Jerry Seper in the Washington Times:
Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the No. 3 official in the Obama Justice Department, was consulted and ultimately approved a decision in May to reverse course and drop a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party of intimidating voters in Philadelphia during November’s election, according to interviews.
The department’s career lawyers in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division who pursued the complaint for five months had recommended that Justice seek sanctions against the party and three of its members after the government had already won a default judgment in federal court against the men.
[…] At issue was what, if any, punishment to seek against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (NBPP) and three of its members accused in a Jan. 7 civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
Two NBPP members, wearing black berets, black combat boots, black dress shirts and black jackets with military-style markings, were charged in a civil complaint with intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place, including brandishing a 2-foot-long nightstick and issuing racial threats and racial insults. Authorities said a third NBPP member “managed, directed and endorsed the behavior.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says that the New Black Panther Party is a hate group, similar to the Ku Klux Klan. Whether that is so or not, two of the officers of the NBPP were caught red-handed, one brandishing a weapon, threatening white voters at the polls. One complaining witness, Bartle Bull (a former Robert Kennedy campaign staffer and civil-rights lawyer) said “it would qualify as the most blatant form of voter intimidation” he had ever encountered.
As a former DOJ alumnus, I have never, ever heard of the Division refusing to take a default judgment, especially in a situation where the defendants are basically admitting they violated the law. The facts indicting the DOJ seem damning, and no good explanation seems possible. Indeed, it raises a serious question whether straightforward but pernicious racial-identity politics are at play, the same kind driving the president’s Supreme Court nomination. Do the same people who excuse Sonia Sotomayor’s racist speeches allow Holder and Co. to dismiss racist intimidation by the New Black Panther Party? Should application of the civil-rights laws (by Sotomayor in the Ricci case and the DOJ in the NBPP case) really turn on the sympathies the officials have for different racial litigants? Should racist minority members get a pass when whites would not? Does the Left believe that only white supremacists (or Republicans) can engage in racism or intimidation of voters? Do the prohibitions in federal voting-rights laws not apply to radical organizations with Marxist orientations?
The Obama political appointees overruled experienced line prosecutors, experienced civil-rights division supervisors, and the Justice Department’s appellate division. Not that the Justice Department under AG Holder is politicized or anything.
The decision has Congressman Frank Wolf (R., Va.) asking, “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?”
Good question. Looks like Obama’s stewards decided the Bush DOJ “acted stupidly” in enforcing the civil-rights laws.
Erick Erickson at Redstate:
Mr. Perrelli was a Janet Reno flunky when Clinton was in the White House and, naturally, a Barack Obama donor.
John Hinderaker at Powerline:
DOJ’s decision to dismiss the case has been mysterious, in part, because it came after the defendants had defaulted. So the case had been won, and Justice decided to give it away.
Republicans in Congress have tried to find out who decided to let the Panthers off, and why, but they have been stonewalled by the Justice Department and the Obama administration. The Washington Times has been investigating, however, and reports that the decision to drop the case was approved by Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli. Perrilli is a Democratic Party activist who raised $500,000 for President Obama’s campaign and was rewarded with the number three spot in the Department of Justice.
UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff at Powerline
UPDATE #2: David Weigel in the Washington Independent
UPDATE #3: Investigation of the DOJ
Jerry Seper at Washington Times
UPDATE #4: Washington Times editorial
David Weigel at Washington Independent
UPDATE #5: David Freddoso at Washington Examiner
Jerry Seper at Washington Times
UPDATE #6: Washington Times editorial
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary
UPDATE #7: David Weigel
UPDATE #8: J. Christian Adams in The Washington Times
UPDATE #9: Fox News
UPDATE #10: John Fund at WSJ
UPDATE #11: Adam Serwer at The American Prospect
UPDATE #12: More Serwer
John Hinderaker at Powerline