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Draft Report on New Black Panther Case Released

John on October 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

The final report hasn’t been released, but only because commissioner Michael Yaki, a Democratic appointee, walked out to prevent them forming a quorum.  No doubt this report would not help the Democrats on election day, so with this tactic by Yaki, the full release has been delayed until after Nov. 2nd. But the draft report is damning enough:

The Department has argued that the change [dropping the default judgment] was based on a review of the totality of the circumstances and was simply a matter of career people disagreeing with other career people about the adequacy of the evidence under the pertinent law. Evidence obtained by the Commission, however, has called this version of events into serious doubt. First, two members of the NBPP trial team, Christopher Coates and J. Christian Adams, have testified before the Commission that the lawsuit was strong and that there was no legally-sound reason to reverse course. Second, internal Department documents obtained by the Commission show that an independent review of the facts and legal arguments undertaken by career attorneys in the Appellate Section resulted in a recommendation that the case proceed without change. Third, evidence obtained pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by a third party indicatesthat this matter was not simply a difference of opinion between career attorneys. Instead, therecord of communications within the Department appears to indicate that senior politicalappointees played a significant role in the decision making surrounding the lawsuit. The involvement of senior DOJ officials by itself would not be unusual, but the Department’s repeated attempts to obscure the nature of their involvement and other refusals to cooperate raise questions about what the Department is trying to hide.

The last part is probably the most significant. As we learned with Watergate, it’s not the petty crime that gets you, it’s the lies and cover up that follow. The report also details some of the DOJ stonewalling that has occurred:

At various times the Department alleged it would provide no information because the matter was being reviewed by its Office of Professional Responsibility. At other times, the Department raised a wide variety of legal privileges, many of which seemed to have no relevance to the currentinvestigation. Although the Department eventually began to provide some information, including 4,000 pages of documents, much of the information provided either did not relate to the New Black Panther Party litigation, involved matters that were already public, or involved prior voter intimidation lawsuits. While useful, this information did not address the core of the Commission’s inquiry as to why the NBPP lawsuit had been challenged internally.

In the end, it was only a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch that resulted in access to some of the information the commission was seeking. But even now the stonewalling continues:

At present, despite the subpoena issued to the Department, DOJ has not turned over the direct evidence regarding its management-level communications and decision making about the NBPP litigation other than (i) the above statements submitted by the Department, and (ii) the information provided to Judicial Watch in response to its FOIA lawsuit. Accordingly, it is not currently possible to verify the accuracy of the Department’s version of such communications, although the timing, frequency, and captions of such communications cast considerable doubt on several of the Department’s claims.

Starting on page 109, the draft report offers a list of requested information that DOJ has refused to turn over, for instance:

The Department refused to provide witness statements from poll watchers Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, Steve Morse, Wayne Byman, Joe Fischetti, Larry Counts, Angela Counts, and Harry Lewis; defendant Malik Zulu Shabazz; police officer Richard Alexander; and Republican Party officials Joe DeFelice and John Giordano.

Of course looming in the background is the suggestion by several of the career attorneys that DOJ does not enforce the law in an equal and race-neutral manner. There are plenty of details contained in the report that seem to back this up. Here’s just one that caught my eye:

A non-lawyer minority employee at the Department was “relentlessly harassed by Voting Section staff for his willingness as a minority to work on the case of United States v. Ike Brown.

The report has been delayed but its contents won’t be denied. The DOJ has a lot to answer for and, starting in January, they’re going to experience a new and different level of scrutiny from Capitol Hill.

Note: The draft report I’ve linked was leaked to Talking Points Memo. According to commission members this is not the latest draft, i.e. the one they planned to release today had Yaki not walked out to prevent their doing so. As a result, some of the language may change in the final report.

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