Black Panthers case: A travesty of justice, says former DOJ chief
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
President Barack Obama’s handpicked U.S. Justice Department officials are ignoring civil rights cases in which the alleged victims are whites and they abandoned a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party that resulted in a “travesty of justice.”
Christopher Coates, former voting chief for the department’s Civil Rights Division, testified at a hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, after outcries from citizens’ groups and public-interest organization over the Justice Department’s stonewalling a full investigation.
Coates alleges that DOJ officials, for political reasons, dismissed intimidation charges against New Black Panther members who were videotaped outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008 dressed in military-style uniforms — one was brandishing a nightstick — and allegedly hurling racial slurs.
However, the Justice Department reportedly prevented him from testifying and subsequently transferred him to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina.
Now in light of developments, Mr. Coates has informed the Commission that he will indeed appear at the hearing and read a statement, after which he will be available for Commissioners’ questions. It is anticipated he will provide testimony on Friday about the New Black Panther Party litigation and the equal enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws by the Department.
The case involved members of the New Black Panther Party wearing paramilitary uniforms who positioned themselves at the entrance to a Philadelphia polling place during the 2008 election, one of them brandishing a night stick. Despite the entry of a default in its favor, the Department subsequently dismissed charges against all but one of the defendants and reduced the injunctive relief the Department had originally sought.
Democratic election lawyer Sam Hirsch was involved in the DOJ decision to dismiss its voting rights case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, according to FOIA documents.
The records, described in a Vaughn index produced pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that no political leadership was involved in the decision Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (http://www.judicialwatch.org/judicial-watch-v-u-s-department-justice-1).
The â€œVaughn indexâ€ describes documents responsive to the lawsuit currently being withheld in their entirety by the Justice Department. The index details a series of emails between Assistant Deputy Attorney General Steve Rosenbaum and Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch, who was described by Slate magazine as a â€œDC election lawyer who represents a lot of Democratsâ€ prior to joining the Justice Department, according to the public-interest group known for its investigation of public corruption.
The index describes eight email exchanges between Rosenbaum and Hirsch, taking place on April 30, 2009, the day before the Justice Department reversed course and declined to pursue much of the Black Panther case. Listed among the email correspondence:
An â€œEmail Chain with Attachmentsâ€ from Rosenbaum to Hirsch dated April 30, 2009: The email chain includes â€œâ€¦a detailed response and analysis of the proposed draft filings in NBPP (New Black Panther Party) litigationâ€¦The response includes a candid assessment of legal research and raises questions about the case law and proposed reliefâ€¦.This document also contains attorney discussion, opinions, and analyses of the draft documents and case law.â€
The records disclosed to Judicial Watch seemingly contradict testimony by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on May 14, 2010. The Commission, an independent, bipartisan unit of the federal government charged with investigating and reporting on civil rights issues, initiated a probe of the Justice Departmentâ€™s decision to drop its lawsuit. During the hearing, Perez was asked directly regarding the involvement of political leaders in the decision to dismiss the Black Panther case.
COMMISSIONER KIRSANOW: Was there any political leadership involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case any further than it was?
ASST. ATTY. GEN. PEREZ: No. The decisions were made by Loretta King in consultation with Steve Rosenbaum, who is the Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General.
Perez also suggested that the dispute was merely â€œa case of career people disagreeing with career people.â€
The Justice Department originally filed its lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party following an incident that took place outside of a Philadelphia polling station on November 4, 2008. A video of the incident, showing a member of the New Black Panther Party brandishing police-style baton weapon, was widely distributed on the Internet.
According to multiple witnesses, members of the New Black Panthers blocked access to polling stations, harassed voters and hurled racial epithets. Nonetheless, the Justice Department ultimately overruled the recommendations of its own staff and dismissed the majority of its charges.
The Department of Justice whistleblower who resigned over the â€œcorrupt nature of the dismissalâ€ of the New Black Panther case testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this week. Unfortunately, except for Glenn Beck and a few others, the nation’s newsrooms ignored the story.
At the hearing in the commissionâ€™s Washington D.C. headquarters, J. Christian Adams accused the DOJ of racial bias for dropping charges against the New Black Panther Party. An attorney on the case, Adams testified that within the DOJâ€™s Civil Rights Division there is a pervasive and open hostility towards equal enforcement of the law. So insidious is this attitude that, according to Adams, even a minority DOJ employee was harassed by DOJ Voting Section staff for working on a case with white victims.
To support his allegations regarding the culture of the Civil Rights Division, Adams cited numerous second and firsthand accounts. Notably, he stated that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes told him personally that the division is â€œin the business of traditional civil rights work.
â€œThese documents show the Obama Justice Departmentâ€™s decision to drop the Black Panther case was certainly political and potentially corrupt,â€ said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
â€œThe Black Panther decision is a scandal for the Obama administration and it merits serious attention by investigators. Assistant Attorney General Perez seems to have been less than candid in his sworn testimony when he said no political appointees were involved in the decision. This scandal has just gotten a whole lot worse for the Obama Justice Department,â€ Fitton said.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc.
To subscribe to Kouri’s newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write “Subscription” on the subject line.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.