Who pressured Justice to drop case against voter intimidation in Philly?
posted at 12:14 pm on May 29, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Michelle blogged about this yesterday, and the Washington Times reports today that the Department of Justice has taken the “unprecedented” step of dropping a case which they had already won by default judgment. Political appointees at Justice pressured career prosecutors into giving up on the case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers group in Philadelphia, who attempted to frighten voters away from the polls in the presidential election:
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.
The incident was videotaped and widely distributed on YouTube at the time:
Recall, please, that Democrats screamed about the supposed politicization at Justice during Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as Attorney General for replacing political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the President. They claimed that the replacement of nine US Attorneys was a plan by the Bush administration, supposedly through Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, to affect the outcome of investigations and prosecutions. It touched off a Constitutional fight over executive privilege that continues to this day, as the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are still conducting its “investigations” into this supposed politicization.
This looks significantly more like politicization of outcomes that anything alleged during the Bush administration, especially since the DoJ already won the case. In fact, the government had prepared arguments for penalties against the men as late as May 5th, before the political commissars under Attorney General Eric Holder ordered them to withdraw. Holder, during his confirmation hearing, had called career DoJ lawyers his “teachers” and the “backbone” of Justice. Apparently, the political leadership trumps teachers and backbone when it comes to voter intimidation on behalf of Barack Obama.
So will the same Congressional committees open an investigation into this reversal to benefit voter intimidation on behalf of the administration? Will they go after actual politicization as energetically as they did implied politicization? You can ask them yourselves:
House Judiciary Committee: 202-225-3951
Senate Judiciary Committee: 202-224-7703, 202-224-5225