America

Former DOJ Attorney Charges Racial Motive In Justice Department Decision

In The Wall Street Journal last week, conservative columnist John Fund wrote about J. Christian Adams, "a former career Justice Department official who resigned over the Obama administration's failure to pursue a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party."

He says the administration used a racial double standard in deciding last year to drop the prosecution of the New Black Panther Party after members were videotaped in front of a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008 dressed in military-style uniforms, brandishing a billy club and using racial slurs against voters.

A Republican poll watcher — affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania — filmed the two men, King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, standing outside an apartment building:

YouTube

The video went viral.

Adams pursued a civil case against the two men, alleging they were guilty of federal voter intimidation laws, which include protections against attempts to intimidate.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) pursued, narrowed, then dropped the case.

In an interview with NPR's Michel Martin, Adams said he decided to resign because the DOJ demonstrated "an unwillingness to enforce the law in a race-neutral fashion."

I think all of us can agree that equal enforcement of the law is a priority. It doesn't matter who doesn't do it, we all want the law to be enforced equally.

The DOJ has said that it "makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity, of any party involved."

We're committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of both the civil and criminal provisions of the federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation, and we continue to work with voters, communities, and local law enforcement to ensure that every American can vote free from intimidation, coercion and threats.

With regard to the specific case, the DOJ said it "sought and obtained an injunction against the individual who brought a nightstick to the polling place on election day."

This was the only defendant known to have brought a weapon to the Philadelphia polling place during the election. After a thorough review, the top career attorney in the Civil Rights Division determined that the facts and the law did not support pursuing claims against the other defendants in the case, and a federal judge determined that the relief requested by the department was appropriate.

Adams told Martin that the federal judge made no rulings, that the injunction was greatly reduced, and both men were complicit in voter intimidation.

According to NPR's Carrie Johnson, "over the past 20 years or so, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has been very fraught territory."

Every time there is a changeover in presidential administration, one of the perks of that job is to set the priorities for the Civil Rights division at Justice.

She points out that, to date, no voters have complained that the two men had intimidated them, and Abigail Thernstrom, vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is still dominated by people appointed by President Bush, has called the case against the two men "small potatoes."

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