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Sheriff, chief question Shaheen’s recent vote on controversial Obama nominee

Senior Political Reporter

March 11. 2014 4:56PM

CONCORD – Two New Hampshire law enforcement officials are still smarting over Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s vote last week in favor of confirming controversial attorney Debo Adegbile to head the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard and South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards said Tuesday they were surprised by Shaheen’s vote because, they said, she has been a supporter of the law enforcement community.

Shaheen was in the minority when the nomination was defeated, as seven other Democrats joined Republicans in blocking President Obama’s nomination of Adegbile. As a private attorney, he defended an appeal filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Shaheen said immediately after the vote that Adegbile was “qualified,” and on Tuesday she said the constitution guarantees every defendant the right to legal representation and that the nominee should not have been disqualified for “participation in this essential part of our judicial system and democracy.”

Hilliard said that although he is a Republican and Shaheen is a Democrat, “I have a great deal of respect for Senator Shaheen, but I respectfully disagree with that vote and was alarmed that she supported it. I’m more upset that our President of the United States would bring to the table such a controversial person.

Hilliard said he emailed Shaheen’s office before the vote to ask her to oppose the confirmation, but has not heard from the senator or her office since.

Shaheen, Hilliard noted, has been a supporter of the death penalty in New Hampshire. In 2000, as governor, she vetoed a repeal bill. Another repeal bill is scheduled for a vote by the New Hampshire House of Representatives Wednesday.

“She was with us in 1997 when we buried three police officers killed in the line of duty,” Hilliard recalled. “But this was a bad nomination and a bad vote by Senator Shaheen. I’ll have a personal conversation about it with her at some point.”

Edwards said, “One thing we can do as a community is hold people accountable when they take the lives of police officers.”

Abu-Jamal “had a right to a defense,” he said, and Adegbile “has a right to defend him. But that doesn’t mean that after defending such a person, you now have a privilege to a high public position.

Edwards, who has been the police chief in South Hampton since retiring last summer after many years heading the State Liquor Commission’s enforcement division, said the senators who voted for Adegbile’s confirmation “should speak to law enforcement personnel in their states and explain why they voted as they did, and that includes Senator Shaheen.

“I have received no notice that she has reached out to the law enforcement community to explain.

“My understanding is that Senator Shaheen has been supportive of law enforcement and that’s why this vote is particularly troubling,” Edwards said.

Responding to comments by Hilliard and Edwards, Shaheen’s spokesman released a statement on her behalf.

“I’ve walked arm in arm with the families of fallen law enforcement in New Hampshire,” she said, “so I appreciate the emotions this brings up, but the right to legal representation, even for detestable defendants, is enshrined in our constitution. I don’t believe a President’s nominee should be disqualified based on their participation in this essential part of our judicial system and democracy.”

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