Friday, December 11, 2009

The heat is rising against the Justice Department’s mishandling of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and three of its members. The last thing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. needed was for the party’s national chieftain to resurface in Mr. Holder’s defense, but that’s exactly what Malik Zulu Shabazz, the party chairman, did on Dec. 4. It says a lot about the Obama Justice Department that it is being promoted by a Black Panther.

In doing so, Mr. Shabazz refocused the spotlight on the fact that he was one of the original defendants for whom Mr. Holder’s department dropped charges. The party as a whole also was an original defendant, likewise unpunished despite widespread advice to the contrary from career lawyers at Justice.

“I think it’s a political witch hunt, part of the overall war that the Republicans are waging against Eric Holder in general,” Mr. Shabazz complained. He added that the two exonerated Black Panthers who used racial epithets at the polling place in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008 had acted on their own.

The problem is, this seems to contradict previous statements by Mr. Shabazz and other top party leaders. The Jackson Sun in Tennessee reported that three days before the 2008 election, “Minister Najee Muhammad, national field marshal for the New Black Panther Party, and Uhuru Shakur, local chairman of the Atlanta chapter of the party, took turns reading statements from Dr. Malik Shabazz, leader of Black Lawyers for Justice and attorney for the party.” Mr. Shakur added, “We will be at the polls in the cities and counties in many states to ensure that the enemy does not sabotage the black vote.”

After the election, on Nov. 7, 2008, Mr. Shabazz spoke live on the Fox News Channel to defend his fellow party members. Claiming that they had brought a weapon to the Philadelphia polling place in response to the presence of neo-Nazis, Mr. Shabazz said, “When we found that this was an emergency response [to the supposed Nazis in the parking lot], there was an explanation” for brandishing the weapon.

No other source, including the patsy Justice Department, has shown any evidence of white supremacist activity at the voting site. Either way, the statements of Mr. Shabazz and Mr. Shakur hardly comport with the Justice Department’s conclusion that the party itself did not promote and condone voter intimidation. Nor does it explain why the department was so willing to accept Mr. Shabazz’s refusal even to answer the charges in court - before the department unilaterally acted to drop them.

The American public is still waiting for answers to questions about why the Obama administration would cover for Black Panthers who used racial threats to intimidate voters. For example, if Mr. Shabazz could talk about the case to Fox News and to the Associated Press, why couldn’t he talk to a judge? And why won’t Mr. Holder or his aides offer any detailed explanations for why they let him off the hook?

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