By CBS 3’s Joe Holden and KYW Newsradio’s Kristen Johanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Arriving for a federal court motions hearing, CBS 3 pressed District Attorney Seth Williams if he has considered resigning his office. Williams didn’t answer.
The questions continued, with reporter Joe Holden asking, “Do you have any comment at all? Do you want to say anything to the Philadelphia taxpayers?”
Williams ignored the line of questions, responding, “How are you? Great day. I’m hear to see the judge.”
And with that, Williams and his lawyer headed to the third floor of the U.S. Courthouse for a 3 p.m. hearing.
Attorney Michael Diamondstein filed in a motion last week that he wants off the case. Part of Diamondstein’s argument before the court is Williams can’t afford him.
Diamonstein told Judge Timonthy Rice that because of ethical conflicts and costly time, he cannot continue to represent Williams.
“I don’t know what my office is going to do, to come up with the funds to defend Mr. Williams, just because the court says you have to do it. And I will do whatever the court says,” said Diamonstein.
Diamondstein continued, “It’s potentially inappropriate to hold me on this case.”
The tone in the courtroom was tense at times, as Judge Timothy Rice asked Williams if he could afford his own lawyer or if he wanted the court to appoint one. Williams said he should have a new attorney by Friday.
“You placed your client in a difficult position,” the judge said to Diamondstein.
Rice told Diamondstein he should have never signed onto the case, and gave Williams until he end of the week to find a new attorney. Diamondstein says he’s confident that will happen:
“I am hopeful for Seth that, he will be able to find competent and diligent counsel to represent him. If not, I would imagine he will have to discuss with Judge Rice whether counsel should be appointed,” said Diamonstein.
If by Friday, Williams does not have another attorney, the judge told him, “That could be a big problem for you.”
Williams was warned by the judge of consequences should he fail to secure legal representation.
“You could waive your right to counsel, or have your bail revoked. I’d be careful how you proceed. This is treacherous ground,” the judge said.
Philadelphia’s district attorney was slammed last week with a 23-count indictment alleging bribery and extortion.
Williams has pleaded not guilty.
The judge called Williams’ lawyers attempts to back away from the case unprecedented.
Federal prosecutors in court said they had no objection to Diamondstein leaving the case.
“The court will work out the representation and we’ll be back here on Friday and we’ll look forward to seeing you then,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer said.
Asked by CBS 3 reporter Joe Holden: “Would you say the court is frustrated with this situation?” Zauzmer replied: “I have no further comment on it.”
Leaving court, Williams and his lawyer said nothing, but were confronted by members of Black Lives Matter of Pennsylvania
“Why haven’t you resigned sir? Why haven’t you resigned?”
Diamond said he will allow for an unusually lengthy trial for Williams’ case.
The judge ruled that because of the prosecution’s evidence, the span of Williams’ trial will go far beyond the perimeter set by the Speedy Trial Act, which gives guidelines to the length of a trial.
In a motion filed by the government, it shows a trial would last two weeks or more as 80,000 pages of documents are expected to be introduced, along with 300,000 emails obtained during the investigation.
In addition, 200 witness statement will be produced, along with 17 transcripts of grand jury testimony.
Prosecutors accuse Williams of soliciting and accepting gifts, vacations, and cash for years, in exchange for official action.
Williams is also charged with defrauding a nursing home that was caring for a relative of his.
The case against the district attorney has been described as “unusual and complex” due to the nature and extent of illegal activity charged.
A start date for the trial has not yet been set.
Williams has pleaded not guilty.