Cop killer tie derails Obama nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Senate Republicans with the help of eight Democrats blocked the appointment of Debo Adegbile who once worked on the defense team that represented Mumia Abu-Jamal who murdered Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.
Obama’s nomination provoked sharp criticism from law enforcement organizations, prosecutors and Faulkner’s widow who claim that with the help of Obama nominee Debo Adedbile, the legal defense team was successful in convincing the courts to commute the death sentence of a cop killer like Abu-Jamal to life imprisonment.
White House officials believed that the nomination would succeed as they were assured by a vote count by top Senate Democrat leaders. Obama aides were “furious” at the Democratic senators that voted against Adelgbile according to a senior White House official.
Obama nominee Debo Patrick Adegbile who graduated New York University of Law in 1994 was the first born son to a Nigerian father and immigrant Irish mother. Adegbile spent most of career serving in a variety of positions with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In 2008 Mr. Adegbile made his first appearance before the United States Supreme Court arguing in support of the Voting Rights Act. After 12 years with the NAACP Mr. Adegbile joined the United States Committee on the Judiciary as senior legal counsel.
On a dark and dreary night in December 1981 police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed during a traffic stop of Abu-Jamal’s younger brother. Shots were fired and Abu-Jamal was wounded and officer Faulkner lie dead. Philadelphia police arrived at the scene to find the murder weapon right beside Abu-Jamal who was still wearing a shoulder harness for the gun. Abu-Jamal was charged with first degree murder.
According to the website FreeMumia.com Abu-Jamal is a former member of the Black Panther Party and supporter of Philadelphia’s radical MOVE organization. The MOVE organization gained infamy through a 1978 shootout with Philadelphia police that resulted in the death of one police officer and the 1985 confrontation with police that culminated in the dropping of a bomb on their West Philadelphia compound by the Pennsylvania State Police that resulted in the deaths of eleven people. The website claims Abu-Jamal has support for a new trial by heads of state around the world. It also claims the support of the late Nelson Mandela. Abu-Jamal also is supported by noted celebrities Ed Asner, Mike Farrell and Martin Sheen.
Obama’s support of the nomination of Debo Adegbile did not sit well with two democrats who face elections in Arkansas and Montana where President Obama’s approval rating are especially low. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Walsh of Montana joined with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware in casting votes against the Obama nominee. Many Philadelphia police officers live in Delaware and would have difficulty in supporting and politician who would support a nominee who provided legal counsel to a cop killer. There was no surprise that both Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey voted against the nomination.
Facing challenges in the Ukraine and Syria and on domestic issues back home the last thing Obama needed was to have his pick for head of the Civil Rights Division derailed by his nominee’s ties to a cop killer.
By John J. Poltonowicz