Senate hopeful John Fetterman appointed a self-described "friend" of cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to serve on the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, placing a supporter of the former Black Panther at an office Fetterman has called his "bully pulpit for criminal justice reform."
Fetterman in January tapped Celeste Trusty to serve as secretary of the board, which Fetterman oversees as Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. Trusty, who served as Fetterman’s campaign political director, is a longtime prison reform activist who has called to "disarm the police." She is also an avowed supporter of Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Trusty referred to Abu-Jamal as a "friend" and "my buddy," and has said she frequently corresponds with him. Abu-Jamal’s case has become a cause celebre for left-wing activists who want him released from prison for what they claim is a wrongful conviction.
Fetterman has put his Board of Pardons tenure front-and-center in his campaign against Republican Mehmet Oz, bragging that he "transformed" the lieutenant governor position by leading "the fight to free the wrongfully convicted and give second chances to deserving longtime inmates." But Fetterman has also faced scrutiny for his board record. He voted to free numerous murderers, often over the wishes of families of victims. He was the only member of the five-person board to vote last year to pardon Wayne Covington, who was convicted of first-degree murder after killing a man to steal money to buy heroin. Covington struck a plea deal in his case in order to avoid the death penalty, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Fetterman, who has said his main reason for running for lieutenant governor was to oversee the Board of Pardons, has worked closely with Trusty over the years. Both have pushed for an end to mandatory life sentences for people convicted of second-degree murder. They took part in a "Power of a Pardon" event last year, when Trusty served on Fetterman’s campaign. Trusty worked on the campaign from March 2021 until January 2022, according to Federal Election Commission records.
While Trusty does not vote on individual pardon applications, she oversees the board’s daily operations, moderates its hearings and advises board members. Fetterman’s office has declined the Free Beacon’s requests for video or transcripts of board hearings.
It is unclear whether Fetterman shares Trusty’s views of Abu-Jamal, who had his death penalty sentence overturned in 2011. Fetterman’s campaign and the lieutenant governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.