I have received a number of emails and spoken to a number of folks. I would like to publish a follow up on former District Attorney William Higgins.
To schedule a call or reach me, please email me at email@example.com
I have a contact with the disciplinary board, and fully intend to follow up, including a open records / right to know request.
I am aware the corruption was far more extensive in the District Attorney’s office, spanding far past Billy Higgins, and the prosecutorial misconduct was rampant an accepted behavior.
The new acting District Attorney was forced to take on some of the numerous complaints of the public, many who have been protesting and emailing this information for years trying to see some results.
Bedford County’s acting top prosecutor announced in a brief statement issued Friday evening that three members of her staff have been fired, a move that she said was designed to restore trust in her office in the wake of her predecessor’s arrest and resignation. CITATION
I do not think it was the intention of the new “acting” or interim District Attorney to walk into that office and literally clean house, I think it was the pressure of the Bedford County community that made her act. Additionally, I think this newly minted prosecutor stepped in and began to review cases and was deeply disturbed about the extensiveness, longevity and torrid history of prosecutorial abuses occurring in Bedford County.
No, I don’t think she had to expected to fire her long term peers and to “clean house.” But after a week of hearing the outrage from the public and the complaints from citizens that expanded far beyond the sexual extortion tactics used by former District Attorney Billy Higgins, she was left with no choice, whatsoever, except to fire long term prosecutors.
The pressure from the public certainly must have been intense, good job Bedford County.
Obviously if Bill Higgins thought that extorting sexual favors from Defendants in exchange for plea bargains and legal favors was “Okay,” than it goes to say that “anything goes in that office.” That office was out of control and had been for a while.
“These types of decisions are never easy, especially when the employee has served the county for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, to move toward restoring the public trust in this office, the terminations were necessary,” Acting District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts wrote in the statement. She did not identify the fired employees, citing her desire to “respect their privacy,” and did not say why they were fired. CITATION
Former District Attorney Bill Higgins resigned from his position on April 4 after being arraigned on 31 charges of obstruction, intimidation and hindering apprehension. In a press conference that same day, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro accused Higgins of protecting and providing leniency for women facing drug charges in exchange for sexual favors and photos. CITATION
The Philadelphia Inquierer – a paper I genuinely love that values – watchdog journalism was eager to jump in the mud puddle. They released a scathing editorial, pouncing full throttle onto the Higgins case: Misconduct by prosecutors must be taken seriously because they are the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors’ decisions — including which crimes to prioritize, what charges to bring, and whether to offer plea bargains — are essentially unreviewable. The only real check on their power is the ballot box. –CITATION
After the scandal of former Philadelphia District Attorney, now inmate, Seth Williams, Philadelphia is markedly sensitive to prosecutorial misconduct. The new District Attorney in office, Larry Krasner is making some seriously positive changes, but fighting the cronies and corrupt Judges in Philadelphia tooth and nail as he does it. The cops are not much of his fans either, after he released to the media the “blacklisted” cops who the DA’s office refuses to call to testify because they have a repeated pattern of lying or making things up on the stand, testilying it’s called.
Philadelphia, in electing Seth Williams, picked a black man from inner city who could take control (or so they thought) of some of the misconduct and racisim within the police force and Philadelphia criminal justice system. Instead, Williams became the crown prince of corruption, and betrayed the very city that elected him. This is why Philadelphia thinks it’s all about elections, and honestly, I do not disagree.
But elections for a county’s top prosecutor are very slippery elections indeed:
Elections can create further opportunity for prosecutorial misconduct and scandal.
Like all public officials who have to run for election, prosecutors have to fund their campaigns through contributions. It is up to voters to ensure that campaign contributions do not cause elected officials to make decisions that are against the public interest. Voter vigilance is particularly important in a state like Pennsylvania that imposes no limit on how much a donor can give a candidate.
Unfortunately for Pennsylvania voters, finding information about candidates for district attorney is difficult. Although state election law requires counties to make DA campaign finance reports available for public inspection, only seven of the state’s 67 counties post those reports online. Many of the other 60 counties’ websites have information for candidates about how to file campaign finance reports, but virtually none of them provide instructions for voters to obtain information about contributions to candidates for district attorney. This puts Pennsylvania voters at a disadvantage.
It should be easy for all voters to find out who is donating to their district attorney candidates’ political campaigns. Pennsylvania should follow the example of states like New York and make all campaign finance information for prosecutor candidates available on the secretary of state’s website.
In a state with a long history of political corruption, transparency and accountability are imperative. It is certainly possible that Pennsylvania’s candidates for district attorney do not have any unsavory information in their campaign finance reports. But given how many other scandals have plagued Pennsylvania prosecutors recently, it doesn’t seem safe to assume that all campaign contributions are entirely innocent.
Shapiro said that Higgins intentionally compromised drug investigations by refusing to authorize a search warrant in one case, recklessly disclosed the identity of confidential informants and was lenient in the prosecution of defendants with whom he had sexual relationships on numerous occasions from 2014 to 2016. CITATION
Childers-Potts, who was Higgins’ first assistant until his resignation, previously announced on April 6 that she has placed the entire staff of the district attorney’s office on administrative leave “until certain concerns and issues can be addressed.” CITATION
Do you live in Bedford County and have you been a victim of prosecutorial misconduct? I want to hear from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org , and I’m compiling a complaint for the disciplinary board.