In what can only be described as a bizarre turn of events (even for government lawyers), recent Obama appointees have overruled career Justice Department lawyers and dropped a racial voter intimidation case. Prosecutors had claimed voter intimidation and brandishing of weapons by two rouge Black Panther members at a Philadelphia polling place. The ordeal caught on video and posted on Youtube by a Republican blogger. The government had obtained a default judgment, meaning the men did not even bother showing up and defending the charges. The video apparently had the accused dead to center. They are heard yelling racial slurs and saying something about getting ready to be ruled by the black man, "cracker". A weapon is clearly visible. Several pollers and voters stated unequivocally they feared for their safety and were intimidated. An open and shut case, right?
Here is a link to a copy of the video:
Now, the Drudge Report and the Washington Times are reporting that two Obama administration appointed attorneys are behind a recent decision to drop all charges and abandon the civil prosecution (despite several internal recommendations to pursue relief and despite having already obtained a default judgement). According to the Times, Assistant Attorney General Perrelli and Wilson both checked off on dropping what other long-term lawyers have described as a slam dunk, prima facie case of voter intimidation.
A Justice Department spokesman danced his way around the decision by claiming that a review of the facts to the law showed that the case did not warrant further prosecution. This is patently absurd and insulting, IMHO. Justice further defended the decision by pointing to a temporary injunction obtained against one of the defendants, Mr. Samir Shabazz:
"The injunction prohibits Mr. Samir Shabazz from brandishing a weapon outside a polling place through Nov. 15, 2012...She (Ms. King) and other career supervisors ultimately recommended dropping the case against two of the men and the party and seeking a restraining order against the one man who wielded a nightstick at the Philadelphia polling place. Mr. Perrelli approved that plan, officials said." (Washington Times)
Apparently, King believes that seeking an injunction to prevent someone from doing something the Pennsylvania and federal criminal laws prohibit (brandishing a weapon or issuing racial threats at a voting facility) is something other than a complete waste of time and redundant. King and company would have us believe that but for this ridiculous injunction, Shabazz would be free under the law to brandish a weapon outside a polling place. And if that is the case, under the terms of the temporary injunction, Shabazz is free to show up any time after November 15, 2012 with his trusty nightstick or any other weapon in hand at any polling place.
Even the dullest among us would have to admit that does not sound right.
Simply put, the injunction is worthless and there is no rational basis to have dropped this case. Of course, the Obama Justice Department would argue otherwise, using smoke and mirrors and the "we are lawyers and you are not" line to justify dropping the case due to insufficient facts. This is nonsense, and it is not lost on many members of Congress:
"If showing a weapon, making threatening statements and wearing paramilitary uniforms in front of polling station doors does not constitute voter intimidation, at what threshold of activity would these laws be enforceable?" Further, "The administration still has failed to explain why it did not pursue an obvious case of voter intimidation. Refusal to address these concerns only confirms politicization of the issue and does not reflect well on the Justice Department," Mr. Smith said. The Obama adminstration, despite promises of openess, change and transparency last November, has stonewalled both Congressional and private attempts under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information on why this case was dropped.
And its not just conservatives in Congress who are mystified and upset by these actions. According to the Times piece:
"The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said in a June 16 letter to Justice that the decision to drop the case caused it "great confusion, since the NBPP members were "caught on video blocking access to the polls, and physically threatening and verbally harassing voters during the Nov. 4, 2008, general election. "Though it had basically won the case, the [Civil Rights Division] took the unusual move of voluntarily dismissing the charges , the letter said. "The division's public rationale would send the wrong message entirely -- that attempts at voter suppression will be tolerated and will not be vigorously prosecuted so long as the groups or individuals who engage in them fail to mount a defense."
The U.S. Commission on Human Rights also weighed in via an email sent to the Justice Department calling the decision to drop the case, "confusing" and that it sent the wrong message.
Both the Commission and the NAACP have always supported more, not less, voter intimidation prosecutions.
The New Black Panther organization, to their credit, had denounced the behavior and shut down the Philadelphia branch of that organization until further notice. So, clearly, any charges against the Black Panthers as an organization condoning this behavior were correctly abandoned. And there is nothing anywhere I have seen that would support such a charge in the first place. This has always been about the two at the polling station. Perhaps they have now seen the error in their ways. Clearly, my beef at this point is not with them, its with the Justice Department and this politically transparent decision. As one Congressman in the Times states, "it stinks".
We have clearly entered Bizarro World. A policeman arrests a black resident of a New England home for preceived unruly behavior and impeding an investigation and he is publicly called a racist by this administration for arresting a Havard professor of African studies. Meanwhile, two imposing looking black gentlemen wearing paramilitary gear, carrying weapons and yelling racial slurs and threats at a polling place while blocking the entrance have their cases dropped by the same Justice Department despite having already won by default, because "the facts are insufficient under the law".
You would expect a legal opinion like that to come from someone who got their law degree out of a Cracker Jack box, not supposedly reputable DOJ lawyers. Is there nothing these political lawyers will not say to advance the cause of their principal?
For shame...this very sad. I guess after decades of injustice, a little reverse injustice is on the agenda in America 2009. This administration is pathetic. Chalk another one up to "prosecutorial discretion."