No federal civil rights charges expected against Darren Wilson

Earlier this week we found out that sources close to the proceedings in Ferguson believe that there won’t be any state level murder charges forthcoming against Darren Wilson stemming from the shooting of Michael Brown this summer. Now the Washington Post is claiming that an anonymous source familiar with proceedings at the Justice Department don’t see much hope for a federal level civil rights case against the officer either.

Justice Department investigators have all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement officials said…

“The evidence at this point does not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson,” said one person briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Justice Department officials are loath to acknowledge publicly that their case cannot now meet the high legal threshold for a successful civil rights prosecution. The timing is sensitive: Tensions are high in greater St. Louis as people await the results of a grand jury’s review of the case.

Justice sent out a spokesperson almost immediately to claim that the report was irresponsible and was based on idle speculation. But at the same time, they didn’t claim that they had a case either, or that one would be forthcoming. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with saying that the grand jury work is still ongoing and refusing to confirm anything. But at the same time, if their source is accurate this shouldn’t come as all that much of a surprise.

Getting a case moving for this type of civil rights violation is a steep climb to begin with. Everyone thought there was going to be such a case against George Zimmerman (including your truly) and two years later that’s pretty much withered on the vine. In the case of an on duty police officer in Wilson’s position it’s even more of a challenge. They would need to demonstrate that Wilson intentionally sought to deprive Brown of his civil rights based on his race. Assuming that the grand jury has been informed of various aspects of the events of that day, it almost certainly looks like a random encounter with two guys walking in the middle of the street which rapidly escalated out of control, possibly including information coming in relating to the strong arm robbery which had taken place minutes before.

Much like the leaked reports about the state level case, we still can’t rule out the possibility that these things are being leaked out in a slow drip to mitigate public unrest if it turns out that there will be no charges of any kind. I don’t know how effective that strategy would prove, though. The ongoing, simmering anger on the streets of Ferguson suggest that there will be an eruption of some sort in that event.