Clueless or Callous?: Philly's DA Professes 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...
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