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July 06, 2016

Sources: Top-ranking, career prosecutor pushed from post in Philadelphia D.A.'s office

Curtis Douglas oversaw office’s most sensitive cases, such as municipal corruption and police misconduct

A top-ranking career prosecutor, Philadelphia’s deputy district attorney of investigations, Curtis Douglas, resigned last week under pressure from District Attorney Seth Williams, who had hired him away from the feds six years ago.

Douglas’ job had included overseeing the office’s most sensitive cases, such as municipal corruption and police misconduct investigations, insurance and government fraud, economic crimes, and also a gun violence task force.

Sources said one ostensible reason for Douglas' departure – the office is calling it a retirement, even though he is in his late 50s – was that he is not a city resident. Douglas had lived outside the city – in Springfield, Delaware County – when Williams hired him away from his post with U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Sources also say Douglas was seen as too independent.

Asked to comment on the firing of Douglas, Cameron L. Kline, a spokesman for Williams, issued a prepared statement.

Curtis Douglas "has chosen to retire after many years of service with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. We wish him the best of luck on his retirement," the statement said.

The effective date of the retirement is Thursday, Kline said. Douglas's voicemail at the district attorney's office still has his outgoing message and includes no mention of his leaving. He earned $167,000 last year in the position.

The official statement does not address what led to Douglas' departure. Kline said a replacement is being sought.

Douglas, who did not respond to requests for comment, was a federal attorney for a decade.

Before that, he worked a prior stint in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office for eight years. He began his law enforcement career as a U.S. Treasury agent, a post he’d held for a decade.

When Douglas was hired by Williams to return to the city's district attorney's office, the office issued a glowing press release summarizing his career accomplishments.

“His investigations and prosecutions were so successful that he has the distinction of being mentioned by name in the lyrics of a well-known Philadelphia rapper," said the release.

“He recently completed a year as the Integrity/Accountability Officer for the City of Philadelphia where he investigated allegations of corruption and developed policies and procedures to detect and prevent corruption in the Police, Prisons, and Fire Departments.”

Douglas’ departure follows by a month the resignation of Frank Fina, chief of the Special Investigations Unit in the Office.

Fina, and prosecutors E. Marc Costanzo and Patrick Blessington came to the district attorney's office from the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Kane, who is under indictment for allegedly leaking grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News and is not seeking re-election, believes Fina leaked the details of a case Kane had declined to pursue to the Philadelphia Inquirer in order to embarrass her.

Her alleged leak was meant as retaliation against Fina, whose left the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in early June for private practice.

Fina, Blessington and Costanzo , who all had issues with Kane, had come to Williams’ office just as the so-called Porngate scandal broke. 

Fina is alleged to have sent offensive images using state email accounts. Fina, Blessington and Costanzo each allegedly received offensive images through state email accounts. The images were discovered as an adjunct to a review of the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case under the watch of then-attorney general Tom Corbett.

Williams resisted calls to fire the three prosecutors, saying the exchange of porn was not a part of his office’s culture. But under pressure, all three men were eventually shifted away from supervisory positions and required to undergo sensitivity training in November 2015.

Blessington and Costanzo remain as rank-and-file prosecutors.

Blessington had at one time overseen the office’s Special Investigations Unit – the public corruption and police misconduct unit – where he reported directly to Douglas.