Watchdogs Seek Records on Black Panthers

WASHINGTON (CN) – Judicial Watch wants the Department of Justice ordered to release records of nine meetings between Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli and the Obama White House, during which it says voter intimidation charges against the Black Panthers during the 2008 general election were discussed.

     Judicial Watch says the Justice Department responded to its FOIA request by saying that there are no records of the meetings.
     But Judicial Watch says the Justice Department “has failed to issue a determination” on its appeal.
“Defendant is unlawfully withholding records,” and Judicial Watch “will continue to be irreparably harmed unless defendant is compelled to conform its conduct to the requirements of law,” the complaint states.
The Justice Department accused the New Black Panther Party of intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 general election.
“A video of the incident, showing a member of the New Black Panther Party brandishing police-style baton weapon, was widely distributed on the Internet,” Judicial Watch wrote in a news release. “According to multiple witnesses, members of the New Black Panthers blocked access to polling stations, harassed voters and hurled racial epithets. Nonetheless, the DOJ ultimately overruled the recommendations of its own staff and dismissed the majority of its charges.”
The Judicial Watch press release claimed that Perrelli and “other top political appointees” threw out the case even though Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, entered testimony supporting the charges.
The group, which “seeks to promote integrity, transparency, and accountability in government,” says the Justice Department has withheld 122 documents in connection with the charges.
“Why should anyone believe the Justice Department’s story regarding these records?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in his group’s September press release. “We now know Justice officials falsely stated that no political appointees were involved in the Black Panther decision.
     “The Justice Department continues to withhold hundreds of pages of records that could shed light on this scandal. And despite multiple press reports documenting Perrelli’s White House meetings, the Justice Department cannot find a single record related to these meetings.
“We’re tired of getting the run-around and that’s why we sued,” Fitton said.

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