Off the record rumors have been swirling around this story since the fall (as we discussed in November) but it looks like it’s about to become official. Following the conclusion of the grand jury proceedings last year in which no basis was found for charges against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown, Eric Holder stepped in and ordered an investigation to see if a civil rights case could be brought against the officer. This was the last ditch effort for those who rejected the grand jury findings (and the preponderance of the evidence) and still wanted to find a way to punish Wilson for perceived wrongdoing. But now it looks like that effort is being dropped as well.
A federal investigation has not found enough evidence to charge Darren Wilson with the federal crime of depriving Michael Brown of his civil rights, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation.
The FBI has completed its investigation into the August shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and sent the findings to the Justice Department, a law enforcement official and a separate U.S. official said Wednesday.
Justice Department prosecutors will not recommend civil rights charges against Wilson, who killed Brown, because there is not sufficient evidence to support charges, a U.S. official told CNN.
The report is quick to note that the findings will not be the final word on the subject. Eric Holder will have to make the final decision and has said that he plans to do so before leaving office this spring. If Holder were to reject the findings of his own investigation and move forward with charges anyway it would start out as something of a perceived witch hunt before the first witness was called, at least as I read the tea leaves. The bigger question, though, is if a failure to trump up some sort of trial for Wilson will lead to yet another round of violence in the streets of Missouri.
If no federal charges are brought against Wilson, who resigned from his position as a Ferguson Police officer in November, some people in the area will be disappointed, said Antonio French, a St. Louis city alderman who lives near Ferguson.
“I think you have a lot of people who will be disappointed if this does turn out to be the case. The community and the family wanted a day in court, an opportunity to see all the evidence laid out, cross-examined,” French said. “And it looks like that’s not going to happen. I hope we don’t have any violence as a result of this.”
Protests aren’t likely to stop any time soon, French said.
I don’t think we need a crystal ball to figure that one out. The protests have spread to cities around the country, and at this point they probably have little or nothing to do with Michael Brown. The protesters are fomenting anti-cop sentiments wherever the seed will take root, and the cold of winter doesn’t seem to be shutting them down significantly. There are highways being closed down and aggressive invasions of businesses which are viewed as “white spaces” in New York and San Francisco among others.
The irony of these most recent events at the federal level is likely lost on the protesters. Eric Holder was supposed to be the knight in shining armor who would overrule the inherently racist law enforcement and criminal justice system in Missouri and punish Darren Wilson, evidence be damned. This was probably the friendliest audience for the cause that the protesters could hope to find, and if even they are unable to find reason to bring him to trial, the cornerstone of the original “movement” is significantly eroded.
But that’s probably not going to change anything. As I already said, the movement has surged well beyond the convenience store robbery and few seconds of violent confrontation with a police officer on the streets of Ferguson which served as the flashpoint for all of this last August. The boiling energy which is keeping these riots and acts of (mostly) low level crime going this winter comes from something else which should be far more disturbing to us. And if we don’t find a way to effectively put a lid on it without exacerbating the street violence, we could be heading for something far more tragic.