A new candidate has now officially thrown his hat into the District Attorney’s race: Tariq El-Shabazz. Or as I prefer to refer to him: the “orange bearded fellow”, visible from great distances, that magnificent mane that no one can help but notice.
There’s a lot of things that bring me pause to El Shabazz as well as those who serve in law enforcement who have been talking to me about him.
He’s financially destitute. El-Shabazz owes the state and federal government loads of money in back tax liens. Mounting tax liens in the six-figure range is not a sign of great financial management and it would seem he’s closer to declaring bankruptcy than he is declaring victory in a DA’s race. He says he has it all wrapped into a payment agreement–but so far he won’t disclose any proof such an agreement exists. Considering that new liens are being attached to him; it’s highly unlikely that what he’s saying can be believed.
His most recent experience has been as a defense attorney. And it wasn’t a very successful career as one. A few lawyers that know him mutually that I have spoken with did comment positively that he’s been effective at trial. However his business acumen in keeping a defense law practice up and going? Not so much. Philadelinquency uncovered that his law practice was evicted for non-payment of rent.
These are just some of the basic things we know. Today I have something to show you that’s a lot bleaker.
A Montgomery County court docket that was sent to PDQ by courier shows that in 2009 an individual filed with a court a Protection From Abuse petition. A “PFA” is a court order barring a stalker from going anywhere near a person they are abusing. Usually they are filed due to domestic violence and for stalking cases. If the order is violated this gives local police the right to immediately incarcerate an individual as violating a PFA order is itself a crime.
In this particular protection from abuse order Tariq El-Shabazz fought to have it upended by hiring a lawyer who got the PFA reversed. While PDQ does not have copies of the actual court filings themselves, the docket seems to indicate that the PFA was indeed withdrawn.
More information has come to PDQ that also seems to cast serious doubt as to Tariq El-Shabazz as being a resident of Philadelphia. Like the case with Fred Ramirez who lives in Bristol but wants to be a state representative for North Philly, Tariq El-Shabazz has been known to live in Hatboro, PA for a number of years. The person that filed the protection of abuse order against him also lives in Willow Grove in Montgomery County.
He Probably Won’t Want To Talk About It
Like his IRS liens, I’m pretty sure El-Shabazz won’t want to talk about protection from abuse orders to the media or even to the public who are voting in the election this May. Leaving this PFA unanswered is not going to be a winning strategy.
There’s also been some vexing in the local press about there not being a black candidate running for DA after Keir Bradford-Grey declined to run for the position, even after (alleged) coaxing from the likes of billionaire Democrat-funder George Soros.
If Tariq El-Shabazz is hoping to ride into the District Attorney’s Office solely on the content of his skin alone and have identity politics carry him to the finish line that may not work.
While the voter turnout is expected to be low, this is the year where the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police matters a great deal. Many in law enforcement who live in Philadelphia from the police (well, those who haven’t moved out of the city yet), prison guards, Sheriff’s deputies and Federal court employees not to mention all the other workers who interact with the criminal justice system on a routine basis as employees—that’s thousands of people here–do turn out and vote as they do care deeply about who the next DA is. The DA’s office is something they interact with on a routine basis and have a personal interest in the outcome of the race.
Moreover, the Democratic City Committee has made it a point not to endorse any candidate, leaving ward leaders of the city who go to the expense of printing out sample ballots free to endorse whomever they want. Usually a ward leader will tip their hat to whomever is the most generous with their donations to the ward.
Another factor will be where voters vote. For instance, citywide elections matter little to areas like Fishtown, Point Breeze or Strawberry Mansion where voter turnout is traditionally low. It will matter a great deal to Northwest Philadelphia where voter turnout performance in off-season elections is much higher than average and to law enforcement who lives in those wards and up in the Northeast.
This will also be the first District Attorney’s race where Black Lives Matter could possibly be a factor in the outcome. It remains to be seen if BLM can organize anything by May to activate people to vote. Don’t count on BLM endorsing Tariq El-Shabazz though–he is best-buds with DA Seth Williams and that’s how he landed in his role as First ADA in the first place.
With the DA’s office now an anything-goes, anyone-could-be-DA situation, El-Shabazz’s entry doesn’t create any new certainties in this chaotic scramble to replace Seth Williams.
It also doesn’t help that Philadelphians aren’t going to be that good expressing what they really want from a District Attorney. It’s up to the batch of candidates running to try to stand out on their own with a vision of what law enforcement in our city should look like.
Would a pro-criminal DA that’s light on enforcement prove more popular with the public?
Perhaps a return to Lynne Abraham’s tough-cookie rule would be more palpable?
I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that. A lot of people in Philly are very passionate about what they think is wrong with the criminal justice system in Philly, and their answers on how to fix it are impossible to pin down–but they know they’re angry. I know I am as well.
Illegal gun prosecutions in Philly have dropped by more than half since Seth Williams took office and our homicide rate has been climbing.
That’s not good.