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Justice Department Hurls Charges at Ferguson Police, but Clears Officer Wilson

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Eric Holder is on his way out as U.S. attorney general, but he wants to leave a reminder of his legacy.  Unfortunately, it is a legacy of willful racial polarization heavily driven by his ally, Al Sharpton.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) today released a report concluding that police in Ferguson, Mo., the St. Louis suburb where a fatal shooting last August by a local white police officer of a violent black youth triggered massive rioting, has engaged in anti-black bias.  The study, a summary of which was released earlier this week, accuses Ferguson police of systematic targeting of blacks.

Yet the report appears motivated solely as a response to a state grand jury’s sensible refusal last November to indict the cop for murder.  And given that the Justice Department, much to the chagrin of Holder, today cleared Wilson of civil rights violations, the report appears especially rooted in vindictiveness.

National Legal and Policy Center has been on this from the start.  In two separate articles last August (here and here), and in Chapter 20 of my new book, Sharpton:  A Demagogue’s Rise, I explain at length that the case against former Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson (he resigned only weeks after the incident for his own personal safety) was entirely politically driven.  Had Officer Wilson been black and/or Michael Brown been white, this incident would never have made national news.  Indeed, it barely would have qualified as local St. Louis news.  The elevation of the “unarmed” Michael Brown into a saintly gentle giant, his life was cruelly robbed by a racist white cop, was the default “civil rights” narrative.  It was meant to collapse as material evidence accumulated.  It had no basis in fact.      

To recap, around noon last August 9, Officer Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the Ferguson police force, while riding in his squad vehicle, confronted two young black men, Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson,  jaywalking down a local street.  Wilson briefly got out of his car and told the pair to move to the sidewalk.  It was a reasonable directive.  Walking in the middle of the street is potentially dangerous to pedestrian and motorist alike.  Moreover, there was no reason to believe that Officer Wilson would have behaved any differently had the pedestrians been white.  Michael Brown thought differently.  Rather than comply, he explosively charged at Wilson, who had returned to the inside his squad car.  The not-so-gentle 18-year-old Brown, 6’4” and 292 lbs., then sucker-punched a seated Wilson and then tried to steal his service revolver.  By any reasonable account, this was a life-threatening situation.  Wilson managed to hang on to his gun.  While Brown was walking away from the scene, Wilson got out of his car, whereupon Brown wheeled around and charged at Wilson at top speed.  Having to act quickly to defend his life, Wilson shot Brown several times, the last round being fatal.    

Initial accounts, especially from Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, indicated that Wilson had shot Brown from behind, and worse, did so while Brown was raising his hands in surrender.  A great many people, well-meaning and otherwise, chose to believe this account.  In short order, “hands up, don’t shoot” became a protest chant across the country.  Radical activists launched demonstrations in cities around the country.  Local blacks in Ferguson not only demonstrated, but also rioted.  Ferguson, Missouri, a heavily black community of about 20,000 people in the north St. Louis suburbs, suddenly found itself as a living symbol of oppression.  Benjamin Crump, one of the black attorneys for the Brown family, declared:  “We know that this was an execution.” 

St. Louis County prosecutors, under tremendous pressure from the U.S. Justice Department and allied civil rights activists to concur, rapidly convened a grand jury.  Less than two weeks after the shooting, Attorney General Holder visited the St. Louis area in a disingenuous attempt to generate sympathy for Brown.  His close friend and ally, the Reverend Al Sharpton, visited the area several times over the next few months.  His eulogy for Michael Brown at a St. Louis church attracted an overflow crowd of nearly 5,000 supporters.  Sharpton wasn’t just acting out of conviction.  According to the popular blog site Politico, he was the Obama White House’s unofficial street emissary.  It was high irony.  Here was Al Sharpton, a man with a long history of fomenting riots in his native New York City, now assigned with the task of preventing one.            

For months, Sharpton and other “anti-racist” activists were sharpening their knives, eagerly awaiting an indictment.  Yet as evidence accumulated, this interpretation of events became suspect.  Indeed, the case turned out to be a flimsy web of self-contradiction and lies.  Brown, far from being a “gentle giant,” described by Sharpton, had robbed a nearby convenience store just minutes before his fatal confrontation; the incident was caught on a store video camera.  The grand jury, having spent three months examining thousands of pages of documents and numerous photographs, and hearing testimony from dozens of witnesses, declined to indict Wilson.  It was the right call.  This was a case of police self-defense.  Had Wilson not fired his service pistol, it would have been he who lay dead in that street.  Facts did not deter local blacks, who proceeded to loot and burn a large portion of Ferguson only hours after the announcement. 

The Justice Department civil rights investigation represented the last hope for the national hanging jury.  But this, too, was a hard case.  By federal law, the DOJ had to prove that Officer Wilson had intended to deprive Michael Brown of his rights and was not in any immediate danger.  In the end, prosecutors, whatever their political leanings, concluded this was an unwinnable case.  Based on extensive forensic and testimony from 41 alleged eyewitnesses, their report concluded:  “There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety.”  As for the witnesses claiming Brown was shot from behind and/or with his hands up in surrender, their accounts were so contradictory or outright false as to be useless.  The DOJ report stated

Some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witness’s own prior statements with no explanation.  Although some witnesses state that Brown held his hands up shoulder level with his palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe then dropping his hands and ‘charging’ at Wilson.  Those witness accounts stating that Brown never moved back toward Wilson could not be relied upon in a prosecution because their accounts cannot be reconciled with the DNA bloodstain evidence and other credible witness accounts.     

The radicals at the U.S. Justice Department, led by its Civil Rights Division and, most of all, Attorney General Eric Holder, whose contempt for rule of law has been well-documented, had other ideas.  They were putting together a separate report that would reveal racially discriminatory enforcement practices at the Ferguson Police Department.  Today that report was released.  Supporters naturally will seize upon it in hopes of exacting a costly out-of-court settlement upon the City of Ferguson, and even better, to cause police departments around the country to shy away from applying basic law enforcement procedures against black suspects out of fear of being sued.  Yet anyone with sound political instincts knows that the only reason for singling out Ferguson was the lack of an indictment of Wilson. 

The Holder report suggests a discovery process gone wild.  Federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of Ferguson police records and analyzed racial data for every single recent police traffic stop.  The study concluded that over the past two years that blacks, who constitute about two-thirds of the local population, accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 of citations, 93 percent of arrests and 88 percent of cases in which the police used force.  The response ought to be a shrug – as in “So?”  Even if Ferguson police did not consciously focus on blacks, the fact remains that blacks as a whole commit serious crimes at much higher rates than whites and other races.  Equally important, race is a legitimate marker for aiding in the capture of a guilty party.  By knowing a suspect’s race, among other features, police can cut the time and cost of an investigation, thus protecting every law-abiding person in the community.     

The Holder faction at the Department of Justice singled out Ferguson for retribution.  The same pattern of results could have been obtained from any county or local police department.  Taking note of the insignificance of the statistical “imbalance,” columnist Steve Sailer asked:

And how does this pattern differ from any other place in America?  Can the Justice Department find just two municipalities in America where blacks don’t get into trouble with the law disproportionate to their share of the population?  There might be one town somewhere in America where that isn’t true, although I’ve never heard of it, but are there two? 

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