USA TODAY hailed President Obama’s nominee to head up the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Debo Adegbile, who testified before the Senate this morning, as an “ex-Sesame Street actor.” The story portrayed the Agedbile nomination this way:
Not every child actor grows up to be a high-ranking Justice Department official, but Debo P. Adegbile has a chance to do just that.
Adegbile, who appeared on Sesame Street during the 1970s, has been nominated to be the new assistant attorney general for civil rights; President Obama submitted the nomination to the Senate on Monday.
But Adegbile has another claim to fame that is far more relevant than having been child actor to running a key office of the DOJ: his untiring advocacy on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted cop killer whose cause famously was taken up by the far left. Nobody was more tireless for Mumia ab-Jamal than Adegbile.
A former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. A jury unanimously found Abu-Jamal guilty. Faulkner had stopped the brother of Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Smith) at an intersection. Of the killing, John Fund recalled at the time of Adegbile’s nomination to head the civil rights office:
The question of Abu-Jamal’s guilt is not a close call. Two hospital workers testified that Abu-Jamal confessed to them: “I shot the motherf***er, and I hope the motherf***er dies.” His brother, William, has never testified to his brother’s innocence even though he was at the scene of the crime. Abu-Jamal himself chose not to testify in his own defense.
Abu-Jamal was originally sentenced to death, but the sentence was reduced to life in prison thanks in part to help from Adegbile, who was litigation head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. Under Adegbile, the LDF became more radical than in the past. More recently, it sought to make background checks by prospective employers illegal.
In a letter to President Obama, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, called the nomination of Adegbile “a thumb in the eye of our nation's law enforcement.” The letter is worth quoting at some length:
As world of this nomination spreads through the law enforcement community, reactions range from anger to incredulity. Under this nominee's leadership, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People volunteered their services to represent Wesley Cook, better known to the world as Mumia Abu-Jamal — our country's most notorious cop-killer. There is no disputing that Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered by this thug. His just sentence – death – was undone by your nominee and others like him who turned the justice system on its head with unfounded and unproven allegations of racism," FOP National President Chuck Canterbury wrote in the letter. "We are aware of the tried and true shield behind which activists of Adegbile's ilk are wont to hide – that everyone is entitled to a defense; but surely you would agree that a defense should not be based on falsely disparaging and savaging the good name and reputation of a lifeless police officer. Certainly any legal scholar can see the injustice and absence of ethics in this cynical race-baiting approach to our legal system." …
This nomination can be interpreted in only one way; it is a thumb in the eye of our nation's law enforcement. It demonstrates a total lack of regard or empathy for those who strive to keep you and everyone else in our nation safe in your home and neighborhoods — sometimes giving their lives in the effort. …
Standing up and fighting against racism wherever and whenever you find it is a brave and admirable endeavor; sometimes standing up against racism entails opposing and exposing cynical opportunism disguised in the name of justice. …It is our hope, that in the future, you and your Administration will consider candidates with records of fairness and respect to all Americans when selecting nominees for leadership positions at the Justice Department or anywhere else in your administration.
The Supreme Court last year voted not to uphold important parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Adegbile argued for upholding the entire Voting Rights Act, a position that requires a belief that the U.S. is a racist nation that has changed little on racial matters since the 1960s. That is what Adegbile argued.
The Civil Rights Division of DOJ is in charge of enforcing voting rights laws. The outgoing head is Thomas Perez, a man who shares Adegbile’s philosophy. Under Perez, the office has repeatedly overreached, unsuccessfully challenging South Carolina’s voter ID law. It has also done strange things, such as holding up the release of a new Kindle because a button was not in Braille.
If Adegbile is confirmed, as seems likely, the winner may well be Abu-Jamal. Katie Pavlich writes:
After the Supreme Court threw out the Beard v. Abu-Jamal case in 2010, a petition was circulated calling for President Obama and Attorney General Holder to investigate the “long history of civil rights and constitutional violations" in Abu-Jamal's case.
If Adegbile is confirmed, it is likely he will open up an investigation into the Abu-Jamal case, despite multiple court rulings over the past three decades upholding his murder conviction.
This might have been a chance for President Obama to make a less in-your-face choice and bring the nation together.
Instead, we will likely get another key figure at the DOJ who regards the United States as a bad, racist nation.