💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.
A board member of the Philadelphia Police Foundation resigned today after two Philadelphia teens went public with allegations he made unwanted sexual advances toward them and provided them with alcohol. The board member, Sean Edwards, denied the allegations and said he voluntarily stepped down to avoid distractions for the foundation.
Carson Williams, 19, and Lilah Johnson, 18, told Billy Penn they met Edwards at a Center City bar early Thursday morning, The teens said Edwards introduced himself as president of Rittenhouse Communication Group, and boasted about connections with powerful elected officials.
They then followed him back to his office nearby, where, the teens said, Edwards offered them alcohol and cocaine and tried to coerce them into having sex. The two believe the alcohol Edwards gave them may have contained drugs, and said that after leaving, they contacted the FBI.
“He made it seem like he was on the good side of public policy, it made us think that he was safe,” Williams said, referencing photos Edwards allegedly showed the teens of himself with President Joe Biden. The teens said Edwards also told them he was friends with Mayor Jim Kenney.
“Throughout the entire time, [Edwards] just kept alluding to this power that he had in a way that we could interpret it as, ‘If you mess up, you will die,’” Williams said.
Later on Thursday, Williams and Johnson contacted the FBI, and said they were told law enforcement had enough information to start an investigation, which a spokesperson from the Federal Bureau of Investigation would neither confirm nor deny. The teens also published accounts of their experience on TikTok and in a change.org petition.
After reporters began asking for comment on Friday, Edwards and the Philadelphia Police Foundation parted ways.
“The Philadelphia Police Foundation was recently made aware of allegations against a board member, Sean Edwards,” executive director Eric Cushing said via email Friday afternoon. “After speaking with Mr. Edwards, we mutually agreed for him to resign from the Philadelphia Police Foundation Board, effective immediately.”
Late Friday afternoon, a spokesperson from Rittenhouse Communications Group provided a statement from Edwards, and indicated it was the only comment he would make about the incident.
“Sean Edwards voluntarily resigned from his position on the Philadelphia Police Foundation Board so that the inaccurate and defamatory allegations against him do not distract from the important work of the organization,” the emailed statement said. “Sean wholeheartedly denies striking or attempting to drug either of these individuals.”
According to LinkedIn, Edwards has led Rittenhouse Communications Group for the past 11 years. The firm provides integrated technology services, like network setup and IP surveillance. His online profile also shows him as active in the technology entrepreneurial space for more than a decade, after studying business and marketing at Penn State University.
Edwards was appointed in 2018 to the board of the Philadelphia Police Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money to support the Philadelphia Police Department. Over the past three years, the Philadelphia Police Foundation raised more than $2 million for the department, to put toward equipment, training, and other initiatives, according to the organization’s website. In 2019, the PPF provided Philly police with $514,500 in grants, according to an Inquirer report. After Edwards resigned from the board today, his biography was removed from the PPF website.
Williams, who said he recently graduated high school, and Johnson, who studies psychology at Temple University, said they encountered Edwards at 1518 Bar & Grill in Center City early Thursday morning. After learning Edwards had connections to local and national politics, the two teens decided to talk with him. As time went on, the teens allegedly moved with Edwards and his friend from the bar to the Rittenhouse Communications Group office suite at 1420 Walnut St.
The teens said they went back to the office after Edwards’ friend, who said his name was Keith, assured the teens it was safe. After arriving at the office, Edwards allegedly offered the teens wine, which they said they felt pressured to drink.
“That’s when he started to get sexual with us,” Williams said, alleging that Edwards expressed trouble in his sex life with his wife.
“I believe he said, ‘He wants to get a good f- in.’ Then he started to make uncomfortable contact with us, and he just continuously went a little bit further into what he wants to do and how he wants to have sex with us,” Williams said.
Edwards also offered Johnson cocaine, she said, which she declined. At some point, the friend left the office. Williams also claims Edwards slapped him when he saw the teen taking a photo of him.
The teens said they were able to leave the situation by convincing Edwards to let them use the bathroom. Once they left the building around 4 a.m. Thursday, they made multiple 911 calls.
Williams and Johnson said the operators who answered their emergency call said they could not do anything unless they were requesting an ambulance. The two teens said they then went home and later contacted the FBI. They also posted on social media, where one video has garnered more than 230,000 views.
“I put it on TikTok because I wanted to see if people believed us,” Williams said, “and if anyone would reach out with any advice.”