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Administration accused of voter intimidation cover-up
Posted By Drew Zahn On 08/01/2009 @ 12:40 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
New Black Panther Party members outside polling place on Election Day
Six months after the election, voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party in Pennsylvania were dismissed by the Department of Justice, and this week, some lawmakers are demanding the administration answer why.
As WND reported, the government filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in January, alleging that NBPP members Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson stood outside a Philadelphia polling place in uniform, with Shabazz brandishing a nightstick-like weapon. Reports from the scene also say the pair issued racial threats and insults, and a GOP election monitor said he called police after being told that the men were there to make sure a “black” wins.
Furthermore, the government lawsuit alleged the NBPP – a black extremist party whose leaders are notorious for their racist statements and anti-white activism – actually urged similar behavior nationwide with a notice that more than 300 members would be deployed at polling places.
Four months after the complaint was filed, however, even after the government had won a default judgment against the NBPP since the group neither responded to the lawsuit nor appeared in court, the attorneys who brought the charges were told by their superiors to seek a delay in the case.
Following the delay, the Washington Times reports, two Obama political appointees recommended the case be dropped. The charges were then dismissed and the default judgment discarded, though Shabazz was slapped with an injunction prohibiting him from displaying a weapon at a polling place until 2012.
Four days later, Jackson was named an official election poll watcher for the Democratic primary in Philadelphia’s municipal election.
Yesterday, however, the story took on new life when two House Republicans reasserted their demands that that civil charges against the New Black Panther Party be restored and that the congressmen be allowed to interview career attorneys who disagreed with the administration’s decision to dismiss the case.
According to an editorial in the Times, the Justice Department has been “caught” covering up voter intimidation.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., renewed his demand the case be reopened after obtaining a report from the Congressional Research Service yesterday affirming that doing so would not constitute a violation of the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause. Wolf is calling for U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to refile the charges.
“In all fairness, [Holder] has a duty to protect those seeking to vote,” Wolf told the Washington Times, “and I remain deeply troubled by this questionable dismissal of an important voter-intimidation case in Philadelphia.”
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, of Texas, made a bolder statement, claiming the administration may have intentionally kept Congress in the dark to cover a political motivation behind dismissing the case against the Panther organization.
Smith claims he has been demanding for months to know whether political appointees were involved in the dismissed complaint, but he received no answer until the notion was backed this week by a Times news article affirming his suspicions.
“Time and again, I have sought information from the Justice Department regarding the sudden dismissal of a case against members of the New Black Panther Party involving voter intimidation on Election Day 2008,” Mr. Smith told the newspaper. “Time and again, the Justice Department has claimed there was no wrongful political interference in the dismissal of the case, which resulted in the president’s political allies getting a free pass.
“Now, according to news reports, it appears the Justice Department’s political appointees did in fact play a role in the dismissal of this case,” he said.
Smith was referring to a Times article from earlier this week that reported the original order to delay the charges was handed down by Loretta King, a career official who had nonetheless been granted a political appointment by President Obama in January to temporarily fill the position of assistant attorney general for civil rights.
Furthermore, the Times reported, King had discussed the case with a high-ranking political appointee, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, who also approved the decision to dismiss the complaint.
Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told the newspaper that the department is obligated to ensure its claims are supported by the facts and the law and that a review of the NBPP complaint by “the top career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division” found that they did not.
Rep. Smith, bolstered by the Times reporting from this week, is seeking to discover whether there has actually been a review by “top career attorneys,” or whether political appointees have instead granted the Obama administration a favor by allowing a group known to support the president off the hook.
According to the newspaper, “None of the front-line lawyers has been made available for comment, and the department has yet to provide any records sought by The Times under a Freedom of Information Act request filed in May seeking documents detailing the decision process.”
Video of the NBPP members standing outside a polling place in uniform, with Shabazz brandishing his nightstick-like club, was captured by a student on Election Day and can be seen below:
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