Prosecutor accused of trading sex for leniency pleads guilty


BEDFORD, Pa. (AP) — A former Pennsylvania district attorney accused of tipping off female drug dealers and giving them lenient treatment in exchange for sex pleaded guilty Wednesday to corruption charges in a deal that will keep him out of prison.

Former Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins pleaded guilty to all 31 misdemeanor counts he faced, including official oppression and obstructing the administration of law, according to Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Under a plea agreement, Higgins will spend no time behind bars. He will lose a portion of his state and county government pensions and is expected to lose his law license under a separate disciplinary proceeding.

Shapiro’s office did not mention the terms of the plea agreement in a news release, nor did Shapiro mention it in a videotaped statement.

“The offer that was made by the commonwealth was an offer he felt he couldn’t refuse,” said Higgins’ attorney, Steven Passarello.

Higgins resigned in early April after the charges were filed, saying in a statement that he’d been accused of conduct “unbecoming of a district attorney” and “unbecoming of a husband and father.”

One woman performed oral sex on Higgins about a month after he told a state trooper not to charge her with drug delivery, according to a police affidavit. Another woman said that after she performed oral sex on Higgins, he told her that her cousin could thank her for not getting arrested, authorities said.

Police said Higgins also revealed the names of confidential informants to female drug dealers with whom he was having sex, or to their friends and associates.

“Former District Attorney Higgins traded his power and law enforcement authority for sexual favors and he violated his oath to the people of Bedford County — compromising the security of his community and the safety of confidential informants,” Shapiro said.

Higgins, a 43-year-old Republican, was sworn into office in 2004 as the state’s youngest district attorney.

He will be sentenced in August.

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