Friday, June 23, 2017

Man Who Allegedly Bribed Rufus Doesn't Have Much To Show For It

By Ralph Cipriano

When Thomas Burke stood up this morning to cross-examine Mohammad Ali, he wanted to make sure that the jury not only understood what the prosecution's star cooperating witness was charged with, but also what Ali wasn't charged with.

Ali, a Bucks County businessman, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, to the tune of $163,000. He also pleaded guilty to bribing Rufus Seth Williams with about $20,000 in unreported gifts that included free vacations to Punta Cana, and a $3,000 chocolate-covered sofa from Raymour And Flanagan.

But the feds had been investigating Ali for years for money laundering, as they tracked more than $200 million going in and out of his accounts while the jet setting Jordanian native flew around the world to China, South America and Iran. That's why Ali was subjected to secondary security screenings every time he walked through an airport.

"Did you have to plead [guilty] to money laundering?" Burke, Seth Williams' lawyer, asked Ali.

"No," Ali said.

Burke went through Ali's cooperating deal with the government. Ali was looking at eight years in the slammer, but was eligible for a reduced sentence if the government was happy with his testimony against Seth Williams.

Burke got Ali to agree that he was under a lot of pressure from the feds to finger Seth. But while Ali acknowledged he had to sing the government's tune, he kept repeating that the bottom line of his cooperating deal was that he must testify truthfully against Seth Williams.

"Who determines the truth," Burke asked. "The government," he said, pointing toward the prosecution table.

"Correct," Ali said.

"This for that," Burke said. He was implying that the real quid pro quo of the case against Williams was Mohammad Ali agreeing to testify that he bribed the D.A. in exchange for a reduced sentence.

But Ali had his own version of his relationship with Williams.

"Seth was my friend," he said. "I expected things from him." And, Ali said, Williams expected things from him.

It was a friendship, the witness said. He seemed sad about it.

"I liked him," Ali said about Williams. "And I think he liked me."

But the big question hanging over the D.A.'s federal corruption trial is whether the favors Williams did for Ali constituted official acts. While Williams was accepting free gifts and free vacations from Ali.

The old quid pro quo, this for that.

Burke elicited from Ali that the biggest problem he faced was the one and two hour delays he was subjected to every time he got caught in another secondary security screening at the airport. That's the thing he really wanted Seth to help him with. In Ali's view, he was being racially profiled. And that it had been going on since 2001.

In March 2013, Williams allegedly convened a meeting between Ali and a high-ranking police official to assist Ali in avoiding secondary security screenings when he returned from an overseas trip to Philadelphia International Airport.

To the feds, that constitutes an official act on behalf of Williams. Waiting in the wings to testify today was Deputy Police Chief Joseph Sullivan. He supposedly is the high-ranking police official who was asked by Williams to assist Ali in avoiding security screenings at the airport.

If Sullivan sticks to the government's script, he will say that he felt pressured to help Rufus's pal, and that he felt uncomfortable about doing it.

But even with a police escort, Ali was still subjected to a secondary security screening at the airport. Only this time it lasted 10 minutes instead of two hours.

But in subsequent trips, Ali wound up being detained again for longer screenings.

Ali said he came to understand that nobody could help him when it came to getting through an airport.

"I realized it's my name," he said.

Did Seth Williams help you get through airports, Burke asked.

"The problem still exists," Ali conceded.

Burke asked Ali about the time he asked Williams for help on behalf of a friend who was facing a jail sentence on a drug charge.

What happened with your friend, Burke asked. Williams couldn't help him, right?

"He was sentenced to jail," Ali admitted.

Burke asked Ali about a $7,000 loan he gave Williams, a loan that Williams never repaid.

"Was that a bribe," Burke asked.

"It was a loan," Ali said.

So, Burke said, summing up, did Williams help you get through airports?

"No," Ali said.

Did he help your friend with his drug charge?

"No," Ali said.

Did Williams help your wife when she was turned down for citizenship?

"No," Ali said.

Over at the defense table, Rufus Seth Williams was looking like a bad investment. But he'll take that deal it if it keeps him out of jail.

Meanwhile, the judge sent the jury home early for the weekend. Also departing was Deputy Chief Sullivan, but he is expected to return Monday.

Also waiting in the wings is the government's other top cooperating witness, Michael Weiss, the owner of Woody's, a Philadelphia gay bar. Weiss is expected to testify about free airplane tickets he provided for Williams between 2012 and 2015 to San Diego, Florida and Las Vegas.

Among the other gifts Weiss gave Rufus was a 1997 XK8 Jaguar convertible.

Those gifts were allegedly made in exchange for Williams appointing Weiss, a convicted felon, as a special advisor to the D.A.'s office in 2012. Williams also wrote a letter on his official stationary in 2014 to California officials on Weiss's behalf. The letter was in favor of Weiss's application to continue as an officer and corporate stockholder of a business that held a California liquor license.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the second week of a political corruption trial that's expected to last a total of three weeks.



    1. @adam - pardon me while I puke.

    2. Adam,
      Truth and the love of it is a necessary prerequisite for mercy, justice and humility. Ralph has aptly demonstrated that Rufus is not the least bit interested in the truth and therefore he is neither merciful nor just. To the contrary, Rufus is an extremely proud man who will answer to God for his destructive behavior as a public office holder.

  2. Another rat gets his reward ....

  3. Regarding the airport security clearance issue, Mr.Ali may have been accurate as to being singled out because of his last name but what if he was on a list to check to insure our safety and he turned out to be on a terrorist watch list.

    How could Williams be sure his new friend was not a threat to national security. Williams very well may have assisted him in getting through airport security jeopardizing our well being.

    Williams did things that benefited himself at all times,from not prosecuting domestic abuse to prosecuting invented abuse and sending innocents to jail all for his personal gain.

    How can anyone have sympathy for such a man, it was always all about Seth Williams. I am disappointed that he is not in trouble for what he has done to innocents much more than I am at his selling favors to help his friends, which of course is wrong.

    Too bad prosecutors can't uncover what they really do to the public day in and day out as it would alert the public to the tactics they use to gain a conviction. No sense having a public that would think for themselves, it's better to just go after him for selling his office and poor financial decisions than his crimes against the innocents.

    For me this is a genuinely a complex case, who to root for, lying federal prosecutors or a lying DA.

  4. I have noticed a pattern, if you have damaging evidence or even if you do not have damaging evidence on a defendant but have a tax issue the government threatens jail time or a reduction in jail time for your "cooperation" for giving damaging evidence or invented damaging evidence against said defendant.

    The rest of the public with similar tax issues has to pay a fine and jail is never mentioned.


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