Judicial Watch • Civil Rights Comm. Hears About Black Panther Case

Civil Rights Comm. Hears About Black Panther Case

Civil Rights Comm. Hears About Black Panther Case

JULY 07, 2010

 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) whistleblower who resigned over the “corrupt nature of the dismissal” of the New Black Panther case testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this week.

At the hearing in the commission’s Washington D.C. headquarters, J. Christian Adams accused the DOJ of racial bias for dropping charges against the New Black Panther Party. An attorney on the case, Adams testified that within the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division there is a pervasive and open hostility towards equal enforcement of the law. So insidious is this attitude that, according to Adams, even a minority DOJ employee was harassed by DOJ Voting Section staff for working on a case with white victims.

To support his allegations regarding the culture of the Civil Rights Division, Adams cited numerous second and firsthand accounts. Notably, he stated that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes told him personally that the division is “in the business of traditional civil rights work.” In other words; it will only pursue cases with minority victims.

His testimony before the commission focused on the Black Panther case in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008. Members of the New Black Panthers – clad in paramilitary outfits and brandishing a club – intimidated voters as well as poll watchers. The individuals verbally threatened citizens, hurling profanities and racial epitaphs. Using the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department brought a voter-intimidation case against the group. Despite receiving a default judgment after the defendants in the case ignored the charges, the Justice Department dropped the case in May 2009.

Adams testified that the Obama Administration used a political appointee to scrutinize former Voting Section Chief Christopher Coates. When that political appointee delivered the order to dismiss the Black Panther case, he admitted that he had not even read the memos in support of proceeding with it. Additionally, Adams mentioned that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) lobbied in March 2009 to have the case dismissed.

During the Hearing, Adams refused to answer several questions concerning specifics on the DOJ’s handling of the case, citing fears that he would be revealing deliberative information. However, Adams confirmed that political appointees – not career attorneys – made the decision to dismiss the case.

Despite the Obama Administration’s stonewalling, the hearing reinforces that the New Black Panther Party story is not going away. The lack of transparency in this case forced Judicial Watch to sue the Justice Department. In May, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the DOJ, after the Justice Department determined that “access to the majority of the records” responsive to the request should be denied.

 

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