Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Feds Pound Away At Deadbeat D.A.

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

In a text he sent to his car mechanic, District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams revealed the real reason why he was putting his beloved 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible up for sale.

"I love that car," Williams texted his car mechanic, Armond Salloum. "But my girlfriend wants me to sell it because I had another chick in it."

So Salloum, a high school classmate of the D.A.'s -- Central High Class of 1985 -- put the Jag up for sale. But Williams, who already owed Salloum money for a used battery and spark plugs, defaulted on a promise to bring the title to the car over to Salloum's car lot, plus a picture of the D.A.'s ex-girlfriend's driver's license.

The car, of course, didn't really belong to Williams or his ex-girlfriend, Stacey Cummings. It was borrowed from Michael Weiss, another buddy of Rufus's who owned a Center City gay bar. So the sale never happened.

"The car is still parked at the garage," Salloum testified. Rufus not only left Salloum hanging, but also Weiss. Not to mention whatever he did to piss off his ex-girlfriend.

The subject of Rufus Seth Williams the deadbeat D.A. was the theme of today's testimony during the second week of Williams's political corruption trial. Besides defaulting on a deal to sell the Jaguar, another prosecution witness described how Williams was spending his mother's money while she was in a Catholic rest home, but blaming all that spending on Mom. Cummings is also on the witness list. Maybe she will testify about why she slashed her former boyfriend's tires, and what was the deal with that other chick in the Jaguar.

Armond Salloum was the last witness of the day. He described how his old high school buddy Rufus Seth Williams was so hard up for cash that he was ready to dump the Jag on webuyanycar.com.

"It was a quick dump site," Salloum explained. Williams was offered $3,000 by the website for the Jag that he borrowed from Weiss, but never returned.

Salloum thought that Williams could get more for the Jag, possibly as  much as $4,995, the price that the D.A. was hoping to sell for.

"It's a fair price," Armond testified. But Salloum said that Williams was willing to take as little as $3,500.

"He was taking a beating on that," Salloum told the jury.

But on cross-examination from defense lawyer Trevan Borum, Salloum agreed with another witness's characterization of the Jag, which frequently needed repairs, as "a piece of junk."

"That's typical of Jaguars," Salloum said.

Salloum told the jury how he was questioned about the Jag by the FBI. Salloum said he didn't understand the significance of the Jag to the feds.

"That's two of us," Borum cracked, as he ended his cross-examination.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer was offended by Borum's joke, telling Judge Paul S. Diamond that he thought Borum's remark was inappropriate.

Judge Diamond, however, told Zauzmer to strap on his big boy pants.

"This is a trial," the judge lectured the thin-skinned prosecutor. "Stuff happens."

Earlier in the day, a lot of stuff was happening with Michael Weiss, the owner of Woody's.

Weiss, who had a grant of immunity, previously had testified for several tedious hours about his friendship with Williams. Only Weiss was so reluctant a witness that the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Moran, was reduced to poring over a thick stack of print-outs of numerous text messages exchanged over the years between Williams and Weiss.

But getting answers out of Weiss was like extracting molars. On cross-examination, however, from defense lawyer Thomas Burke, Weiss seemed to loosen up.

"Very good friends," was how Weiss explained his relationship with Seth Williams. Asked why he was plying Williams with cash and free airplane tickets, Weiss replied, "I don't believe I bribed anybody."

So why did he donate 16 free roundtrip airplane tickets to Seth Williams, Burke wanted to know.

"Because he asked," Weiss said.

Did he donate those tickets because he was such a generous guy, Burke asked.

"That's not for me to day," was Weiss's humble answer.

On the witness stand, Weiss described how his birthday and Seth Williams's birthday were only a week apart. On a text message to his old pal, Weiss had written, "What does Little Sethy want for his birthday?"

That got some laughs from the jury.

On cross-examination, Burke pointed to several text messages to show how close the two pals were.

"Love you guys," Weiss had written to Williams and his girlfriend. "We love you guys also," was the D.A.'s response.

Love was in the air as Burke asked Weiss about Christmas parties where Weiss and his brother donated gifts to homeless children.

"Who did you get to play Santa," Burke wanted to know.

"Seth," Weiss replied.

Burke entered into evidence several photos of Williams's daughters playing with Weiss's niece.

On redirect, the prosecutor asked Weiss to explain how his felony conviction on a tax rap changed his life.

Weiss began a long speech where he talked about how, for the first 45 years of his life, he had always tried to do the right thing.

"Can you just answer the question," the exasperated judge told the witness.

"It had a very severe mental effect on me," Weiss told the jury.

The storyline the prosecutor seemed to want to present to the jury was that Weiss was so upset about his conviction and status as a felon that he was willing to do all kinds of favors for Rufus Seth Williams, after Williams made Weiss a special advisor to the D.A.'s office.

So you gave Williams 16 free round-trip airplane tickets, the prosecutor said. Plus a Jaguar and cash. In exchange for official favors from Williams that included letters sent on the D.A.'s official stationery to Weiss's condo board, to prove Weiss was a special advisor. And another official letter the D.A. sent to the California Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control, to help Weiss hang on to his ownership of a San Diego bar, despite his status as a convicted felon.

Earlier, Weiss had defended the free plane tickets he gave the D.A. by saying he always did favors like that for his friends, who included several elected officials.

The prosecutor asked Weiss to name how many other elected officials he had bought round-trip airline tickets for.

After a long pause, Weiss could only come up with one name -- state Senator Larry Farnese, who will probably be the subject of another federal investigation.

"I believe that's it," Weiss told the jury.

The prosecutor asked if the gift to Farnese came with any strings attached.

Weiss replied that he told Farnese the same thing he told Williams when he was giving him one free ticket after another -- "I asked Mr. Williams that he report it," Weiss said.

But did he, the prosecutor asked.

"I did not check up on him," Weiss said.

The prosecutor pounced.

Would you have given the D.A. all those free round-trip airplane tickets, the prosecutor asked, "If you knew he [Williams] wasn't going to report it?"

"No," Weiss admitted.

The next witness was John Chapman, a former nursing home administrator for the St. Francis Country House, where the D.A.'s 80-year-old mom, Imelda Williams, was admitted as a patient in 2012.

Chapman told the jury that he remembered Imelda Williams as a "very sweet lady."

Prosecutor Zauzmer reviewed emails where the administrators at St. Francis were discussing what to do about Rufus Seth Williams. The D.A. had been designated the "responsible person" for his mother's finances, but he wasn't paying her nursing home bills. Instead, he was spending Mom's money.

It was Chapman who wrote that "his evil side" told him that the nursing home administrators should make the D.A.'s behavior "known to the media."

"It was a joke," Chapman told the humorless prosecutor.

"Unbelievable," Chapman wrote in a subsequent email exchange when another nursing home administrator explained how Williams blew her off when she called to alert the D.A. about an unpaid balance at the nursing home.

"I felt that he's putting it all on his mom, instead of acting like a responsible party," Chapman told the jury.

Chapman explained how he left a message for Williams to call him about the unpaid bill at the nursing home that was up to $11,886. The bill got so high because rather than turn over money from his mother's two pensions and her Social Security benefits, as he was required to, Williams was spending Mom's money.

Chapman told the jury how he was very firm on the phone with Williams when the D.A. called him back, using what Chapman described as "my dad voice."

Chapman said he subsequently wrote to Williams, asking for permission to speak to Imelda Williams directly, to get her to sign over her pension and benefits to the nursing home. But Williams didn't respond.

"No, he never gave me permission to speak to his mom," Chapman said.

On cross-examination, Burke tried to get Chapman to agree that his nursing home was at fault for not taking the time to explain all the financial rules of elderly care to Rufus Seth Williams.

But the judge interrupted Burke's questioning.

"Please," the judge said, "You're asking the same questions multiple times with multiple witnesses."

Chapman wasn't buying it, and he kept bringing up the money the D.A. owed the nursing home.

"That's because you guys screwed up the whole admissions process," Burke said.

"No we did not," Chapman said. "I wouldn't say that."

The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Prosecutors told the judge that they expect to wind up their case by Friday.

Then the big question will be whether Rufus Seth Williams will take the stand in his own defense.

6 comments:

  1. Great job Ralph.

    Would you call this one way or the other yet? Seems to me the feds got a point for Sullivan and a point for the nursing home. They may not get the Weiss count and I think the vehicle usage will be a snooze fest. If they don't bring the painting out they won't get the campaign-funds-for-personal-use count either, but Judge Diamond will give Seth a nice long term on even a single count.

    Funny that Farnese just got dragged back into the mud pit. Poor guy. He was probably just starting to sleep well and now he's got one more thing in common with Little Sethie. The Inky's coverage didn't reach the redirect - nice work on the prosecutor's part to ask for names. Farnese. Wow.

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    Replies
    1. The nursing home thing is shameful. Shaking. My. Head.

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  2. Do you go to the trial and watch?

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  3. Do you think we'll ever see a financial disclosure form for Mr. Williams for 2016 or 2017? The 2016 is overdue. Must be something good in there.

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  4. I don't know, this Rufus saga just seems too soap opera-esque to me. The car, the girl friends, the trips, the money, the betrayal of Mom, the gay bar, etc, etc. It smacks of scripted cheesy screenplay. I believe it's just gossip column garbage created to give us something of little substance to chew on while we're kept in the dark about the real corruption in Pennsylvania.

    For instance, Josh Shapiro, Laura Ditka, and Judge Boccabella conspiring to jail a respected college president for a first time misdemeanor with no evidence for a conviction? And the arrest of the PA Attorney General for trying to expose the real corruption in her state? And Bruce Beemer shredding Second Mile documents stored within a state government office? No, just give 'em more "Rufus", he's the black man that can't be civilized and honest like his "honest" white counterparts that abuse the grand jury process to manufacture evidence, bring false charges, and use the press to lie about it all.

    No, just give the dumbed-down goyim more Rufus, he's what they really want to believe.

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  5. The coverage here is so much better. Philly will put a recap up at 2:00 meanwhile court is still going on meanwhile, half of the stuff that is reported here isn't reported by them.
    Good job Big Trial.

    ReplyDelete

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