Criminal Justice

Pennsylvania DA is charged with protecting drug dealers, trading favorable treatment for sex

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A long-time district attorney in Pennsylvania has been arrested on 31 charges that accuse him of thwarting drug investigations and trading favorable treatment for sex.

Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins, 43, resigned Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty, report the Legal Intelligencer, the Altoona Mirror, the Centre Daily Times and the Philadelphia Tribune. The charges include obstruction of law enforcement, reckless endangerment, official oppression, hindrance of a prosecution and witness endangerment.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the charges in a statement. “District Attorney Higgins traded his power and law enforcement authority for sexual favors and violated his oath to the people of Bedford County,” he said.

Higgins is accused of using his position to access confidential police information that he used to manipulate women with pending criminal cases. Prosecutors claim he thwarted drug investigations by refusing to sign search warrants, offering lenient plea bargains, and leaking the identities of informants so drug dealers could avoid apprehension.

Police gathered evidence using recorded calls, texts and Snapchat messages, according to the Mirror.

Higgins’ lawyer, Steven Passarello, told the Mirror that the allegations were made by convicted criminals who were prosecuted by Higgins, as well as members of law enforcement who “should not be throwing stones.” Passarello said it’s no secret that Higgins had a hostile relationship with some members of law enforcement.

“You have to take a look at the source of the allegations and credibility of the sources,” Passarello said.

Higgins issued this statement: “I have been accused of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a district attorney, but more importantly, unbecoming of a husband and father. Unfortunately, for legal reasons, I cannot comment on the validity of these accusations at this time. I have faith in the criminal justice process that I have been a part of for my entire legal career. I have concluded that, in light of these charges, I am not able to effectively fulfill my duties as district attorney and that my family needs my full attention.”

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