The issue of politicians’ friendships with felons is popping up again in Philadelphia’s mayoral race. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Republican candidate Sam Katz, who has criticized Mayor John Street’s embrace of a felon, has maintained a friendship with Michael Youngblood, a former drug dealer and onetime City Council aide convicted of extorting money meant for the construction of a homeless shelter.
Katz said of Youngblood: “He’s not an adviser to the campaign. He’s not paid by the campaign. He calls me. He’s been a friend. “And I didn’t go testify on his behalf; I just didn’t abandon him. He was punished and spent time in jail.”
Katz has criticized Street for appearing with convicted drug dealer Edward “Joe Joe” Terrell, who had drug charges pending against him while he was saying that he had turned his life around by opening up a T-shirt shop. Katz mentioned Street’s hug of Terrell in television ads.
For his part, Street that Youngblood was calling and meeting with the Katz campaign. “You know, it is a free country and everybody has rights, but this is a person that’s got a bad problem,” Street said. “He is a very negative and destructive force. I have never seen him involved in anything that sooner or later hasn’t come crashing down. Everything he touches somehow manages to turn into a mess.”
Known as a founder of the Junior Black Mafia, Youngblood was in and out of jail while leading a life as a drug dealer who turned FBI informant.