FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Philly DA Expresses Dubious Expertise on Prejudice

by LINN WASHINGTON, Jr.

Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Rufus Seth Williams, the first African-American in Pennsylvania to hold a powerful top prosecutor post, persistently projects himself as an expert on racism.

Commendably Williams has acknowledged the corrosive impact of racism within the criminal justice system.

Curiously though, when Williams usually asserts his professed expertise on racism he is defending improprieties by police and prosecutors.

Williams, for example, indignantly rejects all allegations of race-related improprieties in the controversial conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal, arguably the most racism-stained murder case in the 300-plus-year history of Philadelphia.

Earlier this year Williams participated in the ‘political lynching’ of an Obama Administration nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. During that assault on nominee Debo Adegible, a former NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer, DA Williams allied himself with Philadelphia’s police union, an organization with a sordid record of supporting racism within police department ranks and vicious brutality by police officers.

Recently, Williams attacked Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, blasting the fellow Democrat for her comments about racism.

Williams castigated Kane’s contention that racial profiling helped taint a political corruption probe she cancelled. “I am offended,” Williams wrote in a caustic commentary published in the Philadelphia Inquirer assailing Kane’s accusations that racism played a role in that legally flawed probe. “I have seen racism. I know what it looks like. This isn’t it,” Williams declared in that commentary where he defended the former AG Office staffer who ran that flawed probe, a prosecutor who now works for Williams.

Critics of Williams contend his posturing on racism evidences he is clueless about the parameters of racism and/or he callously utilizes is position as a black District Attorney to provide cover for racism.

“Clueless or callous…I don’t know what is worse,” Philadelphia attorney Michael Coard said. Once an avid supporter of Williams, Coard turned adamant opponent due to Williams’ perverse practices on police brutality, the death penalty and other injustices.

“We expected a new day when Williams was elected but what we’ve gotten is the same old night of abuses,” Coard said, referencing the campaign slogan Williams used when he successfully ran for DA in 2009 – “A New Day, A New DA.”

That corruption probe at the core of Williams’ attacks on AG Kane was flagged as flawed by the Pa AG’s Office plus county and federal prosecutors before Kane took office in January 2013. Various law enforcement officials who reviewed that corruption sting found flaws in its operation including its exclusive focus on four black state representatives from Philadelphia, according to news accounts. Experts cited issues of entrapment and questioned the unusual step by those operating the sting to dismiss 2,088 criminal counts against the informant that facilitated the sting for that informant’s role in a $400,000 fraud involving government funds.

“Why does Williams blame Kane for not prosecuting when he is not prosecuting for police brutality?” attorney Coard said, listing a series of police abuse cases that Williams fumbled or failed to prosecute.

Williams blasted AG Kane for not prosecuting those caught in the sting citing audio recordings of those legislators taking payoffs. But Williams, Coard noted, has failed to prosecute police abuses captured on video. Two of the cases listed by Coard involved 2012 incidents captured on video – a teen violently pummeled by police and a police lieutenant who bashed a woman.

One of those 2012 incidents involved five policemen battering 18-year-old Marcus Warryington for running a red light. Williams charged teen but not the officers. The other 2012 incident involved Police Lt Jonathan Josey punching Aida Guzman, knocking Guzman down at a Puerto Rican Day parade. Coard faulted Williams for filing a simple assault charge against Josey when the video evidence warranted a more serious aggravated assault charge. Further, Coard faulted Williams for failing to seek recusal of the judge assigned to the Josey case since that jurist was married to a policewoman. Judge Patrick Dugan acquitted Josey, after a trial where his wife joined other officers packing Dugan’s courtroom supporting Josey.

A favored tactic of DA Williams to assail his opponents is writing commentaries in newspapers, like he did against AG Kane over that corruption probe. Williams utilized that commentary tactic in 2012 to defend a death penalty conviction tainted by prosecutorial misconduct 24-years before Williams took office. A Philadelphia prosecutor had withheld evidence that the murder victim had repeatedly raped the then teen defendant. Compounding the misconduct during that 1986 murder trial, prosecutors working for Williams committed misconduct by falsely telling the Pa Board of Pardons in 2012 that the DA’s Office did not make any plea deals during that ’86 trial.

“I can rarely remember an instance where a district attorney fought so willfully for so long for the right to do an injustice,” Andrew Cohen, of “The Atlantic,” wrote in 2012 article about Williams’ efforts to execute that sexually abused killer. The death sentence of that inmate was converted to life in prison due to the prosecutorial misconduct.

And, earlier this year, Williams seized on commentary writing to assail Debo Adegbile. Williams co-authored an attack article with Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, a Tea Party Republican, in the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal. That co-authored commentary bashed Adegbile as a “man with impressive credentials but an unconscionable record in the Abu-Jamal case.” The commentary advanced a guilt by association argument against Adegbile.

The NAACP-LDF did provide late-stage representation in Abu-Jamal’s federal appeals but Adegbile was only remotely involved in the LDF’s attack on prosecutorial misconduct in the Abu-Jamal case. The LDF’s appeal centered on racially discriminatory jury selection practices employed by the Philadelphia prosecutor at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial. That Williams/Toomey commentary harpooned the LDF for “actively [fanning] the racial firestorm” initiated by Abu-Jamal to falsely paint him “as the unjustly accused victim of a racist conspiracy.”

Does Seth Williams, the proclaimed expert on racism, really have little knowledge about the racist history of Philadelphia’s police union that spearheaded the assault on Adegbile? In 1968, one year after Williams’ birth, Philly’s police union ejected a black member because that retired police commander merely criticized police brutality. Also, in 1968, Philly’s police union endorsed the presidential candidacy of proud racist and former Alabama Governor, George Wallace.

When Wallace made an October 1968 campaign stop in Philadelphia, local police made Wallace feel “right at home” when police “wrestled and manhandled black and white protestors” outside the campaign venue, according to a contemporaneous news account. One protestor brutally attacked by Philadelphia police at that Wallace rally was a 14-year-old Mumia Abu-Jamal whose “face was a mass of bruises” days later when in court for false charges of assaulting police.

That Williams/Toomey article against Adegbile stated Abu-Jamal immediately “confessed” to killing Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner in December 1981. But that confession – consistently denied by Abu-Jamal – was not reported by two policemen until two months after Abu-Jamal’s arrest. Suspiciously, those two officers suddenly remembered hearing that confession when questioned during a police investigation into a complaint Abu-Jamal filed claiming police beat him during his arrest and while he was in a hospital emergency room, critically wounded by a gunshot from Faulkner.

“Seth Williams says he knows racism,” attorney Michael Coard said. “Yeah, he knows racism. It looks just like him: a black face on white racism.

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail