Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is expected to announce three more arrests Tuesday in the corruption case Pennsylvania's attorney general said was "not prosecutable."
A grand jury has recommended charges against State Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Michelle Brownlee and a former state representative, Harold James, all Philadelphia Democrats, according to people familiar with the grand jury's actions.
Bishop and Brownlee have long been identified as targets of Williams' investigators, ever since he accepted a dare from Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane and reopened a "sting" probe that Kane said was "half-assed" and declined to pursue.
They were among five elected officials in Philadelphia who The Inquirer reported last year had taken cash or, in one case, a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet from a lobbyist working as an undercover operative. With the expected action Tuesday, all five will have been arrested. One has pleaded guilty.
But word that James was implicated was new. His arrest, along with the others, would bring to six the number charged in the sting.
As The Inquirer first reported in March 2014, Kane secretly ended the sting operation without bringing criminal charges - and without notifying the state Ethics Commission that lawmakers had been taped accepting cash.
She said the investigation was marred by "shoddy police work," a lack of a clear quid pro quo for the payments, and the possibility that the selection of targets may have been tainted by racial prejudice. James and the other five officials are all African Americans.
Williams, a Democrat like Kane, rejected that criticism. He said the evidence - 400 hours of tape - was clear and convincing, and called "disgusting" any suggestion that race had played a role in the sting.
According to investigative material obtained by The Inquirer, James, 72, a former Philadelphia police officer who went on to represent a South Philadelphia legislative district, took a $750 campaign contribution in 2012 from the lobbyist, Tyron B. Ali.
"You know that I want to take care of you because I am going to need you later," Ali, who was wearing a wire, told James before handing over the money order, according to a summary of the investigation obtained by The Inquirer.
James, the summary states, replied, "OK."
James, who declined to comment Monday, served in the lower chamber in Harrisburg for almost two decades until 2008. He then served a further six months in the seat in 2012, filling out the remaining months for a legislator who had quit.
In interviews, Bishop said she had not accepted money from Ali and did not know him.
Investigative documents say Ali gave her a total of $1,500 during three meetings, two at her legislative office in West Philadelphia and one at a hotel on City Avenue. At that last meeting, the document says, Bishop replied, "That's a great help. That's a biggie."
Brownlee, 58, has told The Inquirer she could not remember whether she took money. According to investigative documents, Ali handed her $2,000 wrapped in a napkin during a walk in 2011.
In December, the first person charged in the case - Thomasine Tynes, a former Traffic Court judge - pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge under a deal in which bribery and other offenses were dropped.
It was Tynes who accepted the bracelet from Ali at a meeting at the Palm restaurant in Center City.
A judge sentenced Tynes to up to 23 months in prison, but agreed to make the sentence concurrent with her two-year federal prison term in an unrelated case. In the separate matter, a jury found her guilty of lying about ticket-fixing at Traffic Court.
Tynes' arrest was followed by the arrests of two state representatives, Ronald G. Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown.
Williams has said both lawmakers admitted to grand jurors that they illegally pocketed cash, $8,750 in Waters' case and $4,000 in Brown's.
State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop
State Rep. Michelle Brownlee
Former State Rep. Harold James, newly implicated
Former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes*
State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown
State Rep. Ronald Waters
*Currently in prison.EndText