Unpaid so far, Seth Williams’ lawyer told he can’t bow out, yet

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Seth Williams’ lawyer was ordered Tuesday to stay on the case – at least for now – despite Philadelphia’s cash-strapped district attorney’s inability to pay his legal bills.

A federal magistrate judge admonished defense lawyer Michael Diamondstein for assuming he could step in on the bribery and corruption case only to bow out after the first hearing last week. But Diamondstein insisted he had agreed to appear by Williams’ side for his arraignment fully expecting other lawyers would take the case for trial.

The electric back-and-forth between the lawyer and an unsympathetic U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice was only overshadowed by the scene as Williams’ left the courthouse.

Black Lives Matters demonstrators surrounded Williams, shouting “Shame” again and again into his face. As he got into an awaiting car, one demonstrator tried to follow him inside demanding to know why the embattled district attorney had not resigned.

One of the passengers inside the car eventually got out and removed the protester after a brief scuffle. Williams and Diamondstein declined to comment immediately after Rice’s ruling.

But in court both evaded Rice’s attempts to pin Williams down on whether he was saying he could not afford to retain his own lawyer, despite his $175,000 annual salary.

Williams told Rice that he was close to striking a deal with another lawyer to represent him – an arrangement he hoped to solidify before Friday. He did not disclose whether he would be paying the lawyer or what plans he had if the deal fell through.

For his part Diamondstein insisted that he couldn’t afford to work for Williams for free.

“I’ve received zero dollars and zero cents for my work so far,” he told Rice. “I can’t close down my practice for a case with more than 80,000 documents and 30,000 emails for no money.”

Williams, 50, stands accused of repeatedly selling his influence to two wealthy benefactors who showered him with gifts of luxury travel, free airfare and designer clothes in exchange for favors from his office.

He has denied any wrongdoing and resisted calls from the likes of Mayor Kenney and the Philadelphia Bar Association to step down before his second term ends next year.

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