For Release: May 29, 2009
Contact: David Almasi or Devon Carlin at (202) 543-4110 x11 or
or [email protected]
Black Leader Calls for Special Counsel to Investigate Possible Voting Rights Corruption at Justice Department
Political Appointees Said to Overrule Career Staff in Election Intimidation Case
Washington, DC - In light of a Washington Times report today that political appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice forced career prosecutors to drop and/or reduce charges against men observed intimidating Philadelphia voters last election day, Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie is calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate this alleged obstruction of the Voting Rights Act by the Obama Administration.
"From all accounts, this was a clear-cut violation of peoples' right to vote without fear and intimidation, but the Obama Administration appears to be trying to sweep it under the rug," said Massie. "After all of the allegations about the Bush Administration politicizing the Justice Department, this smacks of either extreme ignorance or extreme hubris on the part of their successors. Whatever the case, an independent investigation is needed to get to the bottom of what's going on over there."
According to media reports, on November 4, 2008, Malik Zulu Shabazz, King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense were seen on national television standing outside a Philadelphia polling place in military-style uniforms. Jackson was an official poll watcher that day, representing the 14th Ward Democratic Committee.
Bartle Bull, a long-time civil rights activist who was working as a poll watcher in the area, said in a government affidavit that he saw the men using a nightstick to intimidate voters. Bull said their "clear purpose" was to "intimidate voters with whom they did not agree." He also said he heard them tell a white poll watcher, "you are about to be ruled by a black man, cracker."
A civil suit filed by the Justice Department in January alleged the men violated the Voting Rights Act "by continuing to direct intimidation, threats and coercion at voters and potential voters." After none of the men appeared in court to face the charges, the government sought a default judgment against them.
According to interviews and documents obtained by the Times, the lawyers were later ordered to reverse themselves and ask for the cases against Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson to be dismissed. A default judgment was pursued against King Samir Shabazz to simply prohibit him from displaying a weapon within 100 feet of an open polling place until November 15, 2012.
Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar told the Times: "Claims were dismissed against the other defendants based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law."
"We've got reports of one of the most blatant violations of the Voting Rights Act in recent memory, and the Obama Justice Department is essentially taking a pass. What's wrong here?" asked Massie. "One could easily surmise that this is Chicago-style payback for helping Obama win the election. That would be a crime in Washington. The only way to find out who did what and for what reason is to bring someone in from the outside to get to investigate these very troubling allegations."The Washington Times article, "Career lawyers overruled on voting case; Black Panthers had wielded weapons, blocked polls," by Jerry Seper, is available online at http://tw6.us/65.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at www.project21.org/P21Index.html.