Former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham is not fit to serve as interim DA because she is a “menace to society” for allegedly saying that 85 percent of the city’s crime is committed by blacks and for unfairly attacking a black judge’s judicial temperament, which helped derail that jurist’s nomination to the federal bench, the leader of the NAACP Philadelphia Branch said Sunday.
“This is a public appeal to Lynne Abraham to withdraw her application from consideration to serve as an interim district attorney, and we will be making an appeal to this 88-member board of judges to reject her application and remove her from consideration completely,” Minister Rodney Muhammad said during fiery remarks at the NAACP’s new headquarters on Germantown Avenue.
Abraham, who was the city’s first and only female district attorney, from 1991 to 2010, is one of 14 candidates who applied by Friday’s deadline to complete the last 5½ months of the unexpired term of former DA Seth Williams, who resigned in disgrace and has been jailed since pleading guilty in a federal corruption case last month.
Attempts to reach Abraham through her home and cell phones were not successful.
The Board of Judges, composed of 88 Common Pleas Court judges, is scheduled to hear presentations Wednesday from the 14 candidates. The board will then vote on Thursday, with the candidate securing a majority of the votes being declared the winner.
Despite the brevity of the interim post, Muhammad said, Abraham should not be allowed to serve, given her rocky track record with the city’s black community, which accounts for about 46 percent of the total population. “Six months is enough time for Lynne Abraham to really do some damage. We don’t want her in there 24 hours,” he said.
Muhammad downplayed Abraham’s pledge to serve for free, forgoing the $77,700 salary. “It will cost us. Believe me, it won’t be for free. Somebody’s going to pay a price.”
Muhammad cited Abraham’s opposition to “judges who have tried to be impartial,” including Common Pleas Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1997 to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Massiah-Jackson would have been the first black woman from Philadelphia to serve on the federal bench, Muhammad said, but withdrew her nomination in 1998 after heavy opposition from Abraham.
Massiah-Jackson’s nomination also was opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, and conservative commentators, who, like Abraham, accused the judge of being soft on crime and hard on law enforcement agencies.
Massiah-Jackson, 66, is now the chairwoman of the three-judge panel appointed by the Common Pleas Court’s president judge to review the interim district attorney applications and make recommendations to the full Board of Judges.
“She’s not good for the City of Philadelphia,” Muhammad said of Abraham, bristling at his memory of her allegedly saying that 85 percent of the city’s crime is committed by blacks. He could not recall, however, when she allegedly said that.
“By her believing that 85 percent of the crime is caused by black people, she’s been a menace to society for us,” he said. “I don’t have the exact date, but she definitely said it. She confirmed it when asked and questioned. It was made public when she was district attorney.”
According to online news accounts, the incident occurred in 1996. After a reporter told Abraham that 85 percent of the inmates in city jails are black, and then asked her whether she believed that blacks committed 85 percent of the crime, she reportedly responded: “Yes. I do. I really do.”
Said Muhammad: “She was successful at stopping what she wanted to stop. We hope to be successful at derailing her.”
The 13 other candidates for interim DA are: Joe Khan, Kathleen Martin, John Delaney, Benjamin Lerner, William Manfredi, Paul Panepinto, D. Webster Keogh, Kelley Hodge, Robert A. Rovner, Curtis Douglas, Arlen Fisk, James Berardinelli, and Leon Williams.