Whitewashing the Panthers
posted at 6:38 pm on December 29, 2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh
The attempt to stonewall investigation into the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party — the case was dismissed by Attorney General Eric Holder (the first black attorney general!, a fact the NBPP seems to find of great significance) and Barack H. Obama (the first black President!, ditto) even after the Justice Department won it by default — has just taken another stupifying turn: The administration booted Christopher Coates, the voting-rights section chief who signed off on the complaint against the Black Panthers, out of the prestigious D.C. office and down to South Carolina:
The veteran Justice Department voting rights section chief who recommended going forward on a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party after they disrupted a Pennsylvania polling place in last year’s elections has been removed from his post and transferred to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina.
Justice Department officials confirmed Monday that Christopher Coates, who signed off on the complaint’s filing in federal court in Philadelphia in January accusing the party and three of its members of civil rights violations, would begin his new assignment next month.
I suppose there could be an innocent explanation; I understand Coates graduated from the University of North Carolina… mayhap he was just pining for the Carolinas and reckoned either one of ’em would do. But coming at the end of such a timeline of scandal, it’s a bit thick:
- December 22nd, 2008: Career Justice Department officials decide to proceed against the Panthers for their intimidation of white voters and Republican poll watchers in Philadelphia during the November presidential election.
January 7th, 2009: Christopher Coates signs off on a civil complaint against the NBPP and three members alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965:
“The complaint, filed in the United States District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that, during the election, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were deployed at the entrance to a Philadelphia polling location wearing the uniform of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and that Samir Shabazz repeatedly brandished a police-style baton weapon.”
(The third member named was Malik Zulu Shabazz, Chairman of the NBPP.)
Career prosecutors at Justice pursued the case vigorously, but the Panthers failed to participate, show up, or even respond; they simply ignored the proceedings against them.
April 7th, 2009: Prosecutors obtained an affidavit from Bartle Bull, “longtime civil rights activist and former aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign,” who stated that he personally “saw the three uniformed Panthers confront and intimidate voters with a nightstick.”
Mr. Bull said the “clear purpose” of what the Panthers were doing was to “intimidate voters with whom they did not agree.” He also said he overheard one of the men tell a white poll watcher: “You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.”
But this affidavit was never filed with the court; no explanation why not has ever forthcome.
- April 20th, 2009: The court issued a default judgment against the NBPP.
May 15th, 2009: The Department of Justice filed a “notice of voluntary dismissal,” notwithstanding the default judgment against the Panthers:
Court records reviewed by The Times show that career Justice lawyers were seeking a default judgment and penalties against the three men as recently as May 5, before abruptly ending their pursuit 10 days later.
People directly familiar with the case, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution, said career lawyers in two separate Justice offices had recommended proceeding to default judgment before political superiors overruled them.
The “political superiors” would presumably be Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli (a political appointee and big-time fundraiser for Obama during his campaign — number three at Justice); acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Loretta King; and, one presumes, Attorney General Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. himself.
New Black Panther Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were dismissed from the case altogether; while Justice sought an injunction against Samir Shabazz that he “not display a ‘weapon within 100 feet of any open polling location on any election day in the city of Philadelphia’ — until November 15th, 2012, when the injunction expires. After that date, he is evidently free to resume his armed vigil outside Philly polling places… as he is free to do immediately anywhere outside the City of Brotherly Love.
June 16th, 2009: The United States Commission on Civil Rights sent a letter to the DoJ demanding to know why the case was dismissed after it had already been won:
“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 respond to the charges leveled against them.”
The CCR began an investigation of the case and its voluntary dismissal by Perrelli and King, as well as others, such as the number two at Justice, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. The Commission has the authority to issue subpoenas with which, by law, all federal agencies must comply:
The commission, by law, has explicit power to issue subpoenas, and the law mandates that “all federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the commission.”
It eventually subpoenaed two career DoJ attorneys, Christopher Coates and J. Christian Adams, to come before the commission and testify about the NBPP case. There are some indications that Deputy Attorney General Ogden was also subpoenaed, but I cannot say for sure.
December 2nd, 2009: Notwithstanding the law, the Justice Department ordered Coates and Adams not to comply with their subpoenas, neither to testify nor appear before the Commission on Civil Rights. The Department of Justice insisted that their own “internal regulations” dating from 1951 trump the more recent federal law.
On this same day, Ogden announced his resignation after less than a year on the job.
December 29th, 2009: And now today, the Washington Times — which seems to be the go-to paper on this alleged violation of the rather important principle of the unbiased rule of law — reports that Coates has just been ousted from the D.C. headquarters and reassigned to South Carolina.
Sure is a nice career you got going, kid; sure would be a shame if anything was to happen to it…
Two conclusions spring to mind:
First, the administration of Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder seems single-mindedly obsessed with crushing the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, preventing any outside investigation into said crushing, and punishing those who participated (under the previous administration) in bringing the case in the first place… those who naively believed that the point of the Voting Rights Act was to protect the voting rights of all the people, not just black liberals.
And second, I would recommend to J. Christian Adams that he get his resume in order… just in case.
I think we can find the key to unlock this mystery in the accusation leveled by New Black Panther Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, from today’s Washington Times story:
Party members have not returned numerous telephone messages and e-mails for comment, but told the Associated Press earlier this month in Dallas that the Justice Department was correct in dismissing the complaint. Malik Shabazz described the complaint as a “political witch hunt” aimed at discrediting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. — the first black man to be named to the post.
I believe the order to kill the case came directly from Holder, if not from Obama himself, for several reasons:
- General sympathy with the leftist, blacktivist cause (perhaps absorbed by the president during his two decades in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ);
- Fear that Obama’s victory (hence Holder’s appointment) would be tainted by the whiff of scandal;
- And bitter, relentless, reflexive hatred of George W. Bush from Texas and everyone associated with him, leading to the automatic imputation of vile motives for every policy he enacted… including even his support for the civil-rights acts of the 1960s. If Bush pushed the case, then it must be for some disreputable, white “cracker” racist reason.
Howbeit, since they quashed the case (it seemed like a good idea at the time), Obama and especially Holder are locked into a policy of stonewalling: They’re increasingly worried about the unanticipated consequences of such a blatantly partisan action, particularly after the Left kicked up such a fuss about the putative “politicization” of the Justice Department under President Bush. Thus they have no choice but to implement ever more draconian actions to keep the lid on the mounting scandal.
But Panthergate has become an out of control boiler; as the heat rises, so does the pressure. Eventually it will blow skywards, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Perhaps Christopher Coates will come to feel grateful for his exile to South Carolina, where he is less likely to be scalded by the superheated steam.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…