PHILADELPHIA – A state agency has ordered the main fund-raising organization for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal to stop soliciting contributions in Pennsylvania until it clears up questions about its finances.
The Bureau of Charitable Organizations, part of the Pennsylvania Department of State, sent the nonprofit International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal a terse form letter listing alleged deficiencies.
The agency demanded the date the group first sought contributions from state residents and the amount received, and also asked for a financial form, an independent review or audit and a $50 late filing fee.
"... you cannot solicit contributions in Pennsylvania until all the reason(s) listed above are corrected," the letter dated July 9 said.
Group leader Pam Africa said Monday the group had given the agency everything it asked for and had offered to correct any deficiences.
"We are in compliance with everything they have asked for," Africa said. "We have told them, if you find you have a problem, we'll correct it. I've never been incorporated before; this is our first year."
Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and radio journalist, was convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. His writings and audiotaped speeches from prison have helped make him an international cause celebre.
The bureau has accused Africa's group of ignoring repeated requests to provide details about its spending and fund-raising activities over the past decade.
Africa has said, however, the group only had to reveal its finances dating to last year, when it incorporated. Before that, money was collected by a fund-raising partner, the Black United Fund of Pennsylvania Inc., which ended the relationship amid controversy.
"We don't get that much money out of Pennsylvania," Africa said. "The majority of our money comes from outside Pennsylvania."
She also said the group had never been accused of any wrongdoing with the funds raised.
"We aren't riding around in expensive cars," she said. "Every penny we make goes to the defense of this man."
Bureau director Karl Emerson said last fall that the agency would not grant the group charitable status until it can determine "how much money the group raised in violation of the law."
Africa suggested the bureau's action was related to Abu-Jamal's court hearing later this month.
"It's a diversion from what it is we are doing. I will not allow them to divert me," Africa said.
"We need funds to fight for my brother's life," she said, referring to Abu-Jamal. "They haven't slowed us down one bit."
The Aug. 17 hearing before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe will be a scheduling conference with regard to Abu-Jamal's post-conviction petition.
The petition argues that the defense has new evidence to clear Abu-Jamal, including a confession by a man named Arnold Beverly, who allegedly says the mob hired him to kill Faulkner because the 25-year-old officer had interfered with mob payoffs to police. Last month, a federal judge refused to order Beverly to testify on Abu-Jamal's behalf.
Abu-Jamal fired his longtime lawyers in May, replacing them with Eliot Grossman and Marlene Kamish, who had filed third-party briefs on his behalf. The new lawyers have petitioned to stop his federal appeals so they can challenge his conviction in state court.