his own criminal case, that the subjects of the investigation were “entrapped,” and that a “comprehensive” review by subsequent state officials found no basis for bringing charges. The grand jury found each of those criticism empty, the district attorney's office said.

Representatives Brown and Waters turned themselves in to authorities and were processed by the Pennsylvania State Police.

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