THE 2013 election for city district attorney was a sleeper from the jump: Seth Williams ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and then glided to victory against his Republican opponent to win a second term.
From then on, the city's first black district attorney seemed made of political Teflon.
Now, as the state's Porngate email scandal riles his office and powerful Democrats - including longtime friends - speak out against him, Williams' political standing has weakened considerably.
"I've known him a long time," City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said yesterday, her voice tinged with melancholy. "It's just rough because we've supported Seth in the past, but certainly you have to stand for what's right and so we stand and we feel very sad for the women and the children."
Women, children, minorities, overweight and LGBT people - it appears that no one, with the exception of white men, escaped the ridicule and hate spewed in emails sent or received by three city prosecutors.
Those prosecutors, Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington, worked for the state Attorney General's Office when the most offensive emails circulated on state computers in 2009 and 2010. Williams hired Blessington in 2011. He hired Fina and Costanzo shortly before or after Kathleen Kane came to power as the state's top prosecutor in January 2013.
Williams has remained quiet in recent days, as an uproar over the emails rises above City Hall and beyond. Yesterday, the women on City Council - Cindy Bass, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Marian Tasco, Blondell Reynolds Brown and Blackwell - introduced a resolution calling on Williams to fire Fina, Costanzo and Blessington. Four others - Councilmen Bill Greenlee, Curtis Jones Jr., Wilson Goode Jr. and Kenyatta Johnson - signed on as co-sponsors.
Bass said she did not realize the shocking nature of the emails until she reviewed them recently.
"Before I saw them, I didn't think much of them because you just figure, 'Oh, it's just boys being boys,' but when I saw them, I was just so offended and just so shocked that this is the kind of hardcore pornography that's being circulated by people at work," Bass said after yesterday's Council session.
"Like, who would circulate this kind of material and think that it's OK? And for the district attorney to say, 'Well, it didn't happen on my watch,' it's completely unacceptable. These are people who are seasoned veteran prosecutors."
Some of the emails depict images that make light of child abuse and domestic abuse, in addition to images that sexualize children and celebrate racial bias.
At a time when minority and civil-rights leaders are railing against racial disparity in the criminal-justice system, Williams has held firm to his decision that the emails, although "offensive," warranted sensitivity training and no additional punishment.
"As a person of color who already has some disdain or some concern in terms of being treated fairly by the judicial system that we have in place, how does that make me feel to know that these prosecutors hold these views, accepted this material?" asked Bass, who has known Williams since both were freshmen at Penn State University 30 years ago.
Tasco said she believes that Williams is politically vulnerable. There is a growing dislike of Williams in minority communities, she said.
"Given the scenario here, it could be a possibility that he will be challenged when he runs for re-election, because the folk in the neighborhoods do not like what's happening here," Tasco said. "Because, where is the fairness?"
Tasco cited the criminal charges, brought by Williams and driven by Fina, against state representatives Louise Williams Bishop, Ronald Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown and former state Rep. Harold James.
Williams pursued the corruption charges after Kane had dropped the cases because of what she described as racial targeting of black state lawmakers. Tasco supported Kane's bid for attorney general.
Tasco said that Porngate is "10 times worse than" any wrongdoing by state lawmakers. "You bring these prosecutors into your office, you let them stay and you say, 'Well, we're going to give them some training.' Well, who is going to do the training? You can't train people. They are grown men. They should have been trained when they were kids."
Blackwell said Williams' political future is in the wait-and-see stage.
"We'll see what happens between now and the elections," she said.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who heads the city's Democratic Party, said he thinks Williams has to take action beyond sensitivity training if he hopes to weather this storm.
"The emails are more and more," Brady said. "Every day, there is more and more. Maybe, in his defense, he didn't know how many emails there were or maybe he didn't realize the extent."
Asked about Williams' political viability, Brady said, "It's not good publicity if you have these [prosecutors] working for you . . . He's got to do something more than sensitivity training."
Joe DeFelice, executive director of the city's Republican Party, said he's "always happy to see the Democrats fight."
DeFelice zeroed in on what he considers three significant chinks in Williams' armor: Porngate; an August 2015 report in the Inquirer that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed Williams' political campaign's financial reports to determine if he misspent funds on personal expenses; Williams' spokesman, Cameron Kline, violated the city charter when he sent out a news release attacking then-GOP mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey on behalf of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club. Under the charter, city employees are prohibited from engaging in political activity.
"That's kind of a three-headed monster that doesn't easily go away," DeFelice said.