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 -- a justice eroding reality that many prosecutors (and judges) ignore.
Curiously though, when Williams usually asserts his professed expertise on racism he is defending improprieties by police and prosecutors.
Williams, for example, has indignantly rejected 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 Adegbile, 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 reflexively backing vicious brutality by police.
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, in part, defended the former AG Office staffer who ran that flawed probe, a prosecutor who now works for Williams.
Critics of Williams contend his asserted expertise on racism evidences that he is either clueless about the parameters of racism 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 focus on four black state representatives from Philadelphia, according to news accounts. Experts cited issues of entrapment and pointedly questioned the unusual step by those operating the sting to dismiss 2,088 criminal counts against the informant that facilitated the sting arising from 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 after he ran a red light. DA Williams charged teen but not the officers.
The other 2012 incident involved Police Lt Jonathan Josey punching Aida Guzman in the face, knocking the diminutive woman down. 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 fellow officers packing Dugan's courtroom in a show of support for Josey.