Former Justice Attorney Set to Testify in New Black Panther Case
A former Justice official who claims the administration backed off a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for racial reasons is set to testify Tuesday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The testimony from J. Christian Adams, who resigned from the Justice Department last month in protest of the administration's handling of the case, comes after he made a series of explosive allegations during an interview with Fox News last week. He said the administration abandoned an open-and-shut case of voter intimidation and that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez gave false testimony before the commission in May.
Adams claims the administration has failed to prosecute non-whites when it comes to voting intimidation cases and that the New Black Panther incident demonstrates that.
"I don't think the department or the fine people who work there are corrupt, but in this particular instance, to abandon law-abiding citizens and abet wrongdoers constitutes corruption," Adams told Fox News.
The case stems from an incident on Election Day in 2008 in Philadelphia, where members of the New Black Panther Party were videotaped in front of a polling place, dressed in military-style uniforms and allegedly hurling racial slurs while one brandished a night stick.
The Bush Justice Department brought the first case against three members of the group, accusing them in a civil complaint of violating the Voter Rights Act. The Obama administration initially pursued the case, winning a default judgment in federal court in April 2009 when the Black Panther members did not appear in court. But then the administration moved to dismiss the charges the following month after getting one of the New Black Panther members to agree to not carry a "deadly weapon" near a polling place until 2012. The department boasted that justice had been served.
But Adams, the former administration lawyer, accused the Justice Department of not continuing the case for political and racial reasons.
Adams called the case "a slam dunk," telling Fox News that "nobody thought there was any doubt that this was the clearest case of voter intimidation that I've seen since I've been practicing law."
The Justice Department disagrees, saying it enforces voting rights laws equally. In a written statement, the department questioned the motives of Adams, now an attorney in Virginia and a blogger for Pajamas Media.
"It is not uncommon for attorneys with the department to have good faith disagreements about the appropriate course of action in a particular case, although it is regrettable when a former department attorney distorts the facts and makes baseless allegations to promote his or her agenda," the statement said.
But Bartle Bull, who was a poll watcher in Philadelphia in 2008, doesn't buy the Justice Department denials.
"I find it deeply offensive," Bull said. "I know people who died over these issues, like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. If we can't defend their legacy, it's shameful to us and this administration."
Bull is a prominent New York Democrat and longtime political adviser. He was Robert F. Kennedy's New York campaign manager, went to the south in the 1960s to protect the voting rights of black voters and just came back from Afghanistan where he traveled with the troops.
He says the administration's actions amount to protecting the New Black Panthers.
"If Americans can't vote honestly, and the government doesn't protect their right to vote, we don't live in a democracy. Last year Obama complained when the government in Afghanistan did not run the election properly. What about Pennsylvania?" he said, claiming the president "violated his oath of office."
Bull has already testified before the Civil Rights Commission, and the commissioners also want to hear from Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Justice Department's voting section who has since been transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina. But the commission claims the Justice Department is blocking Coates from testifying about why the case was dropped.
Bull said that in 2008, one of the Black Panthers turned to him and said "now you will know what it means to be ruled by the black man, cracker."
The result of the Justice Department action, or lack of it, he said, is that "these guys now think it's safe for them to bully voters and citizens. And that's why the Department of Justice must stand up."