Six months after the election, voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party in Pennsylvania were dismissed by the Department of Justice, and this week, some lawmakers are demanding the administration answer why.
Four months after the complaint was filed, however, even after the government had won a default judgment against the NBPP since the group neither responded to the lawsuit nor appeared in court, the attorneys who brought the charges were told by their superiors to seek a delay in the case.
Following the delay, the Washington Times reports, two Obama political appointees recommended the case be dropped. The charges were then dismissed and the default judgment discarded, though Shabazz was slapped with an injunction prohibiting him from displaying a weapon at a polling place until 2012.
Four days later, Jackson was named an official election poll watcher for the Democratic primary in Philadelphia’s municipal election.
Yesterday, however, the story took on new life when two House Republicans reasserted their demands that that civil charges against the New Black Panther Party be restored and that the congressmen be allowed to interview career attorneys who disagreed with the administration’s decision to dismiss the case.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., renewed his demand the case be reopened after obtaining a report from the Congressional Research Service yesterday affirming that doing so would not constitute a violation of the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause. Wolf is calling for U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to refile the charges.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, of Texas, made a bolder statement, claiming the administration may have intentionally kept Congress in the dark to cover a political motivation behind dismissing the case against the Panther organization.
Smith claims he has been demanding for months to know whether political appointees were involved in the dismissed complaint, but he received no answer until the notion was backed this week by a Times news article affirming his suspicions.
Smith was referring to a Times article from earlier this week that reported the original order to delay the charges was handed down by Loretta King, a career official who had nonetheless been granted a political appointment by President Obama in January to temporarily fill the position of assistant attorney general for civil rights.
Furthermore, the Times reported, King had discussed the case with a high-ranking political appointee, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, who also approved the decision to dismiss the complaint.
Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told the newspaper that the department is obligated to ensure its claims are supported by the facts and the law and that a review of the NBPP complaint by “the top career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division” found that they did not.
Rep. Smith, bolstered by the Times reporting from this week, is seeking to discover whether there has actually been a review by “top career attorneys,” or whether political appointees have instead granted the Obama administration a favor by allowing a group known to support the president off the hook.