Malcolm X’s Daughter ‘Set Up’ by Informant, Family and Associates Say
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The informant who will testify against Malcolm X’s daughter in an alleged plot to kill Louis Farrakhan is a ``violent racist″ who was used by the FBI to infiltrate peace groups and the militant Jewish Defense League, two former associates said Friday.
Others were also quick to denounce the government’s case against Qubilah Shabazz as a setup, including Farrakhan’s own representative.
Shabazz was charged Thursday with trying to hire a hit man to kill Farrakhan, a rival of her slain father who Malcolm X’s family has long believed had a hand in his 1965 murder.
The man who Shabazz allegedly hired to kill Farrakhan was identified in news reports as Michael Fitzpatrick, a white former classmate of the 34-year-old woman.
``He is a set-up artist, who goes from group to group setting people up,″ said Steve Dennel, a former member of the militant Jewish Defense League who went to United Nations High School in New York City with Shabazz and Fitzpatrick.
Dennel said in an interview in New York that Fitzpatrick once belonged to the JDL and was used by the FBI to investigate peace groups.
``He was always suggesting illegal things,″ Dennel said. Of Shabazz, Dennel said: ``She was set up.″
In Chicago, a spokeswoman for the fiery Nation of Islam leader suggested the nine-count federal indictment was part of a conspiracy to divide the black community.
``The question that must be raised by the black community today is whether or not in the light of our 440 years of suffering at the hands of our oppressors, we can reasonably believe that the United States Department of Justice desires to protect the life of Minister Louis Farrakhan,″ said Ava Muhammad, an attorney for the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan wasn’t at the news conference, but Ms. Muhammad said he planned to make a statement Tuesday.
Court documents on file in New York show that Fitzpatrick tipped authorities to a 1978 plot by the JDL to bomb the Egyptian Tourist Office in Manhattan.
The documents show Fitzpatrick agreed to supply the dynamite in the bombing, which failed, and secretly taped a conversation between two JDL members that eventually led to their arrest.
Fitzpatrick reportedly was placed in the federal witness protection program and lives in suburban Minneapolis under the name Michael Kevin Summers. According to court records, he and another man were charged in November 1993 with cocaine offenses in Minneapolis. Shabazz moved to Minneapolis from New York in September.
Chaim Ben Pessach, one of the two men convicted after Fitzpatrick taped their conversations about the bombing, said Fitzpatrick is a ``very violent racist.″
``He hated black people,″ said Ben Pessach, who served 21 months in prison for 11 firebombings.
``That was one thing he felt very strongly about: black people were very easy to manipulate. But he never called them black people. He used the n-word. He despised black people, loathed black people.″
Ben Pessach said Fitzpatrick cut a deal to work with the FBI after he was arrested for bombing a Soviet bookstore.
``This is the high point of his life, going around wiring himself,″ he said.
U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug refused to comment Friday on the reports about Fitzpatrick. On Thursday, he said the informant, who isn’t named in the indictment, would testify at trial.
If convicted, Shabazz faces up to 90 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines.
Authorities said the plot against Farrakhan didn’t get past the planning stages, and he was never in any immediate danger.
As a girl of 4, Shabazz watched her father being gunned down in front of a crowd of supporters in New York City in 1965. A year after Malcolm X’s slaying, three Black Muslims were convicted in the murder.
Malcolm X’s widow, Betty Shabazz, said as recently as last year that she believes Farrakhan was involved.
Betty Shabazz spoke at a tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta on Friday, but did not mention the indictment or take questions about it. On Thursday, she said she believed her daughter was set up.
A longtime family friend, the Rev. Vernon Shannon of St. Catherine AME Zion Church in New Rochelle, N.Y., said the indictment was ``out of character.″
``It is my suspicion she was framed or set up,″ Shannon said. ``If she did this on her own, I am sure it was in response to a longstanding anger within herself over the untimely death of her father. It may have been an effort to vindicate the death of her father.″
Larry McShane in New York contributed to this report.