Friday, December 01, 2006

Will A Mumia Supporter Become Philadelphia's Next Mayor?

Fattah draws FOP wrath over Abu-Jamal issue Mayoral hopeful backs trial for convicted cop- killer

CATHERINE 215-854-4172

Even though convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal has been behind bars some 25 years, he has long served as a lightning rod in the world of Philadelphia politics.

And it looks like the upcoming mayor's race will be no exception.

The Fraternal Order of Police is already preparing for battle with mayoral candidate U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who has publicly said that Abu-Jamal deserves a new trial.

"For that reason alone, we will not endorse this gentleman under any circumstances," said FOP President Bobby Eddis. "I would go as far as to say we will work against his campaign."

Eddis said the FOP was also upset because Fattah did not support a resolution in the U.S. House earlier this year condemning the French town of Saint-Denis for naming a street after Abu-Jamal. Eddis said Fattah told him he wouldn't back the legislation because it was introduced by a Republican - U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick.

Eddis has posted a letter on the FOP Web site, telling his more than 14,000 members not to support Fattah.

"I will write a letter to every union president in the city explaining the significance of this," he said.

Fattah made a statement through a spokesman yesterday.

"I fully respect and understand the position of the FOP," he said. "As a congressman or as a future mayor, I will continue to work hand in hand with the FOP."

He added, "Sometimes standing up for constitutional rights is unpopular. But I swore an oath to uphold constitutional rights and it's my duty to do that even when it's unpopular."

Abu-Jamal was convicted in the Dec. 9, 1981 shooting death of police officer Daniel Faulkner. He was sentenced to death in 1982.

In 2001, a judge overturned the death sentence but not the conviction. Both sides are appealing.
Mayor Street has landed in hot water several times over Abu-Jamal - who gained international fame and support during his time on death row.

In 1997, as City Council President, Street was criticized for setting up a briefing for Abu-Jamal supporters.

And he came under fire last year when a City Hall visit by French politicians concluded with a pro-Abu-Jamal rally. The politicians were also given Liberty Bell replicas.

Looking forward to the mayor's race, how do the other candidates feel about Abu-Jamal?

• State Rep. Dwight Evans - who has not declared a mayoral run - told the FOP he does not support the renaming of the French street. As for the trial, his spokesman Tim Spreitzer said: "Dwight believes that it is best for the courts to continue to decide this case. He respects the judicial process and believes that this is a matter best left to that process."

• Union boss John Dougherty didn't mince words.
"I thought the decision was the right decision then and it's the right decision now," said Dougherty, who has not declared his candidacy. "I thought he should die 25 years ago, and I think he should die now."

He added: "It's a disgrace France named a street after him. It is totally disrespectful to the fine officers of Philadelphia."

• Businessman Tom Knox - who declared yesterday - said through a spokesman that he opposed the street in France and that the legal case should work itself out in the courts.

• Former Councilman Michael Nutter supported a resolution in Council that condemned the French street naming.

On a trial, he said "First, the mayor of Philadelphia has nothing to do with whether anybody gets a new trial. I think the issue of whether Mr. Abu-Jamal gets a new trial is solely within his determination, whether he tells the truth or presents new evidence."

• Former Controller Jonathan Saidel - who has not yet declared - attended a dinner honoring Faulkner in 1999, with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, District Attorney Lynne Abraham and then-Police Commissioner John Timoney.

Saidel spokesman Dan Fee said of the trial issue, "Jon believes that we have gone through this for long enough and he agrees with Ed Rendell that the evidence is clear." Saidel also opposes the naming of the French street.

• U.S. Rep. Bob Brady did not return calls for comment.


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