Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins has been charged in connection with allegedly sabotaging drug investigations by protecting dealers, blowing the cover of confidential informants, as well as giving favorable treatment to women he had sex with, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday.
Following a charging recommendation by an investigating grand jury, Higgins, 43, now faces 11 counts of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, two counts of official oppression, three counts of recklessly endangering another person, nine counts of intimidation of witnesses or victims and six counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution.
“District Attorney Higgins traded his power and law enforcement authority for sexual favors and violated his oath to the people of Bedford County—compromising the security of his community and the safety of confidential informants,” Shapiro said in a statement Wednesday. “Higgins’ conduct and manipulation of these women was a complete betrayal of the trust of the good citizens of Bedford County—who elected him to enforce the law and keep them safe. Today, with our partners in the Pennsylvania State Police, we are ending this culture and working to restore trust in the Bedford County District Attorney’s Office.”
Higgins resigned from the office immediately after being charged. The Bedford County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Higgins turned himself in Wednesday morning. First Assistant District Attorney Leslie Childers-Potts will be acting Bedford district attorney until a special election can be held to fill the role, Shapiro said.
In a statement made to Channel 6 WJAC, Higgins said, “I have concluded that, in light of these charges, I am not able to effectively fulfill my duties as district attorney and that my family needs my full attention. I have been accused of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a district attorney, but more importantly, unbecoming of a husband and father.”
Shapiro noted the inter-agency cooperation in the investigation that resulted in charges being filed against Higgins.
“These arrests are the result of collaboration with our partners in the Pennsylvania State Police and the effective use of the Statewide Investigating Grand Jury,” Shapiro said at the press conference. “As attorney general, I will not allow individuals in power to abuse their public office. I am focused on rooting out public corruption and will continue to prosecute anyone who breaks the law—without fear and without favor.”
In a statement issued by the state Office of the Victim Advocate, VA Jennifer Storm said her office had received prior complaints about Higgins.
“I am dismayed and disgusted to hear of the charges brought forth today against Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins whose function was to serve the community and be a voice for victims,” Storm said. “His blatant abuse of power in exchange for sexual favors is symptomatic of the very underpinning of the #MeToo movement. I applaud the Office of Attorney General and the Pennsylvania State Police for taking swift and certain action against this predator. Targeting and preying upon individuals who are already in vulnerable situations is the very definition of a sexual predator.”