He’s been D.A. from 2010-2017. Let’s take a year-to-year look at some (and only some) of what he’s done during that time. And here it is: ”The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.”
2010 Bad & Ugly — Despite strong forensic evidence, Williams granted Sgt. Robert Ralston immunity, thereby refusing to prosecute him after he had shot himself in 2010 and lied by claiming that a “young Black man wearing cornrow braids” in West Philly did it. Can you imagine how many innocent young Black men in that area were beaten, falsely arrested, detained, and harassed by cops looking for the phantom suspect?
2011 Bad & Ugly — Most people don’t know about the so-called “reverse racism” lawsuit filed against Williams by a white female homicide prosecutor. And that’s because he quietly settled out-of-court with a $190,000 payment to her. In 2011, he had two homicide detectives remove her from the building. Her lawsuit was the result of having been fired for being “untruthful” regarding an inquiry concerning who was leaking information to a newspaper about widespread dysfunction in the D.A.’s Office. In that lawsuit, she alleged that the person who leaked the information was actually a Black male homicide prosecutor who had admitted to doing so but was not fired. She also alleged that Williams was “disciplining white employees more harshly than non-white employees…, promoting nonwhites into open positions over ‘qualified’ whites, removing ‘qualified’ whites and replacing them with nonwhites, selecting nonwhite individuals for newly created positions without posting those positions… (to give) ‘qualified’ whites an opportunity to be considered… (and) waiving job requirements for nonwhite employees but not for whites.”
The worst part of this lawsuit story is that the arrogance of white privilege in the D.A.’s Office wasn’t enough to slap some sense into Philly’s first Black D.A. He didn’t realize then that he ain’t one of them. But I’m quite sure he realizes now. Too late though.
2012 Bad & Ugly — On January 27, 2012, Mumia Abu-Jamal was transferred to general population after having spent 31 years on death row and in solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t commit. But Williams wanted him dead despite rulings in 2001 by the U.S. District Court, in 2008 by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and 2011 by the Supreme Court.
2013 Bad & Ugly — The ACLU in 2013 completed a three year report about cash and other property taken from people by the police through the D.A.’s Office in its Civil Asset Forfeiture drug program. And many- if not most- of those people had not been convicted, charged, or even arrested for drug-related crimes. The report concluded that Williams’ office takes over $1 million each year from completely innocent people and that the civil asset forfeiture drug laws are “enforced disproportionately against African-Americans.”
2014 Bad & Ugly — Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the City would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana effective October 20, 2014, which meant that citations would be issued instead of arrests being made. Jim Kenney, who was a Councilman at that time, pointed out that Black and Latino suspects accounted for 83 percent of weed possession arrests each year in Philly. As of 2017, that percentage is about the same for the issuance of citations. Why hasn’t Williams publicly (and privately) pressured the police to immediately end that racist disparity?
2015 Bad & Ugly — Williams refused in 2015 to fire three prosecutors involved in sharing racist, misogynistic, and homophobic emails on state government computers.
Also, after police shot unarmed Brandon Tate-Brown in the head in 2014, Williams in 2015 publicly announced his refusal to file criminal homicide charges. The two officers involved in the shooting claimed Tate-Brown was reaching for a gun near the center console of his car. During his public announcement, Williams claimed, “This was not the case of an unarmed man shot while running away. It’s a case of a struggle and of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown’s attempt to get his illegal gun.” But a videotape showed Tate-Brown being shot while outside his vehicle at the rear. By the way, there were 28 other shootings by cops in 2014. Four, including Tate-Brown, resulted in death. Not one resulted in any criminal charges filed by Williams.
2016 Bad & Ugly — Williams declared in 2016 that he would no longer seek sentences of life without the possibility of parole for kids and would no longer oppose reduced sentences for adults serving life for crimes committed when they where juveniles. In fact, based on recent decisions by the Supreme Court, he said, “It’s my goal to give all of these individuals some light at the end of the tunnel.” But a few weeks ago in early March 2017, he reneged on his promise, including the one pertaining to the case of a 15-year-old mentally deficient drug-addicted boy who committed a murder in 1976.
2017 Bad & Ugly — Williams still refuses, despite the unarguably powerful appearance of blatant impropriety, to resign as Philly’s chief elected law enforcement official even though he’s been indicted and arraigned as well as after having agreed in January to pay $62,000 in fines — the largest in city Ethics Board history — for failing to disclose sources of income and gifts.
This article is entitled “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.” And I know you didn’t see any “Good” stuff. But I tried to find some. I did it by going to the D.A.’s official website, by reading local newspapers, by speaking with some prosecutors, by checking his Wikipedia page, and even by Googling him. I should have been able to find a long list of the good things that the first Black D.A. in Philly’s history did for Blacks regarding prosecution of brutal cops, termination of stop and frisk, abolition of the current inequitable bail system, and rehabilitation instead of retribution. But I couldn’t. Because there is none.