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EDITORIAL: Criminal Black Panthers
Justice dropped charges against repeat violent offenders
The White House is trying to dodge the issue, but the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case is a growing scandal about political interference by the Obama administration into law-enforcement matters. The latest outrages to come to light are the brutal criminal histories of the Black Panthers who threatened Philadelphia voters on Election Day, 2008.
Minister King Samir Shabazz, formerly known as Maruse (or Maurice) Heath, has a record of beating people with a club comparable to the nightstick he brandished outside the polling place. According to Mike Roman on Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com, Shabazz pleaded guilty in 1995 to assault for hitting a man with a cane-like implement, hospitalizing his victim and requiring head staples. Three years later, Shabazz was charged with beating and terrorizing his girlfriend, dragging her by the hair and threatening to kill her. Those charges were dropped when she failed to show up in court.
As for Jerry Jackson - the local Democratic committeeman and Black Panther for whom the Justice Department dropped all voter-intimidation charges - his record of convictions includes drug dealing, stabbing and robbing, all in Philadelphia. "Since becoming infamous for intimidating voters, Jackson and Samir have taken to posting photos of themselves posing with handguns," Mr. Roman reported. "A felony firearm charge can be brought against a convicted felon who is found in possession of a firearm, regardless of the intended or actual use of the weapon. Certainly DOJ must be aware of these photos. Why haven't they pursued charges under 18 U.S.C. 922 against Jerry Jackson? Is he getting a pass on gun charges, too?"
There are limited circumstances in which a civil rights defendant's prior record can be considered in court, but this history of violence is relevant to considering whether a "reasonable person" - the applicable standard - would feel intimidated by the sort of conduct shown by the Black Panthers on Election Day. Certainly any objective Justice Department official would find this record pertinent when deciding whether or not to reduce penalties in a case it effectively had won already.
Combined with the Monday release of e-mail logs proving Justice officials were not straightforward when denying any decision-making involvement in the case by political appointees, the newfound criminal histories of the defendants undermine any remaining department credibility in this affair. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is slated to vote Friday on its draft report on Justice handling of the Black Panther case, which is likely to provide even more troubling revelations.
It was irresponsible for Obama political appointees to short-circuit this civil rights case before further investigation and court hearings brought this violent history to light. It's even scarier if they did so as part of a policy decision to refuse to protect the civil rights of white victims. Evidence for that conclusion is mounting.
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