Why won’t the Justice Department let Christopher Coates testify on New Black Panther Party case?

J. Christian Adams, a former Department of Justice official, has gained a lot of media attention as a whistle-blower in the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) voter intimidation case. His testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has raised a great deal of concern and questions about the current racial mandates at the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

While Adams’ statements about the racial directives within the division have caused public distress, they have not given rise to action as his testimony, though partially corroborated, is in some regards hearsay. Christopher Coates is perhaps the one man who could provide substantive answers to back up Adams’ claims.

Coates was the chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department who led the team of attorneys that brought the initial case of voter intimidation against the NBPP. In May 2009, Coates was allegedly ordered to dismiss the charges against the NBPP.

On January 5, 2010, the Department reassigned Coates to the U.S. attorney’s office in Charleston, South Carolina. Some have speculated that the reassignment was in retaliation for his prosecution of voting rights violations against black defendants, specifically the NBPP and a case in Noxubee County, Mississippi (U.S. v. Ike Brown, a case in which a black political boss in Mississippi, Ike Brown, was accused of voter suppression).

A DOJ spokesman, Xochitl Hinojosa, told The Daily Caller in a brief e-mail that “Christopher Coates requested the transfer to South Carolina.” But despite DOJ’s position, some still question whether Coates’ reassignment was voluntary and why the DOJ won’t allow him to speak about the NBPP case.

In mid-January at National Review Online, Hans A. von Spakovsky paraphrased a speech Coates gave at his going away party on January 4, 2010 explaining his decision to prosecute the aforementioned voting rights cases. “The first is that a plain reading of the statutory language of the Voting Rights Act indicates that it is aimed at protecting all American voters from racial discrimination and voter intimidation, and is not limited to protecting only racial-minority or language-minority voters,” von Spakovsky paraphrased Coates. “The second reason I supported the prosecution of these two cases is because the race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is imperative to the holding of racially fair elections.”

So far, the DOJ has refused to allow Coates to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the NBPP case.

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow told The Daily Caller, the DOJ’s rationale for preventing Coates from testifying is that since the Commission’s area of inquiry could be about why the NBPP case was dismissed, any testimony from Coates would involve the DOJ’s internal case deliberations, which are privileged.

Gerald Reynolds, the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, told TheDC that if the DOJ had nothing to hide they would allow Coates speak.

“I cannot understand why the Department would not be eager to rebut the allegations made by Christian Adams. They should not wait to receive an invitation from the Commission. They should be eager to have this conversation,” Reynolds said. “The allegation is devastating, if it’s true. And if I were over at the Department of Justice the first thing that I would want to do is just allay all concerns that there’s a policy in place, formal or otherwise, that the Department will not enforce the voting right to act against black defendants.”