PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Testifying in the federal corruption trial of Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, an administrator from the nursing home where the prosecutor installed his mother told jurors Tuesday that Williams reacted unusually to news of her mounting bills.
Though Williams signed on as the responsible party when he moved his mother into St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, administrator John Thomas Chapman told the court Tuesday that Williams quickly became evasive with regard to making payments.
Prosecutors say that, rather than paying his mother’s bills, Williams drained pension and Social Security income from Imelda’s bank account. As laid out in the 23-count indictment, the bribes Williams was accepting from wealthy area businessmen were not enough to cover the cost of his lavish lifestyle.
Chapman testified that Williams initially deflected his obligation to pay for his mother’s nursing home care, writing in an email that his mother was responsible for paying but that she was spending her money on old bills and gifts for her grandchildren.
“He was putting it all on his mom instead of acting as a responsible party would have,” Chapman said.
Chapman also recalled asking Williams to disclose bank statements that would show if his mother was eligible for public assistance, but that Williams declined to do so.
Saying he had been reluctant initially to confront Williams, the veteran 20-year administrator explained that St. Francis is part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and that Williams was involved in the ongoing sex-abuse prosecutions of Catholic Church officials..
Williams eventually stopped disputing his obligations to pay St. Francis. “He was a gentleman and said he would handle it,” Chapman said.
Of the 23 counts against Williams, they are split roughly evenly between 12 counts of extortion and bribery, and 11 counts of fraud.
With the trial halfway through its second week, Williams’ defense attorneys have fought to chalk up their client’s behaviors to errors in judgment and a lack of discretion.
While cross-examining Chapman on Wednesday, defense attorney Thomas Burke questioned whether shortcomings in St. Francis’ administrative procedures would explain the discrepancy in billings for Williams’ mother.
Records show Williams signed his mother into the home as a “responsible party,” but they are unclear about whether Williams was told that he would have to pay or if she would be eligible for benefits. Chapman said Williams’ agreement was initially misplaced “one in front or behind” his mother’s file, causing a delay in informing him of owed money.
St. Francis also does not have a written policy about discussing financials immediately upon admission, Chapman said. He noted that it is part of their procedure, however, and that he was “fairly certain” that his colleagues had done so with Williams.
When pressed on this, Chapman admitted that the employee who normally would have done so “may have been out at that time.”
Burke pointed out meanwhile that a caretaker’s misappropriation of funds constitutes reportable abuse in Pennsylvania. Chapman admitted that St. Francis failed to report here, but denied that this was because they “botched” her application.
The witness emphasized that Williams feigned shock when informed of the owed payments, and continued to evade requests to disclose income.
Williams’ trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is set to resume Wednesday morning.
U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond is presiding, with U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri leading the prosecution.