BEDFORD COUNTY: Warning Signs About Bill Higgins Were Present From the Start and Law Enforcement Ignored Them

Even before this year, even before his resignation as Bedford County District Attorney, Satan reared it’s ugly head in many forms within the Bedford County Court of Common Pleas halls of justice.

Of course any corruption as sordid, heinous or malovenent in nature could not come from the hills of Bedford County, a small bedroom rural Pennsylvania community.

No, Billy came from Philly.

He came into the blurry picture as a junior lawyer, from the streets of North Philadelphia to a place where people like to talk about how their backyard tomato harvests that year are growing.

He was a fish out of water from the beginning.

People in Bedford are still fearful of his retaliation, and prefer to not disclose their names. You have no idea what he is capable of,” one person told me, her son’s case is still pending in criminal courts and I promised not to disclose her name, nor the details of her case – which were truly disgusting. Another former law enforcement said that he is forbidden to comment publicly on the case, and that he does not necessarily understand the protective order as a retired law enforcement officer, but he respects the law. He talked a little fast, but he seemed to know what he was talking about. There was always something about him that itched me. Something about him him never felt right. But my supervisor Police Chief ________ liked him when he was ADA, so we just overlooked it all.

I recently did a story on former Bedford County Defense Attorney Daniel Goldhaber. Goldhaber and Higgins had been close friends as junior lawyers. Despite being adversarials, they hung out at a local watering hole. They didn’t discuss cases or make deals there, they talked about life. They were both highly ambitious.

Ambition might have been the downfall to Higgins. Ambition and ego. He liked the “fame” of the nobody rural press. He liked the “importance” of being a small town county officer. And he fell in love with the power. It was Goldhaber who was first to notice the “change” in his friend after he was elected. Goldhaber was a bleeding heart public defender, and he was not about to sacrifice his sense of integrity for the short-circuited morality of Higgins. Their friendship soured quickly.

  • But after Mr. Higgins was elected as the county’s district attorney, “his ego got the best of him,” one said. Mr. Higgins, said the source, clashed with investigators, who in turn became suspicious of his prosecutorial decisions. Among them were state police and attorney general’s officials who, off and on for more than a decade, had concerns about how Mr. Higgins conducted himself in office, the sources said. CITATION 

The scariest part? These signs occurred in the early 2000s shortly after his election. According to the Gazette and one retired police officer, the only one willing to speak with me, people began noticing almost immediately.

The Hyde out of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde emerged almost immediately. But in this slow town, where people don’t like to make waves, the police knew about it and were wary, and the media had heard rumors, but nobody felt like starting a war.

It was really the families caught up in criminal courts who suffered.

 

This March 1, 2018 photo shows Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins in Saxton, Pa. On Wednesday Higgins was arraigned on 31 counts, including charges of witness intimidation, official oppression and obstruction.
He had been a womanizer as Assistant District Attorney, according to his long time friend Goldhaber, but his womanizing only got worse when he got elected. Now he had leverage to extort sexual favors. Now he could use his power to get his sexual needs fulfilled, and now his salary was almost quadruple that of the average Bedford County employee. Worse. He seemed to have all the Judges complicit and in his pocket. His fast talking Philadelphia mannerisms put a dangerous spin on every story. He took the small time small town by a malignant reckless storm.
It started the minute he took office, but purportedly spun out of control for a great many of years before he was criminally charged this year.
  • “He transformed into an arrogant, egotistical individual who thought he was above the law,” the source said. CITATION

He appeared remorseful at the press conference he held when he resigned. Indignant looking and irritated law enforcement lined the edges of the crowd, with their feet spread apart, their arms crossed and their eyes narrowed. More than any other reporter or spectator, the knew. They had known for a while what he had been up to. He is all talk, he is full of it, said the retired law enforcement officer I spoke to. We knew it was a problem for years. Let me tell you something Miss, he isn’t sorry he did it, he’s sorry he got caught. But it seemed there was a lot of red tape in the town, and officers who did complain got forced into early retirement, fired from the job or retaliated against.

  • After the charges were filed, Mr. Higgins, 43, quickly submitted a letter to county officials saying that he intended to “resign/​retire … effective immediately.” In a statement provided through his attorney, he said, “I have been accused of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a district attorney, but more importantly, unbecoming of a husband and father.” CITATION

CITATIONHiggins mastered his skills of sociopathic manipulation on the streets of Philadelphia and in a rough and tumble blue collar family. He went to public school.

  • “My family was not a family of lawyers, and like many kids at Cardinal Dougherty High School, I grew up needing to work — as I did at the local 7-Eleven,” he wrote in a 2010 Pennsylvania Bar Association newsletter. “Because of the mock trial program, the prospect of me becoming a lawyer became more of a reality.”

Mr. Higgins of course attended a sh*tty law school. And don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of truly great lawyers from Widener. In fact some of the most successful firm owners I met in Philly were Widener grads, who hired ivy league grads. But let me put this into perspective: If you drive into the outskirts of Philadelphia, about fifteen minutes out, there are billboards for Widener University reading “Delaware State’s Top Law School.” Let me break it down for you, Widener University is the top law school because it’s the only law school in Delaware. I know it isn’t the school that makes the lawyer, it’s the intrinsic thing that makes a lawyer, but the fact that Higgins went to one of the sh*ttiest law schools in the country and then ended up a public official does little now to help his cause.

Like most trash from the streets of North Philadelphia (the ones that are not sitting in Catholic churches), Higgins favorite activities were smoking weed and drinking forties, and getting in bar fights. He was criminally charged with aggravated assault at age 23.

I would venture to imagine that if you are male, from North Philly and are an Eagles fan, at some point in time you have engaged in a fight at the Eagles stadium over some stupid referee call or some smack talking by an opposing fan. The charge was reduced to simple assault, but purportedly Higgins had managed to get those reduced only by hiring a well connected lawyer, because the fan of the opposing team he beat up had a broken jaw. This was probably one of the earliest signs of the type of personality that Bedford County would naively hire to be their “Chief Law Enforcement.” It was someone who couldn’t hold their booze, and who had a temper that was so out of control he beat some shit talking redneck in a stadium to a near pulp.

  • The Packers fans said Mr. Higgins and his friends, their faces painted in Eagles colors, cursed them, pushed them, ripped their clothes and punched them. One 50-something schoolteacher said she was knocked out and later suffered from recurrent headaches. Mr. Higgins, who said he had downed four beers before the game, denied being the aggressor but was contrite. CITATION

Higgins, who drummed up the money, hired a good lawyer who was friendly with the Judge. He was put on probation, but with his fancy pants lawyer in Philadelphia criminal courts (notoriously corrupt), the probation was cut so Higgins could finish up law school and become a lawyer.

“I think you’ve learned your lessons, and I don’t believe I am going to see you back in criminal court,” the judge said at sentencing. (How wrong he was)

The Pittsburgh Gazette also writes about Higgins having trouble finding a job as a lawyer in Philadelphia. Finding a legal job in Philadelphia is like being able to find your @sshole. I should know, I worked in that community. But it was likely Higgin’s bad attitude, his north Philadelphia accent and his temperament that just turned people off. Like the retired law enforcement officer said: Something about him just never felt right.

So the fast talking sophistication of the Philadelphia legal community rebuked him.

Higgins solution? Find the dumber county where he could pull the wool over. Where people asked less questions, and where competition from other junior lawyers was less fierce.

Higgins moved to the land of cornfield, cows, pigs and hunting season. He was hired for a nominal salary that could barely pay his student loans. His cockiness, his loud talking, his temper and his arrogance was overlooked. There were a shortage of lawyers in Bedford County and a shortage of lawyers willing to work on his paltry salary.

Higgins taste for power however was cultivated in prosecuting these small time small town crimes of bar fights, DUIs and shoplifting. There was something uplifting and powerful about his ability to put people in jail. By all accounts he was never above lying to win, and by the account of the retired law enforcement officer: He seemed to be enjoying himself. While the local law enforcement did not appreciate him putting “words into their mouth”, he was becoming a favorite among the sitting district attorney and judges. He was purportedly ambitious, and full of energy.

District Attorney Dwight Diehl took a fondness to the kid, despite the hesitations from the police force and complaints from detectives. Diehl liked his ambition, and found the young attorney like a refreshing burst of energy in a dry and bored courthouse full of half dead, half sleeping, comatose judges.

Plus Diehl noticed, the kid won.

In no way did Diehl suspect that the kid he hired and took under his wings would be ambitious enough to attempt to steal his job.

  • A few years after his arrival, he challenged Dwight Diehl, the same district attorney who employed him, in a tense race. Mr. Higgins, backed primarily by small donations, accused Mr. Diehl of plea bargaining too many cases. CITATION

The fraternal order of police was groaning and backing Deihl. But Higgins was fast talking and full of energy. He was going door to door spieling bull shit. He was calling in favors to other local politicians. He was fabricating stories about how the level headed long term sitting Dwight Diehl was “soft on crime.” He was exaggerating the increasing levels of crime to inspire fear and make voters think they needed someone harder.

  • About a month before their Republican primary, an anonymous letter was entered into a court filing accusing Mr. Higgins of holding back information in the case of a state police trooper charged with trying to auction off stolen police gear over the internet. The writer claimed to have overheard Mr. Higgins speak of conversations that “will never come to light” but in which information was exchanged that “would hurt the case,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported at the time. Mr. Higgins strongly denied the accusations and said that an anonymous letter should carry no weight in court decisions. CITATION

The “brady violation”, one of the most serious violations a prosecutor can make, was largely ignored. So it went on without repurcussions, and then Higgins would make a career out of dishonest acts like this. He was trying to curry favor with law enforcement which was already at odds with him. A small little brady violation, with something that “will never come to light” seemed to be just a little compromise on his sworn oath to uphold the law to make in order to win an election. And in fact, after this was publicized by the local media, it seemed (according to my source) that more law enforcement came around to support Higgins. Because Higgins, in not prosecuting this law enforcement had sent them a signal: You protect me, and I’ll protect you. To Higgins, after this act came with no consequences, it was no holds barred. He lied in court as he pleased, and he put words in the mouths of officers, who seemingly were suddenly willing to perjure himself on the stand.

Like the previous article I wrote on defense attorney Daniel Goldhaber, it was the community of defense attorneys that got under Higgin’s skin the most. He didn’t like being called out on the record for lying or engaging in prosecutorial misconduct. His ego and the power trip he was on was not conducive to the reality that there were rules to criminal procedure and ethical rules governing his conduct. Somehow he was so happy to apply the rule of law and throw the book at everyone else in front of him, yet so outrighteously offended when someone else pointed out that he was breaking the law.

Like when he broke the jaw of an opposing fan in the Eagles stadium at age 23, Higgins was known to break jaws in his own more sophisticated, non physical but definately more damaging ways. To lie was nothing above himself resorting to if he felt slighted or threatened by any of the defense attorneys bold enough to point out he was breaking the laws:

  • In the years that followed, he oversaw cases involving an attorney accused of molesting a girl, drug sweeps and an attempt to solve the mystery behind an unidentified set of remains nicknamed “Mr. Bones.”
  • One of his most high-profile cases came in 2008, when he prosecuted a rare, high-profile death penalty case. The suspect, Joseph Clark, now 58, was accused of taking a woman named Holly Notestine from in front of her mobile home, where she had been bathing her two small children. He then kidnapped her and lit her car on fire.

He lost that case. The country jury in Bedford County decided against the death penalty. Clark’s attorney had argued that he had been physically and emotionally abused as a child and suffered from a “generalized mental dysfunction.

It was well known that Higgins was a womanizer. His old colleague, former public defender Daniel Goldhauber, had heard much of these escapades. But it seemed over the years that Higgin’s propensity from womanizing and carrousing had grown exponentially with his ego, and his former flirtatious habits had manifested into full out sexual assault. Just like he was entitled to lie in court, he was also entitled to prey on women sexually.

  • News broke that a woman had filed a private complaint alleging that Mr. Higgins had sexually assaulted her in the courthouse following a meeting of the Bedford County Republicans. Mr. Higgins, who at one point was the group’s vice chair, told the Post-Gazette at the time that he had committed adultery but not a crime.

Then-Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican whose office had coordinated some investigations with Mr. Higgins’ office, declined to file charges. A spokesman said at the time that the complaint lacked “physical evidence” and “credible specificity,” and that there was “significant evidence which contradicts the allegations,” though he would not outline that evidence.

The 2008 event was never properly looked into. Corbett a republican eying the governors seat, like Josh Shapiro, was not in the mood to step in any sh*t. But after that assault was made public, the flood gates were open. According to the Pittsburgh Gazzette, there were many, and the OAG’s office continued to compile a file, culiminating in the charges filed last week, according to sources familiar with the investigation. CITATION

Higgins was wheeling and dealing. A conservative running self professed family man, who was gun friendly, church going and christian, he was running a sort of brothel behind the scenes. If you were an attractive female criminal defendant charged with a crime, and willing to “put out” for Higgins, then he would strike you a deal.

It was sexual predation in its sickest and most sociopathic form.

  • Mr. Higgins squeaked through his next election, in 2011, narrowly defeating Democratic challenger Kristin Banasick by fewer than 200 votes, according to county records. It was an unexpectedly tight race for the conservative area.

Banasick is now the interim District Attorney in Bedford County since Higgins had resigned. But how interesting? Word must have been out and about about Higgins and his proclivities as a sexual predator in order for this town to be voting – or nearly voting – a democratic District Attorney in office to replace him.

An attractive blonde herself, she worked for him in his office, which begs me to question how much she knew and how much she came forward, but most importantly – if she knew (which I suspect she did) – why she didn’t say more.

  • Mr. Higgins’ attorney said he maintains his innocence. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, called Mr. Higgins’ conduct “a complete betrayal of the trust of the good citizens of Bedford County.” CITATION

Still, Josh Shapiro’s words were weak given the charges, which were confoundingly light. One would think after this many years of tormenting a county, there would be some felonies involved. Josh Shapiro likely suspects that the small country folk of Bedford County are stupid, and don’t know any better.

23 misdemeanors by a deomocratic Attorney General is a slap in the face to all women who were victimized by this jaw breaking, lying, sexual predator.

//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({
google_ad_client: “ca-pub-7852087083855650”,
enable_page_level_ads: true
});

6 Comments

  1. Your site is interesting and I enjoy reading your articles however some of your information is inaccurate. Leslie Childer’s Potts is the interim District Attorney and Judge Daniel Howsare is not the President Judge of Bedford County. He retired in 2010. Judge Thomas Ling is the President Judge and he is probably just as guilty and corrupt as Higgins is in all of this. Please don’t use my name. I work in this county and there is still PLENTY of corruption left behind even without HIggins employed here. I just thought you might like to have the correct information for your new page. It’s very entertaining to read. Keep up the good work!

    1. Yes I often get my information from private sources, as in non legal community citizen’s…… I am learning that even though I am bent on protecting whistleblowers willing to share information with me, that I also need to verify. This source of information came from a very undereducated member of Bedford county who suffered immensely, but I also fact checked her criminal case and she was charged with more and there was more to the story than what she initially disclosed. I am appreciative of people’s tips but when I ask seven times to affirm whether or not these were attorneys it’s very confusing how people would lie considering I am already convinced of the corruption in Bedford and on their side anyways.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.