October 22, 2016
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Suspicions Raised Over Black Panther Case

 WASHINGTON - House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has sent a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine urging the IG to investigate allegations that the Civil Rights Division has engaged in racially discriminatory and politically motivated enforcement of federal voting rights laws. 

On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a polling place in Philadelphia.  They were dressed in uniform and yelled threatening statements and racial epithets at poll watchers.  One of the individuals was holding a baton.  According to long-time civil rights attorney Bartle Bull, who was at the polling station that day, it was “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” he had ever seen. Under the Bush Administration, the Justice Department rightly filed suit against the New Black Panther Party and the two members. Despite having won a default judgment in the case, the Obama Administration abruptly dismissed several of the charges.  No facts had changed.  No new evidence had been found.  The only thing that had changed was the political party running the Civil Rights Division.

For more than a year, Ranking Member Smith has sought answers from the Department about its sudden and unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges in the lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party. 

Ranking Member Smith wrote: “The Department’s continued refusal to provide any legitimate reason for the dismissal has only increased suspicions that race and politics played a role in this decision.  Recent allegations from a former Civil Rights Division attorney confirm my concerns that the Justice Department has adopted a policy of race-based non-enforcement of federal voting rights laws.  If these allegations are true, it means the Justice Department has become politicized and only an independent entity can effectively investigate this matter…

“A founding principle of this nation is equality under the law.  That means it is unacceptable for the Justice Department to determine whether to enforce a law based upon the race of a defendant or victim…

“With the mid-term elections only months away, it is important that the many questions raised by [these] allegations be addressed so that the American public may be assured that the Department will pursue all legitimate voting rights cases.”



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