Fox whopper: DOJ said Voting Rights Act wasn't violated in New Black Panthers case

Reporting on Justice Department lawyer Christopher Coates testimony on the phony New Black Panthers Party scandal, Fox News falsely reported that the Justice Department had “determined that the Voting Rights Act... had not been violated” in the case. In fact, the Obama administration's DOJ obtained default judgment against one of the defendants on the basis of his violation of that law.

Centanni falsely reports DOJ concluded NBPP defendant didn't violate Voting Rights Act

Special Report misreports: “The Justice Department determined the Voting Rights Act, or VRA, had not been violated.” From the September 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report:

CENTANNI (voice over): Election day 2008, two members of the black panthers party in paramilitary gash stood outside Philadelphia polling place, one wielding a night stick. The Justice Department concluded the Voting Rights Act, or VRA, had not been violated and that decision led the man in charge of the voting section of Justice to turn whistle blower and make an allegation that goes beyond that one case in Philadelphia.

Obama DOJ actually obtained default judgment against Shabazz for carrying weapon outside polling station. On May 18, 2009, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered default judgment against Samir Shabazz. In his May 14 testimony before the Commission on Civil Rights, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez stated that the Justice Department had obtained “sufficient evidence to sustain the charge” of voter intimidation against Shabazz, identified by Perez as “the defendant who had the nightstick,” and that “the default judgment was sought and obtained as it related to him.”

Obama Justice Department briefs sought default judgement on basis of Shabazz's violation of Voting Rights Act. Court documents filed in the case by the Obama administration's Department of Justice say that Shabazz violated the Voting Rights Act. From the Justice Department's motion for default judgment, filed on May 15, 2009:

The Complaint in this action sets out a valid claim for a violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973i(b), by Defendant. In consequence of the Clerk's entry of default, the factual allegations of the Complaint regarding the Defendant are taken as true. [Emphasis added]

From the Justice Department's memorandum of law in support of motion for default judgment, filed on May 15, 2009:

IV. The Defendant's Conduct Violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act.

1. The unchallenged facts in this case constitute a violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act. [Emphasis in original.]

Fox pushes claim DOJ discriminates against white votes, ignoring Obama DOJ's actions in case

Special Report advances Coates' claim that Noxubee case shows DOJ opposed to “equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.” From Special Report:

CENTANNI (voice over): He [Coates] testified before the US Commission on Civil Rights after being told by his superiors not to appear. He said many of those who showed hostility to equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act are now in top positions at Justice, including Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandez who according to Coates held a meeting to discourage cases being brought that weren't, quote “the traditional kind.”

COATES: When Ms. Hernandez made that statement, everyone in the room understood exactly what she meant. No more cases like Ike Brown, and no more cases like the New Black Panther Party case.

CENTANNI (voice over): Ike Brown is a Democratic Party leader in Noxubee County, Mississippi, who is accused of election fraud targeting white voters. Coates says those calling the shots in the Obama Justice Department were angry the cases had been brought.

COATES: That anger was the result of their deep-seated opposition to the equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act against racial minorities and for the protection of white voters who have been discriminated against.

Obama DOJ actually seeking to extend injunction in that case against black leaders who discriminated against white voters. In 2007, a federal judge determined that Ike Brown, chairman of the Noxubee (Mississippi) County Democratic Executive Committee, discriminated against white voters. As part of an injunction against Brown, Judge Reuben Anderson was named referee-administrator responsible for overseeing Democratic primaries through 2011. But earlier this year, the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee, chaired by Brown, submitted a request under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to create a closed Democratic primary. In a July 12 letter T. Christian Herren, chief of the DOJ's voting section, responded to that request and wrote that “it would be inappropriate for the Attorney General to make a determination concerning your submission.” In addition to reaffirming that Brown has no standing to make such requests, the Justice Department also filed a motion to extend the 2007 injunction against Brown and the Noxubee County Democratic Party for an additional two years, citing Brown's and the Noxubee Democratic Party's efforts to “dictate the terms of electoral qualifications,” which “violated the Remedial Order.” In seeking additional penalties against Brown, the Justice Department explicitly cited the potential harm to white voters.

Coates reportedly became “a true member of the team” during the Bush administration

Coates reportedly filed a “reverse-discrimination” complaint against DOJ and became “more conservative” after not being promoted. A 2007 McClatchy Newspapers article connected Coates to Bradley Schlozman and the Bush-era politicization of the Justice Department. McClatchy reported that Schlozman attempted to refute the notion that the DOJ had used political ideology in its personnel practices in part by citing “the promotion of Chris Coates, a former ACLU voting counsel, to serve as top deputy chief of the voting section.” McClatchy went on to report that Joseph Rich, then head of the DOJ's voting rights section, and other DOJ lawyers interviewed said that Coates “seemed to grow more conservative after his superiors passed him over for a promotion in favor of an African-American woman, and he filed a reverse-discrimination suit.” [McClatchy Newspapers, 5/6/07]

Schlozman reportedly identified Coates as a “true member of the team.” A July 2008 report from the Department of Justice Inspector General's Office and the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Schlozman improperly considered ideology when making personnel decisions and cited numerous emails in which Schlozman discussed adding conservative members to “the team.” In a January 8, 2010, American Prospect article, Adam Serwer reported that “several current and former Justice Department officials” identified Coates as the attorney Schlozman called “a very different man” from his days of working for the American Civil Liberties Union and “a true member of the team” while recommending him for a job:

At first glance, Coates' extensive experience with voting rights -- he first worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and later the Justice Department -- made him look like just another career attorney. But Coates' current and former colleagues at the Justice Department say Coates underwent an ideological conversion shortly after a black lawyer in the Voting Rights Section, Gilda Daniels, was promoted to deputy section chief over him in July of 2000. Outraged, Coates filed a complaint alleging he was passed up for the job because he is white. The matter was settled internally.

“He thought he should have been hired instead of her,” said one former official in the Voting Section. “That had an impact on his views ... he became more conservative over time.”

Coates' star rose during the Bush administration, during which he was promoted to principal deputy section chief. While not mentioned by name, Coates has been identified by several current and former Justice Department officials as the anonymous Voting Section lawyer, referred to in the joint Inspector General/Office of Professional Responsibility report, that Schlozman recommended for an immigration judge position. Immigration judges have jurisdiction over whether or not foreign nationals are deported. In his letter to Monica Goodling, a former senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who was implicated in the scandal involving politicized hiring, Schlozman wrote of Coates:

Don't be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team. [The American Prospect, 1/8/10]

In his September 24 testimony, Coates said that he believed he was the person Schlozman was referring to as a “true member of the team.”