For a time, it seemed like the Obama administration might have dodged a bullet in the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) voter intimidation scandal. The case mostly faded from public view after former Department of Justice official J. Christopher Adams testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in July. Adams claimed the DOJ routinely ignores civil rights cases involving white victims, with its decision to drop most of the charges in the NBPP case providing the most egregious example of this disturbing trend. Administration officials dismissed Adams’ allegations and leftists sought to portray him as a disgruntled ex-staffer with an ax to grind. What was a burgeoning scandal then seemed to burn itself out. The smoldering flames roared back to life on Friday, when Christopher Coates, the former voting chief in the Civil Rights Division, testified under oath before the commission.
The DOJ spent the better part of a year trying to prevent Coates from testifying and even ordered him to ignore a subpoena. It’s now clear why the administration would try to stop Coates from telling his story, for his is a damning tale indeed. Not only did the ex-ACLU attorney back up Adams’ claims that charges were dropped in the NBPP case for political (rather than legal) reasons, he outlined a disturbing pattern of behavior within Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice. Rather than representing an anomaly, Coates laid out a convincing case that the DOJ’s questionable behavior in the NBPP case is consistent with racially-motivated departmental policy.
In order to put the NBPP controversy in context, Coates went back to a case he got involved in back in 2003: United States vs. Ike Brown et al. That landmark case, involving an election in Mississippi, was the first time that the Voting Rights Act was invoked to protect the rights of white voters who were subjected to racial discrimination by African Americans and other minorities. Despite the objections of some long-time DOJ staffers, Coates and others pressed forward with the case and the courts ultimately found Brown and his co-defendants guilty.
According to Coates, Ike Brown and his allies engaged in “…some of the most outrageous and blatantly discriminatory behavior at the polls…” that he had witnessed in over thirty years as a voting rights litigator. Nonetheless, Coates testified that some career attorneys in the voting rights section didn’t want to take the case, believing that the Voting Rights Act should only be invoked if a minority was the aggrieved party. He added that one African American attorney who volunteered to help out in the Brown case was subject to harassment from some DOJ employees.
When he was appointed Chief of the Voting Section in 2008, Coates said that he made it a point to ensure that prospective new trial attorneys in his section agreed that enforcement of the Voting Rights Act should be race neutral. He asked each candidate if they were equally comfortable taking cases that involved alleged discrimination against white voter, as they were taking cases in which minority voters were pressing a claim. This reasonable, equitable inquiry offended the woman that the president appointed as Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in 2009: Loretta King. Coates said that Ms. King directed him to stop asking that question, because “…she does not support equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and had been highly critical of the filing and civil prosecution of the Ike Brown case.” He also referred to other potential Voting Rights Act cases that the DOJ has declined to prosecute, these involving elections in largely African-American communities in which all African-American factions were accused of discriminatory acts directed against opposing, racially-integrated factions. In one of these cases, a bank in which absentee ballots were stored was burned, apparently so votes favorable to the mixed-race faction could not be counted.
Given the discriminatory path the DOJ has chosen, its decision to dismiss most of the charges in the NBPP case – even though a default judgment against the defendants had been entered – should come as no surprise. Nor should anyone be astonished that the DOJ has continually stonewalled efforts to find out who was involved in making the decision to drop those charges. The DOJ has refused to produce background documents, ignoring requests from the Civil Rights Commission and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the watchdog organization Judicial Watch. In the latter case, the DOJ did produce a Vaughn Index of the 122 documents (over 600 pages) dealing with the case that it is refusing to release. A review of the “to,” “from” and “subject” fields contained in the index shows that several e-mails about the case were sent to or sent by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and the Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, the second and third ranking officials at the DOJ. The subject lines seem to show that both political appointees were deeply involved in the case, despite DOJ’s protestations to the contrary. For example, the subject line of on e-mail from Perrelli is entitled: “Where are we on the Black Panther case?” while Ogden offers his “current thoughts on the case” in another.
With Adams and Coates both testifying that there is something very rotten in the Department of Justice when it comes to race and voting rights, as well as two affidavits to that effect in the hands of the Civil Rights Commission, it’s going to be very difficult for Obama and his leftist allies in the media to defend Eric Holder’s management of the DOJ much longer. In choosing to withhold documents from Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, the DOJ continually invoked the excuse that doing so would “…have a chilling effect on staff who in the future would be reluctant to express their opinions…” Thanks to whistle-blowers like Christopher Coates, the American people are starting to realize something far more chilling: that the Department of Justice is far more interested in political correctness than equitable, color-blind defense of the rights of all Americans.
Leave a Reply