Justice's Panther pursuer to testify on case

By Jerry Seper-The Washington Times

The Justice Department section chief who recommended going forward on a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party, and then was removed from his post and transferred to South Carolina, will testify on the case Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Commission officials confirmed Wednesday that Christopher Coates, who signed off on the federal-court complaint saying three party members had disrupted a Philadelphia polling place in the 2008 elections, had agreed in a hand-delivered letter to testify when the panel reconvenes its hearing on the case.

In the letter, Mr. Coates said he wanted to attend the meeting “to present testimony to comply with the outstanding subpoena served on me as part of your statutory investigation.”

In December, the Justice Department had told the attorneys who filed the complaint not to cooperate in the commission‘s investigation. Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department‘s Federal Programs Branch, had ordered the lawyers’ silence, saying there were “well-established” and “lawful” department guidelines prohibiting them from cooperating with the commission.

Mr. Hunt said at the time that the Civil Rights Commission “possesses no authority to initiate criminal prosecution of anyone” and could only make referrals to the Justice Department recommending that a criminal case be opened. He said the commission did not have the authority to enforce subpoenas.

The commission had subpoenaed Mr. Coates and J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney in the New Black Panther Party case, in December, seeking their testimony and documents to explain why the complaint was dismissed just as a federal judge was about to punish the party members, who never responded to the charges.

Just days after the Hunt ruling, Mr. Coates was removed from his post as section chief of the Voting Rights Division and transferred to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler confirmed at the time that Mr. Coates would begin an 18-month detail with the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, but said the transfer had nothing to do with the New Black Panther Party case. She said it resulted from conversations Mr. Coates initiated with Civil Rights Division officials, although she did not elaborate.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/22/justice-dept-official-testify-black-panthers-case/

No comments yet - you can be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.