Justice Dept clears Justice Dept in NBPP case

posted at 8:48 am on March 31, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

The Department of Justice wants Americans to know that there was nothing strange or unusual about its office asking to dismiss a case of voter intimidation it had already won.  The DoJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility says there’s no reason at all to suspect that politics had anything to do with abandoning the default conviction against two defendants in a Philadelphia incident where New Black Panther Party activists were actually caught on video intimidating voters:

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has concluded an investigation finding that politics played no role in the handling of the New Black Panther Party case, which sparked a racially charged political fight.

After reviewing thousands of pages of internal e-mails and notes and conducting 44 interviews with department staff members, the OPR reported that “department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment” and that the voter-intimidation case against the Panthers was dismissed on “a good faith assessment of the law” and “not influenced by the race of the defendants.”

The OPR’s findings were released in a letter Tuesday to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) that was signed by department attorney Robin Ashton.

Whew!  I’m glad that the DoJ got to the bottom of the allegations against the DoJ.  This must be how transparency works, right?  After all, the “good-faith assessment of the law” must have been of such good faith that it overrode a judgment that had already been entered by the court against the defendants, who didn’t even bother to show up to argue their case in court. And a “good-faith assessment” of this video certainly doesn’t lead to the conclusion that a reasonable person would have concluded that someone wearing paramilitary gear and brandishing a nightstick while challenging people approaching a polling place was committing voter intimidation … right?

So let’s recap.  The DoJ had this video and several witnesses to testify to the actions of the two defendants in a case of voter intimidation.  The case was strong enough that the defendants didn’t bother to challenge it, and a judge entered a verdict of guilty.  Somehow, after the default judgment, the DoJ decided to ask for a dismissal despite the video and the testimony … and now says it’s all in a day’s work?

Er … riiiiiiiiight.

The US Civil Rights Commission came to a much different conclusion last year, and the DoJ’s Inspector General is still probing the case.  Perhaps Congress will want to take a closer look, too.

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