Conservative media figures are busy hyping the unsubstantiated allegations of GOP activist and former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams that the Obama administration improperly dismissed voter-intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for racially charged political reasons. As Media Matters previously noted, Adams' allegations are based on hearsay and on charges made by others. But his allegations become even flimsier when considering the fact that he worked in the Bush Justice Department in 2006 when attorneys declined to pursue charges that members of the Minutemen were intimidating Hispanic voters in Arizona, charges based on nearly identical circumstances.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is currently looking into the Justice Department's decision in 2009 to dismiss civil charges against three members of the Black Panthers Party for alleged voter intimidation stemming from a 2008 incident outside a Pennsylvania polling center. The Justice Department obtained default judgment against a fourth member, Minister King Samir Shabazz, who was carrying a nightstick outside the polling station. Adams is claiming that the decision not to pursue any additional charges is evidence of "a pervasive hostility" at DOJ to pursuing voter intimidation cases against black defendants. As Hot Air put it the decision amounts to "compensation for historical injustices. After more than a century of black voters being intimidated at the polls, it just wouldn't seem fair to prosecute a black group for voter intimidation."
In May 14 testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, refuted the charge that the decision was a political one, testifying that the decision not to pursue charges amounted to "career people disagreeing with career people," which Perez said "happens very often."
To illustrate his point, Perez highlighted the Department of Justice's decision in 2006 not to pursue charges against members of the Minutemen for allegedly intimidating Hispanic voters in Pima, Arizona -- with one member of the group allegedly carrying a gun:
In another case, in Arizona, the complaint was received by a national civil rights organization regarding events in Pima, Arizona in the 2006 election when three well-known anti-immigrant advocates affiliated with the Minutemen, one of whom was carrying a gun, allegedly intimidated Latino voters at a polling place by approaching several persons, filming them, and advocating and printing voting materials in Spanish.
In that instance, the Department declined to bring any action for alleged voter intimidation, notwithstanding the requests of the complaining parties.
J. Christian Adams -- a political activist hired to the Justice Department in 2005, reportedly by a Bush appointee who was found to have politicized hiring at the DOJ -- was working in the Justice Department when the decision was made not to pursue charges against the Minutemen, yet he has not accounted for this decision while leveling unsubstantiated charges that the Obama administration acted "in lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law."
UPDATE: Some media reports detailing the Minutemen's activities during the 2006 election in Pima, Arizona (retrieved from the Nexis database):
From a November 8, 2006, Austin American-Statesman article:
In Arizona, Roy Warden, an anti-immigration activist with the Minutemen, and a handful of supporters staked out a Tucson precinct and questioned Hispanic voters at the polls to determine whether they spoke English.
Armed with a 9mm Glock automatic strapped to his side, Warden said he planned to photograph Hispanic voters entering polls in an effort to identify illegal immigrants and felons. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund reported the incident to the FBI.
From a November 21, 2006, Salon.com article:
On Election Day, a posse of three men in Tucson, Ariz., proved that the Wild West still lives.
The group, which was three strong, and allegedly composed of two anti-immigration activists, Russ Dove and Roy Warden, carried a camcorder, a clipboard -- on which, they said, was information about a proposed law to make English the state's official language -- and a gun. While one man would approach a voter, holding the clipboard, another would follow, pointing the video camera at them. The third would stand behind, holding his hand to the gun at his hip in what activists on the other side called classic voter intimidation tactics in a precinct one local paper had previously declared the bellwether of the area's Hispanic vote.
It's not the first time Dove and Warden have been accused of this type of act. Dove, who is a convicted felon and former militia member, patrolled Arizona's polls in 2004 as well, and Warden has publicly burned a Mexican flag (for which he was charged with arson) and acknowledged that he sought a concealed-carry permit for a gun, partly in hopes of enticing a local police officer to attack him and force Warden to use deadly force in self-defense.
From a November 8, 2006, Arizona Daily Star article:
A crew of anti-immigrant activists, meanwhile, visited several South Side polling places in what one poll-watch group called a blatant attempt to intimidate Hispanic voters.
Anti-immigrant crusader Russ Dove circulated an English-only petition, while a cameraman filmed the voters he approached and Roy Warden stood by with a firearm in a holster.
Diego Bernal, a staff attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), said the trio was trying to intimidate Hispanic voters. "A gun, a camera, a clipboard before you even get to the polls - if that's not voter intimidation, what is?" he asked.
Bernal said his group encountered the men at the Precinct 49 polling place at South 12th Avenue and West Michigan Street and began documenting the scene with their cameras. "There was an interesting period where they were taking pictures of us taking pictures of them."
From a November 8, 2006, New York Times article:
Tensions were high in several places. In Arizona, Roy Warden, an anti-immigration activist, and a handful of supporters, staked out a South Tucson precinct and questioned Hispanic voters as they entered the polls to determine if they spoke English.
Mr. Warden said he planned to photograph Hispanic voters entering polls at as many as 20 precincts in an effort to identify illegal immigrants and felons.
Mr. Warden heckled Representative Raul M. Grijalva, a Democrat, as Mr. Grijalva walked into the precinct to cast his ballot. Mr. Grijalva ignored Mr. Warden, saying harassment ''hasn't been a deterrence to voters, it's just been a nuisance.''
From a November 8, 2006, Tucson Citizen article:
Volunteer election monitors say three men with a video camera and a gun were intimidating voters at various polling stations throughout Tucson.
From about 9:45 a.m. to noon Tuesday, the men approached Hispanic voters as they attempted to enter Iglesia Bautista Kairos, 4502 S. 12th Ave. in Precinct 25, said Diego Bernal, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.
Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos, who was also acting as an election observer at Iglesia Bautista, identified two of the three men as Roy Warden and Russ Dove, two anti-illegal immigration activists.
Warden could not be reached for comment, but in a mass e-mail he acknowledged being at the polling site to "monitor illegal Mexicans voting in the Midterm elections."
Bernal said he reported the incident to the FBI.
Both the FBI and the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment about the reports.
"If intimidation or coercion was going on out there, even though it might have been outside the 75-foot limit, it's something we take very seriously, and we'll be looking into it," [Brad] Nelson [Pima County elections director] said.
He said he plans to work with the Pima County Attorney's Office to determine whether laws were broken.