This Washington Times editorial brings us up-to-date on the growing scandal at the Obama-Holder Justice Department over the New Black Panther case. As the Times reminds us, that case involves paramilitary-garbed Panthers caught on videotape engaged in intimidating activities outside a Philadelphia polling booth on Election Day 2008. A judge was ready to enter a default judgment against the Black Panthers, based on a case brought by career Justice Department attorneys, but the Obama administration decided last spring to drop three of the four cases and punish the final one with only a weak injunction.
Now the Justice Department is attempting to cover its tracks on this matter. Thus, last week it ordered two key career attorneys not to comply with a subpoena about the case issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission has the power to issue subpoenas, and the law requires that “all federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission.” The Justice Department, however, is citing its own regulations as a basis for ignoring the subpoena.
The career DOJ attorneys are caught in the middle. According to the Times, one of them has been advised by his personal attorney that failure to comply with the subpoena could put him at risk of prosecution, although presumably not during the tenure of the Obama administration.
In addition, congressional Republicans are accusing Thomas Perez, head of the Civil Rights Division, of not telling the truth while under oath. Perez testified before Congress that, in the case of the one New Black Panther thug against whom charges were not dropped, “the maximum penalty was sought and obtained.” That penalty, says the Times, consisted of an injunction barring him from brandishing a weapon near a polling place, within Philadelphia, through Nov. 15, 2012.
It’s difficult to imagine that this was the maximum penalty available, and the Times maintains that it was not. First, the injunction could have been broader geographically and could have run for a longer period of time. Second, if DOJ had sought a criminal indictment, Title 18, Section 245 of the U.S. Code provides that those found guilty of voter intimidation “shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
The more the Obama-Holder Justice Department covers up and dissembles, the more traction this story is likely to get. And the chances are not inconsiderable that Republicans will obtain congressional subpoena power at some not too distant point in the future. But perhaps the truth is sufficiently damaging that merely delaying it from being revealed is well worth the price.
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