A former Justice Department attorney who quit his job to protest the Obama administration’s handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case is accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of dropping the charges for political reasons.
J. Christian Adams, now an attorney in Virginia and a conservative blogger, also accuses Deputy Attorney General Thomas Perez of lying under oath to Congress about the circumstances surrounding the decision to drop the probe.
The Justice Department has defended its move to drop the case, saying it obtained an injunction against one member to keep him away from polling stations while dismissing charges against the others “based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law.”
But Adams says politics was at play in the dismissal.
“Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law,” he wrote in an opinion article published last week in The Washington Times.
“Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers,” he wrote. “The dismissal raises serious questions about the department’s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler dismissed Adams’ accusations as a “good faith disagreement” with ulterior motives.
“It is not uncommon for attorneys within the department to have good faith disagreements about the appropriate course of action in a particular case, although it is regrettable when a former department attorney distorts the facts and makes baseless allegations to promote his or her agenda,” she said in a written statement.
In the final days of the Bush administration, three Black Panthers — Minister King Samir Shabazz, Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson — were charged in a civil complaint with violating the Voter Rights Act in November 2008 by using coercion, threats and intimidation at a Philadelphia polling station — with Shabazz brandishing what prosecutors called a deadly weapon.
The Obama administration won the civil case in federal court in April 2009 but moved to dismiss the charges in May 2009. Justice attorneys said a criminal complaint, which resulted in the injunction, proceeded successfully.
The department “is committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of both the civil and criminal provisions of federal law that prohibit voter intimidation. We continue to work with voters, communities, and local law enforcement to ensure that every American can vote free from intimidation, coercion or threats,” Schmaler said Wednesday.
But the Justice Department’s explanation has failed to appease the United States Commission on Civil Rights, which is probing the department’s decision, or Republican lawmakers who say the dismissal could lead to an escalation of voter intimidation.
The commission held a hearing in April in which Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who has led the charge for answers from the Justice Department, was among those testifying. The Justice Department did not provide witnesses at that hearing. Instead, Perez provided the commission with written remarks in May.
“At a minimum, without sufficient proof that New Black Panther Party or Malik Zulu Shabazz directed or controlled unlawful activities at the polls, or made speeches directed to immediately inciting or producing lawless action on Election Day, any attempt to bring suit against those parties based merely upon their alleged ‘approval’ or ‘endorsement’ of Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jackson’s activities would have likely failed,” he said in the statement.
The commission has repeatedly sought information from the Justice Department, going as far as filing subpoenas. Schmaler said the department has provided 2,000 pages of information in response.
But Adams says the department ordered the attorneys “to ignore the subpoena, lawlessly placing us in an unacceptably legal limbo.”
Adams also says that after the dismissal, Justice Department attorneys were instructed not to bring any more cases against racial minorities under the Voting Section.
Adams called the New Black Panther case “the simplest and most obvious violation of federal law I saw in my Justice Department career.”
But his allegations go beyond the Justice Department. He wrote that the dismissal is a symptom of the Obama administration’s reverse racism and “creeping lawlessness.”
“Citizens would be shocked to learn about the open and pervasive hostility within the Justice Department to bringing civil rights cases against nonwhite defendants on behalf of white victims,” he wrote in the Times article. “Equal enforcement of justice is not a priority of this administration. Open contempt is voiced for these types of cases.”