If anyone thought the Obama administration planned to sit on the sidelines after the riots in Ferguson, Mo., those thoughts should be dispelled by now. Last Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the suburban St. Louis community with the apparent ulterior motive of laying the groundwork for a federal criminal indictment against a white police officer, Darren Wilson, who on August 9 shot to death a local black youth, Michael Brown. Wilson, far from being a trigger-happy “racist” cop, very likely had acted in self-defense. Brown allegedly sucker-punched Wilson, tried to take his gun, and then, after walking or running away, stopped, turned around, and then violently charged at Wilson. Holder appears to be putting race above impartial law enforcement. Upon arrival, he stated at Florissant Valley Community College: “I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man.”
When it comes to judicious and objective law enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice during the Obama years is about the last place one would want to look. This July, I reviewed a new book, Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department (Broadside), for National Legal and Policy Center. Co-authored by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky, respectively, a syndicated columnist and a Bush-era counsel to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the book is a meticulous polemic against the abuses of power during the Obama/Holder years. Holder, who had been deputy attorney general in the second Clinton administration, has made it his mission to bend or break the law in order to achieve his radical egalitarian ideal of justice. It is a radicalism laden with a sense of racial payback. It is no coincidence that President Obama and Attorney General Holder are allies of Al Sharpton, who himself arrived in St. Louis two weeks ago for an extended stay. They, like Sharpton, are possessed of a belief that whites bear a special burden of atonement and sacrifice. Part of this mentality carries an assumption that when accused of a crime against a black, a white should be presumed guilty. It is safe to say that Holder wants a conviction. The challenge for him is how to get it.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which is poring over potentially incriminating evidence, long has been a career booster rocket for young lawyers supportive of affirmative action, selective prosecution of hate crimes, and other approaches to law that favor nonwhites over whites. The division often hires its staff attorneys directly from radical nonprofit legal groups. Achievement of social equality, even at the expense of liberty and rule of law, is the goal. Under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the DOJ has ramped up its egalitarian mission to unprecedented heights. This was to be expected. As the Fund-Spakovsky book details, and as I argued back in November 2012, Holder has never been objective. For him, partisan politics takes precedence over fealty to the Constitution and common sense, especially when race enters the picture. He operates from an assumption in which white-run America is still “racist” and in need of redemption. Thus, the Department of Justice routinely bends or ignores facts in deciding if and how to prosecute a case. An outcome unfavorable to a particular black, or blacks generally, is to be avoided even if evidence warrants such an outcome.
Holder’s handling of the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, a community of roughly 20,000 persons in the northern suburbs of St. Louis, is fully in line with this pattern. Still smarting over his inability (so far) to find a way to file federal hate crime charges against George Zimmerman, a neighborhood patrol volunteer rightly exonerated by a Florida state jury for defending himself with lethal force against an unprovoked and potentially fatal attack by a violent black teenager, Trayvon Martin, Holder badly wants a white trophy defendant. In this way, he symbolically can try all of white America. He believes he has such a person in Officer Darren Wilson, 28, a six-year Ferguson cop. Originally, the local police department was reluctant to release his name, but pressure from black rioters and their enablers, like Al Sharpton, broke that resolve. As a result, his life may be in danger. It is almost unthinkable that an attorney general, regardless of political views, could express no sympathy for Wilson or the rest of the Ferguson police force. But that’s how Holder rolls. In a recent interview, Obama’s Enforcer co-author Spakovsky expressed the view that Wilson’s rights are expendable in the eyes of Holder and other top DOJ officials. “Eric Holder has completely politicized the Justice Department,” Spakovsky noted. He explained what is at stake:
That should concern every American. I don’t care what their political background is because that is a threat to everyone’s liberty and everyone’s freedom when that kind of power is used for political purposes. I am fearful that they [Holder and his people] will try to pursue a federal case even if there’s no evidence to justify it, because of the fact that they really see everything, including Eric Holder, through the prism of race even when race is not a factor in a case or an incident.
In the Holder construction of reality, Michael Brown, a harmless 18-year-old, college-bound lad, was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson because of his race. At his funeral service yesterday, thousands of mourners, including the parents of Trayvon Martin, poured into the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. A parade of speakers remembered Brown fondly; one called him a “gentle soul” possessed of a deep and growing faith in Christianity. Mindful of the emotionally-charged atmosphere, such language flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that Brown was anything but gentle. Indeed, in all likelihood it would have been Wilson’s funeral had he not defended himself with his revolver.
Let’s take a closer look at the material details of this incident, which triggered nearly two weeks of rioting, resulting in over 150 arrests. While this account covers much of the same ground as my Ferguson article of last week, additional details have emerged since then. The entire true story will not be known for some time. It is fair to say, however, that what follows is a highly plausible set of facts based on reliable sources. Keep in mind, moreover, that in incidents such as these, truth is typically the first casualty in the initial wave of reports.
The earliest accounts from Ferguson depicted Michael Brown as the victim of a reckless, arrogant cop. Subsequent reports have provided a more believable story line. Trayvon Martin, if one remembers, was widely presumed to be a victim of a wild-eyed white neighborhood vigilante until later accounts set the record straight and put to flight a frankly outrageous prosecution. And keep in mind that back in the late Eighties a great many well-meaning people at first chose to believe the story of Tawana Brawley, a black teen in upstate New York who claimed to have been repeatedly assaulted and gang-raped over several days by a local white cop and other men. It was only later, and with hard evidence, that her story fell apart and was revealed to be a complete hoax. For a while, she and her handler, Al Sharpton, had a lot of people going.
Here, then, are some highly supportable claims, based on eyewitness accounts, surrounding the fatal encounter between Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown on August 9:
Brown had established himself as a criminal even before his encounter with Wilson. Brown’s defenders are peddling the line that he had “no prior criminal record.” This claim, even if true, is highly disingenuous. Its sole purpose is to establish Brown’s innocence, and hence, Wilson’s guilt. About 10 minutes prior to the police encounter, hidden video footage showed a young black male bearing an apparently identical likeness to Brown stealing merchandise from a convenience store. The merchandise turned out to be about $50 worth of cigars. This act, at the very least, qualifies as petty larceny. The camera also showed that on his way out of the store, Brown shoved and terrorized a diminutive store clerk attempting to get him to pay. These are crimes. As for his apparent lack of a criminal record, he likely did have one – as a juvenile. While juvenile criminal justice policies vary by state, most crimes committed by minors, save for the truly heinous ones, typically are shielded from public view and/or expunged from the record once the minor becomes a legal adult. Given that Brown was only 18 at the time of death, he had virtually no time to amass any adult convictions.
Officer Wilson did not behave in ways that justified a violent response. Wilson was driving his patrol car slowly through a Ferguson neighborhood when he encountered Brown and a companion jaywalking in the middle of a street. Wilson then reportedly told the pair to move to the sidewalk. Though not rendered in the nicest of tones, this was a reasonable request. Police across the country do this all the time. It’s a matter of public safety. There is no reason to believe Officer Wilson’s directive had anything to do with the race of the pedestrians. Even if it had, there is something elementary here. When a police officer issues a directive of any sort at a civilian, the civilian has an obligation to comply unless there is a good reason why he can’t. Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, didn’t move to the sidewalk because they couldn’t. They didn’t move because they wouldn’t. Brown in particular took offense. For him, obeying a request by a white cop constituted a symbolic surrender to the enemy. Brown apparently perceived the request as something “done” to him and thus as something requiring instant revenge.
Michael Brown in all likelihood assaulted Wilson, not the other way around. Newspaper and web articles sympathetic to Brown routinely refer to him as “unarmed.” The use of that word is misleading. Each year in this country, countless crimes are committed without the benefit of a gun, knife, blunt object or other weapon. Hands and feet can be lethal to an intended victim, especially when the assailant is large. And at 6’4,” 292 lbs., Brown bore a resemblance to an NFL lineman. Al Sharpton memorialized him as a “gentle giant” during a St. Louis press conference a week and a half ago. The “giant” part he got right. The “gentle” part he got wrong. Brown, rather than comply with a simple police request, allegedly charged toward Wilson, who was sitting in his squad car, and violently cold-cocked him. The sucker-punch allegedly (accounts differ) created an orbital blowout fracture of one of Wilson’s eye sockets. Then, Brown reportedly reached in and tried to steal Officer Wilson’s service revolver, with the clear intent of killing him. Fortunately, Wilson, though badly injured, was still conscious and possessed of his faculties. He was able to wrestle Brown away from the car’s interior and protect his gun.
Officer Wilson had very good reason to use his weapon after that. Self-anointed “anti-racist activists,” apparently unfamiliar with the nature of police work, are enraged that Wilson used his gun against Brown, and worse, fired off six rounds that hit Brown. They also insist that Brown was shot while surrendering and had been hit at least once in the back. This, they say, constitutes a police murder. The facts suggest something else. Remember, Brown already had: 1) brutally sucker-punched Wilson; and 2) attempted to steal Wilson’s service revolver with the obvious motive of killing him. Having just committed two felonies against a cop, plus an assault against a convenience store clerk, he wasn’t finished. While walking away from Officer Wilson’s patrol car, Wilson got out of his car. It was at that point, say numerous eyewitnesses, that Brown wheeled around and bum-rushed Wilson at top speed. Wilson knew he had to act within the next few seconds. He pulled out his gun and shot Brown, hitting him repeatedly but failing to slow the attack until he fired off the final shot. St. Louis Post-Dispatch crime reporter Christine Byers sent this tweet: “Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated the cop’s version of events.” Michael Brown’s defenders counter that she recanted her tweet next day. Yet the recantation itself may have been coerced by her employer. Despite the ritualized guerrilla theater taunt by demonstrators – “Hands up, don’t shoot” – the evidence that Officer Wilson had fired shots at a stationary Brown raising his arms in surrender is unconvincing.
A local autopsy showed all six bullets hit Brown from the front. Two anonymous sources from the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office, under fear of reprisal, stated on August 18 that Brown had six gunshot wounds to the head and chest and that every bullet struck the front of his body. In addition, they said, Brown had marijuana in his system. County Medical Examiner Mary Case released the results to state prosecutors late on August 15. She was most cooperative. “I welcome anyone who wants to do additional autopsies,” she remarked. “Michael (forensic pathologist Michael Baden) is someone I know, and I think highly of the Armed Forces also. I’m not upset at all.” In all, there have been three autopsies including one performed by the Pentagon on orders from Attorney General Holder. None so far has indicated any shots hitting Brown from the back. This contradicts earlier reports.
The key potential witness for the prosecution, Dorian Johnson, is unreliable. The standard account given by Michael Brown’s mourners is that without provocation, Officer Wilson grabbed Brown’s neck, tried to choke him, and then fired several shots from the back at Brown, who was walking away. The main source of that information, however, is Brown’s companion that day, Dorian Johnson. And as it turns out, the 22-year-old Johnson is less than reliable. For one thing, hidden video footage inside the store from which Brown stole merchandise suggests Johnson did more than accompany Brown; he aided and abetted the theft. Second, Johnson has a few skeletons in his closet. An investigative report by KMIZ, the ABC television affiliate in the Columbia-Jefferson City, Mo. area, revealed Johnson has an outstanding local warrant for his arrest for a theft dating back to June 2011. Johnson also had been charged with giving police false information in connection to that incident. Were that not enough, Dorian Johnson may have admitted that Brown was the assailant after all. According to a news story broken a week ago by radio station KFNS-FM 100.7, aka “the Viper,” in St. Louis, Johnson recanted his original story, which he had given as an exclusive to MSNBC – the same network, perhaps no coincidence, where Al Sharpton has been giving six o’clock news and commentary for the past three years. The radio station even posted the news of the recantation on its Facebook page.
Putting all these considerations together, prosecutors appear to have very little to hand over to a grand jury. But none of this apparently has mattered to the rioters in Ferguson and their enablers in high places. It especially hasn’t mattered to Eric Holder, whose sympathies appear to be with Michael Brown far more than with the cop who defended himself from Brown. For one thing, Holder expressed no concern for the well-being of Darren Wilson, who had been severely beaten and may have to go into hiding for a long time. And second, he is using the original recounting of events to denounce what he sees as a pervasive societal anti-black bias. Waxing autobiographical at Florissant Valley Community College, he said: “I think about my time in Georgetown – a nice neighborhood of Washington – and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells ‘Where you going? Hold it!’ I say, whoa, I’m going to a movie.” This anecdote assumes police harassment, and of a racially-motivated sort. Yet I myself, and as an adult, more than once have been questioned by cops based on an understandable but unfounded suspicion. A brief, cogent explanation goes a long way in clearing the air. Whether one considers it to be “fair” or “unfair,” when a police officer makes a request of a pedestrian, the pedestrian has an obligation at that point to comply.
Attorney General Holder is primed for a federal indictment. Already, the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office announced last week that it was prepared to present evidence to a grand jury pointing to Brown’s death as homicidal. Holder told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an online message that he’s assigned 40 FBI agents to the case, not to mention prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis. He added that hundreds of people have been interviewed. That’s a whole lot of firepower for what amounts to an act of police self-defense. His friend and confidante, Al Sharpton, has weighed in several times during his extended visit. At an August 17 rally in Ferguson, Sharpton said it was despicable to release a robbery report naming Brown as a suspect before his burial, failing to grasp that what was despicable was the robbery itself. The shooting death, he added, was a “defining moment for this country.” At the same rally, his close friend, Martin Luther King III, insisted County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch recuse himself in favor of a special prosecutor. And a black Missouri Highway Patrol captain, Ron Johnson, appointed by Governor Jay Nixon to serve as a peacemaker, actually may have added to the conflaguration when he stated: “We need to thank Mike (Michael Brown) for his life. We need to thank him for the change that he is going to make.” He added: “And I will stand and protect you. I will protect your right to protest.” Apparently, Officer Wilson’s right to defend himself from an attacker is a non-issue.
Attorney General Holder’s visit to St. Louis, rather than defuse a tense situation, if anything, has escalated it. For it raised the hopes among the faithful that federal criminal charges are just down the road. Should a grand jury decline to indict Wilson or some other white scapegoat – and prosecutors almost certainly will use every tactic in the book to secure an indictment – many local blacks will assume that dark racist forces stood in the way of justice. Another riot at that point would be difficult to contain. If a grand jury does indict, however, true believers will be expecting a conviction. A conviction via plea bargain, but with a light sentence, would not be good enough. And obviously, neither would a not-guilty verdict in the event the case goes to trial.
Let’s be blunt: Anything short of a conviction and a severe prison sentence is likely to result in more rioting – and not just in the St. Louis area. Aside from criminal action, a civil suit, and more than one, is almost bound to happen. The attorneys for the Brown family, Benjamin Crump and Daryl Parks, both black, are experts in the art of shaking down “racist” targets under the guise of achieving moral justice. At an August 17 rally in Ferguson, Crump declared: “We know that this was an execution.” If that sounds presumptuous, keep in mind that Crump and Parks are the same duo who represented the parents of Trayvon Martin. They have every reason to extend the discovery process until they can find that elusive “smoking gun” and extract an exorbitant settlement. Obtaining a predominantly black jury – the kind these shysters seek – raises the odds of victory. Race, not evidence, is what matters to them. Their friend, Rev. Al Sharpton, announced at the rally that a class-action suit would be filed on behalf of Ferguson protestors claiming to have been tear-gassed – never mind that these were riots, not mere “demonstrations.” At Michael Brown’s funeral service yesterday, Sharpton bellowed before a cheering crowd: “America, it’s time to deal with policing. We are not the haters. We’re the healers.”
Sharpton, by the way, is a veteran of making life miserable for the multitudes in St. Louis. Back on July 12, 1999, the Rev was among about 125 people arrested for blocking Monday morning rush hour traffic on Interstate 70 north of downtown. The stated purpose of the shutdown was to boost minority contracting and hiring for highway construction projects. The State of Missouri wound up entering into an agreement with a minority contracting group and the construction industry to establish a new job training center.
The prospect for a fair and peaceful resolution to this crisis is anything but good. If the Justice Department really were committed to rule of law, things might be different. But that is not the case. The department views rule of law as impediment to social justice. If Attorney General Holder really wanted to prove his commitment to race-blind impartiality, he could lend a hand to the beleaguered Ferguson Police Department. He also could investigate victims of black crime. This past April near Dover, Delaware, a group of blacks on a school bus assaulted an innocent white student sitting alone, capturing the moment on cell phone video. The bus driver did not intervene. Perhaps Eric Holder will. But don’t count on it.