D.A. Seth Williams running again - for Penn State board

Posted: February 26, 2014

Philadelphia's top crime-fighter wants to take on new territory: District Attorney Seth Williams said Monday he is seeking a seat on Pennsylvania State University's board of trustees.

Williams is a 1989 graduate and a "legacy" - his father went to Penn State in the 1940s when black students couldn't live on campus by way of unofficial school policy.

During his own time there, Williams said, he headed the black student caucus, led a march from Penn State to Harrisburg protesting the school's investments in South Africa and was president of student government in his senior year. He majored in political science and minored in black studies.

"I love Penn State," Williams, 47, said in an interview. "The reason I love Penn State is, I think its best days are ahead of it."

Elected last fall to his second four-year term as D.A., Williams acknowledged his Philadelphia job is time-consuming. But he is undeterred by the time and travel he would have to put in as an unpaid trustee of the State College-based school. The board holds two days of meetings at least a half-dozen times a year, and there are additional sessions, such as last week's meeting to hire a new president.

"They say if you want something to get done, give it to a busy person," Williams said.

Williams will vie for one of three open alumni seats on the 32-member board in what is expected to be a highly contested race for the third consecutive year. Alumni interest in the seats has run high since the child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky engulfed the campus in 2011.

The deadline for board candidates to submit forms with the required 50 signatures of alumni is Tuesday. Voting takes place April 10 through May 8.

Williams already has found himself in the crosshairs of another trustee candidate, alumnus Ryan Bagwell, a Bucks County native who has pushed to obtain records of the relationship between the school, the state Attorney General's Office, and Louis Freeh, the university-hired investigator who blamed top Penn State leaders, including late football coach Joe Paterno, for failing to act on abuse allegations against Sandusky.

Among the records sought by Bagwell are e-mails from Frank Fina, who as chief deputy state attorney general helped prosecute Sandusky and who now works for Williams' D.A. Office.

Williams, who sparred with Bagwell on Twitter last month, has said the records don't exist.

As for the scandal, Williams tweeted: "Sandusky & (if)anyone covered up his crimes should b held responsible."

But he also called "excessive" the sanctions imposed on Penn State by the NCAA, including loss of football scholarships and removal of Paterno's wins.

"I don't believe in changing history," Williams said Monday, but added: "Don't get me wrong. The victims come first. I grew up loving Joe Paterno and all he stood for. I think in his own words he said he wishes he had done more. I'll leave it at that."


ssnyder@phillynews.com

215-854-4693

@ssnyderinq

www.inquirer.com/campusinq

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