- Seth WilliamsPhiladelphia District Attorney
- Regina PurtellSecretary to DA Williams
Dismiss the Hateful Prosecutors that Abused the Public Trust
Three public servants, charged with one of the most important jobs in our society, have broken the public’s trust in a shameful way. Prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington sent, viewed and disseminated emails that devalued, demeaned and ridiculed women, members of the LGBT community and people of color, all within the walls of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania’s Office. The emails depicted women in compromising x-rated situations, caricatured images of African American babies, and mocked gay men. Yet, for all of this, they were hired as top prosecutors by Philadelphia's District Attorney (DA) Seth Williams. DA Williams decided not to have them suffer any consequences for this gross betrayal of public trust. Instead, they underwent office-wide "sensitivity" training which did not address their deep rooted biases against women and minorities.
Please join the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and all of the Philadelphia Councilwomen in asking DA Seth Williams to remove Assistant DAs Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington from the DA’s office. There is no room for hatred in the halls of justice.
Public trust is further eroded by the fact there is a widespread, private relationship between prosecutors in both criminal and civil matters and the judges they appear before in those cases since these emails were traded with a wide swath of people, including judges. This is a compromise of the judiciary by members of the executive branch; a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers. These men continue to have active prosecutorial roles. What’s worse, there have been reports in the press that two of the three prosecutors involved in the email scandal have been accused of exclusively targeting African American politicians in corruption scandals, even though several other politicians were implicated. Their focus on finding suspects of a certain race and ignoring the misdeeds of others is reflected in the emails they shared amongst themselves, which depict African Americans as criminals and thugs.
It is time for decent people in Philadelphia, and around the States, to demand more from our justice system. All around our country, we are seeing a miscarriage of justice. Time and again, crimes are being perpetrated by holders of public office, and the sole “punishments” they receive are gentle reprimands, or slaps on the wrist. When negative actions do not receive true negative consequences, it tells others in power that breaking the law or abusing their office is no big deal. A justice system that condones or ignores the actions of employees who victimize large segments of our population is no justice system at all.
The Women of City Council of Philadelphia are standing with Phila-NOW and demanding the removal of these three prosecutors from the Philadelphia DA’s Office. We ask all of you to sign our petition to remove Assistant DA’s Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington from the DA’s office, so public trust can be restored.
Please visit www.phillynow.org for further information and link to the demeaning images.
- Philadelphia District Attorney
- Secretary to DA Williams
Philadelphia Chapter of National Organization for Women (NOW) is deeply dismayed at the lack of acknowledgement, much less meaningful action, regarding the disturbing conduct of your employees. Prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington misused the government’s servers in the Attorney General of Pennsylvania’s Office to exchange, view, and disseminate emails with content devaluing and demeaning and hateful towards women, members of the LGBT community and people of color. It has been proven that these men abused their position of public trust and power when they took part in and condoned this behavior. Emails depicted women in compromising sexual situations, African American babies in caricatures depicting violence, and the ridiculing of gay men. This content is heinous in that it perpetuates stereotypes and threatens the progress that we have made. As public servants sworn to uphold the law, they should have immediately said STOP. The incident should have been reported and investigated with appropriate action taken. Instead, the images were circulated and the behavior condoned. Imagine that a victim of violence perpetuated by misogynistic, racist, and homophobic attitudes having to tell their story and place their fate in the hands of a misogynistic, racist, and homophobic prosecutor. Lines were crossed. Prosecutors, lawyers, and judges should limit their interpersonal relationships so as to keep the system fair. Instead, they chose to disregard those ethical obligations. And yet these men continue to have active prosecutorial roles. Did they disclose their misuse of public resources at the time of being hired by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office? Did they mention the private relationship between prosecutors and the judges, hence leading to the compromising of the judiciary by members of the executive branch, a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers? Since there was a documented complaint to the EEOC regarding the inhospitable work environment for women in the AG’s office, were they queried about during the hiring process? This abusive hate-fueled conduct undermines the public’s confidence in not only these prosecutors, but in the entire criminal justice system. The public’s trust in your office can only be restored if individuals who are unfit for the role of prosecutor are removed. The continued presence of these individuals with poor judgement, to which they have admitted, weakens the integrity of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. You said that you did not want to “just send a message” by firing them. Regardless, a message is being sent to Philadelphians that such behavior is acceptable and tolerated in our highest office of law enforcement.
Sensitivity training is not enough. Sending us a text message (with a follow up request) to meet after you have already decided on a course of action is meaningless. That was an inappropriate way to address this issue and minimizes the seriousness of the situation. Failing to understand how serious this is makes it even worse. You have left us no choice but to ask the public to weigh in on this matter of grave concern.
We demand that you remove Prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington from the District Attorney’s Office, where they have become a distraction to the work of that Office. It is imperative that the integrity and public trust be restored in the District Attorney’s Office.
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