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EXCLUSIVE: No. 3 at Justice OK’d Panther reversal
The memo, sent to Mrs. Becker, was signed by Christopher Coates, chief of the Voting Section; Robert Popper, deputy chief of the section; J. Christian Adams, trial attorney and lead lawyer in the case; and Spencer R. Fisher, law clerk. None of the four has made themselves available for comment.
Members of Congress continue to ask questions about the case.
“If showing a weapon, making threatening statements and wearing paramilitary uniforms in front of polling station doors does not constitute voter intimidation, at what threshold of activity would these laws be enforceable?” Mr. Wolf asked.
Mr. Smith also complained that a July 13 response by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to concerns the congressman had about the Philadelphia incident did not alleviate his concerns.
“The administration still has failed to explain why it did not pursue an obvious case of voter intimidation. Refusal to address these concerns only confirms politicization of the issue and does not reflect well on the Justice Department,” Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Smith asked the department’s Office on Inspector General to investigate the matter, and the request was referred to the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
Lawmakers aren’t alone in the concerns.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said in a June 16 letter to Justice that the decision to drop the case caused it “great confusion,” since the NBPP members were “caught on video blocking access to the polls, and physically threatening and verbally harassing voters during the Nov. 4, 2008, general election.”
“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 dispute over the case and the reversal of career line attorneys highlights sensitivities that have remained inside the department since Bush administration political appointees ignored or reversed their career counterparts on some issues and some U.S. attorneys were fired for what Congress concluded were political reasons.
Mr. Weich, in his letter to the congressman, sought to dispel any notion that politics was involved. He argued that the department dropped charges against three of the four defendants “because the facts and the law did not support pursuing” them. He said the decision was made after a “careful and through review of the matter ” by Ms. King. He said:
• While the NBPP made statements and posted notice that more than 300 of its members would be deployed at polling places throughout the United States during the Nov. 4 elections, the statement and posting did not say any of them would display a weapon or otherwise break the law.
• While the complaint charged that the NBPP and Mr. Zulu Shabazz endorsed the activities at the polling places, the evidence was “equivocal” since both later disavowed what happened in Philadelphia and suspended that city’s chapter after the incident.
• The charges against Mr. Jackson were dropped because police who responded to the polling place ordered Mr. Samir Shabazz to leave but allowed Mr. Jackson to stay. He also noted that the department approved “appropriately tailored injunctive relief” against Mr. Samir Shabazz for his use of the nightstick.
The injunction prohibits Mr. Samir Shabazz from brandishing a weapon outside a polling place through Nov. 15, 2012, and Ms. Schmaler said the department “will fully enforce the terms of that injunction.”
About the Author
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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