Justice Department winks at voter intimidation

The Justice Department says this is no big deal:

The Washington Times reports:

Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.

Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.

The lawyers also had ascertained that one of the three men had gained access to the polling place by securing a credential as a Democratic poll watcher, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.

A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections. . .

The three men named in the complaint – New Black Panther Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson – refused to appear in court to answer the accusations over a near-five month period, court records said. . .

Court records show that as late as May 5, the Justice Department was still considering an order by U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell in Philadelphia to seek judgments, or sanctions, against the three Panthers because of their failure to appear. But 10 days later, the department reversed itself and filed a notice of voluntary dismissal from the complaint for Malik Zulu Shabazz and Mr. Jackson.

(Via Instapundit.)

Apparently, President Obama’s political appointees at the Justice Department think that a suitable penalty for blatant voter intimidation (by Democrats) is a court order not to do it any more.

This scandal may have legs. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, is demanding answers.

(Previous post.)

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