The department’s Voting Rights Section was in the final stages of seeking the judgments when Loretta King, who was serving as acting assistant attorney general, ordered a delay.
The delay came after she met with Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the department’s No. 3 political appointee, who approved the dismissal, according to interviews with department officials who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
The Justice Department filed a civil complaint in January 2009 in Philadelphia against the party after two of its members in black berets, black combat boots, black shirts and black jackets purportedly intimidated voters with racial insults, slurs and a nightstick. A third party member was accused of managing, directing and endorsing their behavior. The incident was captured on videotape.
Four months later, the Justice Department dropped the charges, saying that “the facts and the law did not support pursuing” them.
In August, Mary Patrice Brown, acting counsel of the department’s office of professional responsibility, announced that it had “initiated an inquiry into the matter.” The office investigates suspected misconduct by department lawyers.
Among the documents being sought by the commission are witness statements, copies of any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, reports of suspected voting intimidation, all documents that influenced the decision to drop three of the defendants as parties to the case, and documents regarding communications by Mrs. King, Mr. Perrelli and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. about the case.
The civil complaint accused Minister King Samir Shabazz, head of the Philadelphia chapter, and Jerry Jackson, a Philadelphia party member, of intimidating voters at the polling place. A third party member, Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, a lawyer and D.C. resident, was accused of directing and endorsing their behavior.
The party members have not been available for comment. The department obtained an injunction against Mr. Samir Shabazz that prohibits him from brandishing a weapon outside a polling place until 2012.
The Justice Department response also noted that career-supervising attorneys with more than 60 years of experience at the department decided not to seek sanctions “after a thorough review of the facts and applicable legal precedent.”
“Political considerations had no role in that decision and reports that political appointees interfered with the advice of career attorneys are false,” the response said. “Although none of the defendants responded to the complaint, that did not absolve the government of its obligation to ensure that any relief sought is consistent with the facts and the law and supported by the evidence.”
According to the response, the department is “strongly committed to the enforcement of laws aimed at protecting the right of citizens to vote.”
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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