Pennsylvania has always had a fair share of public officials who have been arrested and convicted of crimes. The list includes former attorneys general, legislators and police officers. Reports of a high-ranking state law enforcement officer being caught up in allegations of criminality are always shocking and difficult to understand. The latest official to be accused of serious criminality, including the suppression of drug charges and obtaining sexual favors, is the District Attorney of Bedford County, William Higgins.
The 43-year-old prosecutor resigned from the job recently under a cloud of criminal charges that included obstruction of law enforcement, reckless endangerment, official oppression and hindrance of a prosecution. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Higgins had traded his law enforcement authority for sexual favors. Authorities accused him of accessing confidential police records to manipulate the cases against women, refusing to approve search warrants, offering lenient plea bargains and thwarting drug prosecutions.
They accuse him also of leaking information about informants to drug dealers. Higgins’ attorney seemed to announce an upcoming defense by pointing out that his client was being accused by convicted criminals who Higgins prosecuted. The attorney also alleged that Higgins had a known strained relationship with some law enforcement officials, indicating their lack of credibility. Higgins issued a statement that he was resigning to be with his family.
He stated that he had faith in the criminal justice system and could not comment further. He noticeably failed to espouse his innocence to the charges, including the serious allegations of suppressing drug charges. The involvement of the Pennsylvania Attorney General did not seem to bode well for the viability of the defendant’s defenses. It appears that a wide scope of statewide resources and authority support the investigation. Nonetheless, the state will have to prove each charged criminal element against the defendant by credible evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt.
Source: abajournal.com, “Pennsylvania DA is charged with protecting drug dealers, trading favorable treatment for sex“, Debra Cassens Weiss, April 5, 2018