It was not until a youtube video (below) of the encounter with the Panthers circulated did the incident gain notoriety, prompting the Bush Justice Department to sue the men involved for violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act through the Panthers’ use of racial slurs, military-style uniforms, and possession of weaponry.
Following the lead of the Bush administration, the Obama administration launched an investigation, and the DOJ won a default judgment against several of the New Black Panther members when they failed to appear at their hearing in April 2009.
Since then, however, the Obama administration elected to dismiss the charges after compromising with the New Black Panther members, who agreed not to carry “a deadly weapon” within the vicinity of a polling place. Until 2012, that is.
Frustrated by the Department’s decision to pursue charges against the New Black Panthers, Adams resigned his position at the Justice Department last month.
In an explosive interview with Fox News, Adams claimed, “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 claims that the Obama administration backed off the voter intimidation case because of race and politics.
He also accuses Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez of lying to the Civil Rights Committee in May when Perez contended that there were insufficient facts to support instances of voter intimidation.
Similar to claims made by Perez, the Justice Department defended its decision to drop the case by alleging that the facts and law did not line up and that the case should not be prosecuted.
Perez asserted, “The decision regarding the disposition of the case … ultimately was made by the career attorney then serving as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division … We assure you that the Department is committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of both the civil and criminal provisions of federal law that prohibits voter intimidation.”
Adams begs to differ.
Fox News describes Adams’ testimony today as “emotional and personal.” He insisted that attorneys in the civil rights division were actually instructed to ignore cases involving black assailants and white victims, and that the Black Panther case exemplifies his claim.
Adams claims that the DOJ took a generally “hostile” attitude towards cases involving black defendants, particularly the Black Panther case. He contends that he overheard officials describing the case as “no big deal” and that its elevated significance was a product of the media, most notably, Fox News.
Adams also indicates that during his investigation of the Philadelphia incident, he discovered evidence that similar happenings took place during the Democratic primary season in 2008, where Hillary Clinton’s supporters faced similar encounters with the militant group. Adams encouraged the commission to hear testimony from those victims as well.
The Commission hopes to hear the testimony of Christopher Coates, former chief of the Justice Department’s voting section, but the Justice Department is preventing Coates from providing such testimony.
Likewise, the Justice Department issued a statement questioning Adams motives: “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.”
Adams denies the claims made by the Justice Department and asserts that he hopes to see proper justice distributed in this clear-cut instance of voter intimidation.
Photo: AP Images