A few commenters on my previous post about the Obama administration not being in office when the decision was made not to pursue a criminal case against the New Black Panther Party are arguing out that conservative outrage is over the subsequent decision, made in May, not to further pursue the civil complaint after obtaining an injunction against the individual who was holding a baton. That decision was made by a career official at the Justice Department after an evidence review and reportedly approved by an Obama political appointee, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli. The decision was still made by career lawyers in the section; there's no evidence, beyond J. Christian Adams' statements, that Perrelli had the case dismissed. At any rate, several conservative figures have suggested that the Obama administration refused to pursue a criminal case, and that's not what happened.
But, as I've explained previously, the decision not to further pursue the civil case reflected long-standing practice regarding Section 11(b), which prior to the Bush administration had last been used to stop a statewide voter-caging effort. The allegation that would have supported pursuing a broader case was the idea that there was a nationwide effort to place New Black Panthers at polling stations for the purpose of suppressing white votes -- the original complaint read that the NBPP "made statements and posted notice that over 300 members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would be deployed at polling locations during voting on November 4, 2008, throughout the United States." The career attorneys recommended dismissing the case on the basis that there wasn't enough evidence to support that claim.
Not only did no voters come forward to say they had been intimidated by the NBPP that day, there were no further incidents on Election Day 2008 that would have suggested a large-scale effort to intimidate white voters. According to a letter sent to Rep. Lamar Smith by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, the NBPP "suspended" its Philadelphia political chapter over the incident and subsequently disavowed their actions, which seems like an odd thing to do for an organization that is supposedly disclosing its attempt to intimidate white voters in its publicly available materials.
Indeed, Malik Zulu Shabazz, the head of the NBPP, was pretty clear on their intentions in a recent video being passed around conservative circles that was flagged by Media Matters. "We decided that on Election Day, that we would go out to the polls. Because of what? Because they said they was going to be stopping black people from coming to vote," Shabazz said. That's a more plausible explanation for their presence at a majority black precinct.
At any rate, the decision to approve not going forward with the civil case was still made a month before Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes joined the DoJ and sometime afterward supposedly issued a decree against cases involving minority defendants.
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