In emotional and personal testimony, an ex-Justice official who quit over the handling of a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party accused his former employer of instructing attorneys in the civil rights division to ignore cases that involve black defendants and white victims.
J. Christian Adams, testifying Tuesday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said that “over and over and over again,” the department showed “hostility” toward those cases. He described the Black Panther case as one example of that — he defended the legitimacy of the suit and said his “blood boiled” when he heard a Justice official claim the case wasn’t solid.
“It is false,” Adams said of the claim.
“We abetted wrongdoing and abandoned law-abiding citizens,” he later testified.
The department abandoned the New Black Panther case last year. It stemmed from an incident on Election Day in 2008 in Philadelphia, where members of the party were videotaped in front of a polling place, dressed in military-style uniforms and allegedly hurling racial slurs while one brandished a night stick.
The Bush Justice Department brought the first case against three members of the group, accusing them in a civil complaint of violating the Voter Rights Act. The Obama administration initially pursued the case, winning a default judgment in federal court in April 2009 when the Black Panther members did not appear in court. But then the administration moved to dismiss the charges the following month after getting one of the New Black Panther members to agree to not carry a “deadly weapon” near a polling place until 2012.
In a statement Tuesday, a Justice spokesman said the civil rights division determined “the facts and the law did not support pursuing claims” against the two other defendants and denied Adams’ allegations.