Few have ever heard the name Debo Adegbile. He’s President Obama’s nominee to head the civil-rights division of the Justice Department.
A few months ago, his nomination would have been a non-starter — there is more than a whiff of radicalism in his past. But we are in a new world. Senator Harry Reid is now absolute monarch of the Senate. Republicans are largely irrelevant. They cannot offer amendments to legislation. They cannot filibuster. I suppose they can write letters to the editor, and march outside the chamber wearing sandwich boards.
Before the Reid invocation of the “nuclear option” eliminating the filibuster, Adegbile would have been considered too controversial. But now, the administration can have its way on nominations.
It was Adegbile’s role in the case of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal that incurred the wrath of Justice Department employees, though. The union representing FBI agents, which rarely expresses itself on nominations, along with the Fraternal Order of Police and other law-enforcement groups, have written to Attorney General Eric Holder to protest Adegbile’s nomination. Carl Rowan Jr., a former deputy U.S. marshal, FBI special agent, and chief of police, wrote: “He isn’t the first questionable nomination made by a president who . . . seems drawn to those with radical backgrounds, but this one is an open slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement.”
Mumia Abu Jamal has long been a poster boy for the radical Left in America. His fine speaking voice (he had been a radio host), long dreadlocks, Muslim moniker (he was born Wesley Cook), radical memberships (in the Black Panthers and MOVE), and admiration of Mao Tse-tung made him irresistible to the Ed Asners, Jonathan Kozols, National Lawyers Guilds, Michael Moores, and NPRs of the world. But until this administration, most mainstream liberals would have steered clear.
Adegbile revealed a great deal about himself by choosing to have the NAACP LDEF join the campaign to defend Mumia Abu Jamal. There are many miscarriages of justice that cry out for redress, but Abu Jamal’s 1981 conviction for killing 25-year-old Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner is one of the most litigated in American jurisprudence. The verdict was reviewed or allowed to stand by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court, among others, over the course of more than 30 years.
On December 9, 1981, at about 4 a.m., Officer Faulkner pulled over a driver named William Cook (Abu Jamal’s brother) for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Cook threw a punch at Faulkner, who then hit Cook with his flashlight. At that point, four eyewitnesses said that Abu Jamal, who had been across the street, fired at Faulkner hitting him in the back. Though wounded, Faulkner fired back at Abu Jamal, hitting him in the chest, before falling onto his back. Abu Jamal approached the wounded officer and, holding his gun 18 inches in front of his face, fired the shots that killed him.
Ballistics confirmed that the bullets that killed Faulkner were from Abu Jamal’s gun, found with him at the scene.
Abu Jamal was sentenced to death, but decades of litigation and agitation on his behalf delayed the sentence. He has claimed ineffective assistance of counsel (though at one point he represented himself), racism by the judge, racism in jury selection — the usual gamut. In 2011, prosecutors announced that they would no longer pursue the death penalty.
Every defendant deserves a defense, of course. But Abu Jamal has had a celebrity lineup of lefty lawyers. That Adegbile wanted to join their ranks is a sign of his sympathies. That President Obama believes Adegbile can get confirmed by the neutered Senate is a sign of the times.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2014 Creators Syndicate, Inc.