Muslim chaplain ‘smuggled’ box-cutter blades into jail

A city Department of Correction Muslim chaplain who served 14 years in prison for murder and robbery was arrested today for carrying three utility blades and a pair of scissors into a lower Manhattan jail, authorities said.

The chaplain, Zulqarnain Abdu-Shahid, had the utility blades and scissors in his duffel bag when he arrived at the Manhattan Detention Complex in the morning, according to the city Department of Investigation.

The dangerous items were found after an X-ray machine alerted correction officers to the presence of metal in the bag, the DOI said. 

Authorities did not say why Abdu-Shahid was visiting the jail, commonly known as the Tombs, or why he was carrying the scissors and the rectangular blades, which were 1-and-1/2 inches long by three-quarters of an inch wide.

Abdu-Shahid, 58, was arrested at the scene and charged with four counts of first-degree promoting prison contraband — a felony carrying a maximum 7-year prison term — and four counts of the same charge in the second degree, a misdemeanor.

The Staten Island resident, who is married with three children, was ordered held in lieu of $30,000 bail during a hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court last night, where he appeared in a long robe and navy blue skull cap.

His lawyer, James McQueeney said the blades were ‘injector razor blades from an injector razor,” and that when Abdu-Shahid told that to the correction officers who stopped him, “his explanation that he didn’t know there were there [in the duffel bag] was accepted.”

“He was allowed into the” Tombs after the blades were confiscated,” McQueeney said. “Only later were questions raised about this.”

Despite that claim, DOI Commissioner Rose Gil Hearn said, “This arrest demonstrates the serious consequences of bringing in contraband to the city’s correctional facilities.”

“Thanks to the immediate action of a DOC officer, this potentially dangerous situation was disarmed.”

Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro said Abdu-Shahid was immediately suspended.

“Additional steps up to and including dismissal will be pursued consistent with the findings of” DOI, said Schriro, whom sources added has ordered “a thorough review of his hiring.”

“I commend our officers whose diligence prevented contraband from entering the jail. They are representative of our workforce, whose commitment to excellence keeps our city safe,” Shriro said.

Abdu-Shahid was hired as a Muslim imam chaplain by the DOC three years ago tomorrow, and has a salary of $49,471 annually.

State Corrections Department records show that he entered state prison in September 1979 to begin serving a sentence of 15-years-to-life for a second-degree murder and a first-degree robbery committed in Manhattan. He was paroled in August 1993, and finished his parole in August 2001.

According to news accounts at the time, the cleric, a Brooklyn resident then known as Paul Pitts, was convicted with three other defendants in 1979 after the longest criminal trial in New York State Supreme Court history – one year, three months and three days.

Pitts and his co-defendants had held up a Harlem supermarket on Dec. 9, 1976, and during the robbery shot and killed a 30-year-old customer named Philip Crawford.

The Post also has learned that his criminal record includes an arrest for sexual assault in Queens, but that case later was dismissed.

Abdu-Shahid’s lawyer, McQueeney, said, “He’s been out of prison since the early ’90s. He’s completely reformed.”

But a city Correction source said of Abdu-Shahid’s arrest, “It’s a disgrace that taxpayers are funding Muslim chaplains who not only have criminal records, but also are promoting violence.”

Abdu-Shahid’s boss — head chaplain Umar Abdul-Jalil — himself was hired by the DOC despite having done a 14-year stint in prison for drug dealing.

Abdul-Jalil who also is a Muslim imam, last year was stripped of two weeks vacation as punishment for signing off on a plan by Tombs chaplain Rabbi Leib Glanz to allow a bar mitzvah party for the son of an inmate in that jail.

After The Post uncovered the bar mitzvah — which included catered food, a live band, and scores of non-inmate guests, Abdul-Jalil among them — the politically connected Glanz resigned as chaplain, as did Correction security chief Peter Curcio.

In addition to the party, Glanz had also routinely arranged other preferential treatment for Jewish inmates at the Tombs, including allowing them nearly unfettered use of his office and phone, and bringing them food from the outside, The Post disclosed.

A DOI probe into Glanz’s conduct has dragged on for months, with no official result.

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