Embattled Biden Judicial Nominee Adeel Mangi Served on Legal Aid Society Board as It Defended Notorious Cop Killers

Adeel Mangi (Graeme Sloan/Wikimedia Commons)
April 9, 2024

The Legal Aid Society says members of its board of directors "provide crucial guidance that strengthens" the organization’s work. When President Joe Biden's embattled judicial nominee Adeel Mangi served on the board, that work included defending some of New York’s most notorious cop killers.

Mangi, the nominee for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, served on the Legal Aid Society of New York’s board from December 2016 until November 2021, according to tax filings. During that period, the "social justice law firm" represented a Black Liberation Army duo who assassinated a pair of New York City police officers in 1971, securing parole for one and keeping the other from having his parole reversed.

The cop killers’ parole was opposed by the New York City police department and former mayor Bill de Blasio (D.), who said the duo had murdered the officers "for no other reason than the uniforms on their backs and the shields on their chests."

Revelations about the Legal Aid Society’s work come as Mangi already faces headwinds to his nomination over links to another group with an affinity for domestic terrorists and cop killers. Mangi serves on the advisory board of the Alliance of Families for Justice, which in 2021 hailed a group of black nationalists who murdered police officers as "freedom fighters." Kathy Boudin, who served 23 years in prison for murdering two New York state patrolmen, was a founding director of the alliance.

Lawyers for the Legal Aid Society represented Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, former members of the Black Liberation Army who assassinated New York City police officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones in May 1971 after luring them with a fake 911 call to a housing project in Harlem. Bell and Muntaqim murdered San Francisco police sergeant John Young inside a patrol station in August 1971.

The Legal Aid Society secured parole for Muntaqim, also known as Anthony Bottom, in 2020, claiming he was being "left to die" in prison because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the Legal Aid Society represented Bell against an appeal from Piagentini’s widow, Diane Piagentini, who sued to reverse his parole the previous year.

Piagentini, who has spoken out in favor of police in the decades since her husband's murder, said Mangi "doesn't belong on the Court of Appeals due to his affiliations."

"He's not going to be for law and order," she told the Washington Free Beacon.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said Mangi’s position with the Legal Aid Society should also disqualify him from consideration.

"His nomination to be a federal judge is an insult to every brave law enforcement officer in the country. If the White House had any sense of decency, it would pull back this nomination," Cruz told the Free Beacon.

The White House and outside liberal groups have mounted a pressure campaign to salvage Mangi’s nomination, accusing Republicans of opposing Mangi because he is Muslim. Mangi, who would be the first Muslim to serve on a federal appeals court, has claimed ignorance about the activities of the groups on whose boards he’s served. He has claimed to oppose terrorism, support police, and abhor cop killers. But he has not addressed any of the specific offenders to which his groups have been linked.

It is unclear what Mangi knew of the controversial Legal Aid Society clients when he served on the board. Mangi, who has donated between $2,000 and $10,000 to the Legal Aid Society, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Legal Aid Society did not respond to a request for comment.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates defended Mangi and the Legal Aid Society, which he called a "nonpartisan organization funded by a wide range of high-profile companies." He said former president Donald Trump nominated judicial candidates who directly represented cop killers. "This double standard speaks to how weak the smears again Mr. Mangi, who is endorsed by nearly a dozen law enforcement organizations, really are," Bates said.

The Legal Aid Society, founded in 1876, represents indigent clients and has won accolades for representing others wrongfully imprisoned. But its work has also led it to represent some of New York City’s most violent killers.

That’s the case with Bell and Muntaqim, whose murders still reverberate in New York City nearly 50 years later. The killings were part of a cross-country crime spree where the Black Liberation Army used bank robberies, bombings, and police assassinations to advance their revolutionary cause.

In May 1971, Bell and Muntaqim made a fake 911 call to lure police officers to a Harlem housing project. According to the New York City police department, Muntaqim shot Jones in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Piagentini’s death was "cruelly prolonged," the department said. Bell shot Piagentini more than a dozen times, during which time the officer pleaded for his life. Muntaqim "finished off Piagentini," according to police. The officer’s dying words were of his daughters, ages 1 and 3.

Bell and Muntaqim continued their domestic terrorism spree. In August 1971, they were part of a group of Black Liberation Army members who attacked a police station in San Francisco. The terrorists attacked a nearly empty police station after officers left to respond to a call about a bomb threat. Inside the station, Bell and Muntaqim fired shotguns repeatedly into the station, killing Sgt. John V. Young. They pleaded guilty in the case in 2007 while in jail in New York for the murders of Piagentini and Jones.

In 2020, Legal Aid Society lawyers representing Muntaqim in his parole hearings complained that he was "being left to die" from coronavirus. He was released from jail in October 2020, after 11 previous parole denials. In 2019, the Legal Aid Society defended Bell in a lawsuit brought by Piagentini’s widow, Diane, who sued the state over Bell’s parole. The group said that Mrs. Piagentini’s "private wishes" regarding Bell’s parole were overridden by the "public interest" in having him released from prison.

The Legal Aid Society represented other cop killers during Mangi’s tenure on the board.

In 2020, Legal Aid Society called for the release of Christopher Ransom, who was in jail awaiting trial for the murder of New York City detective Brian Simonsen. Simonsen was killed by friendly fire after officers shot at Ransom when he brandished a fake gun during an armed robbery. The Legal Aid Society said Ransom should be released from jail until trial because of the heightened risk from coronavirus. After Ransom pleaded guilty in November 2021, his Legal Aid Society lawyers portrayed him as a victim, claiming Ransom suffered "immense physical and emotional pain … as a result of injuries sustained in the NYPD's friendly fire shootout."

The Legal Aid Society has represented Bruce Lorick, who murdered New York City police officer Joseph Keegan in 1980 after he was stopped for jumping a turnstile in the New York City subway. The organization submitted documents in favor of Lorick’s parole, according to court records. He was released in 2021 but has since been arrested on charges of cocaine possession, shoplifting, and strangulation. The Legal Aid Society sued on behalf of Lorick in December to have him released from Rikers Island, claiming the cop killer was "unlawfully detained."