Ex-prosecutor who helped drug dealers gets probation

BEDFORD (AP) — A former Pennsylvania district attorney who tipped off female drug dealers and gave them lenient treatment in exchange for sex was sentenced to eight years of probation on Friday.

Bill Higgins repeatedly apologized for his actions during sentencing in the Bedford County Courthouse where he used to work.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, judge,” Higgins said, according to WJAC-TV. “I’m sorry.”

He pleaded guilty in May in a deal with prosecutors that guaranteed him no jail time and no additional felony counts. He was officially disbarred earlier this month.

Higgins also pleaded guilty to disclosing the identity of confidential informants at least nine times.

President Judge Thomas Ling ordered him to perform over 1,100 hours of community service and pay fines of nearly $10,000, despite Higgins’ lawyer telling the court he was “asking for justice tempered with mercy.”

Ling let members of the public make statements before the sentencing, saying the public itself was a victim in this case.

Roughly half of people argued that Higgins should get a tougher sentence, while others — including his mother and uncle — talked about the good he’s done for the community, and how he has a wife and daughters, WJAC reported.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged Higgins in April, calling his behavior a betrayal of the community.

Charging documents said one woman performed oral sex on Higgins about a month after he told a state trooper not to charge her with drug delivery. The police affidavit said another woman claimed that after she performed oral sex on Higgins, he told her that her cousin could thank her for not getting arrested.

Shapiro said the state police probe into Higgins began in 2015 as a drug investigation and involved an investigative grand jury.

Prosecutors and the judge on Friday explained to the court their reasoning for accepting a plea deal. Ling said it would have taken action by the state Senate and governor to force Higgins to resign without the deal. He also said it would have paralyzed the county’s criminal justice system to have a sitting district attorney fighting criminal charges for years while receiving a state salary.

“(Higgins) did more to damage this county’s law enforcement community than any other person in the county’s history,” Ling said.