All Articles Tagged "Justice Department"
It took much longer than it should have, but the outrage over the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has finally caused the FBI and the Justice Department to open a formal investigation into the teenager’s death. In a statement, the Justice Department said:
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation.”
The victim’s family lawyer, Ben Crump, said public pressure was behind an earlier promise by the Justice Department to review the case. Some 533,000 signatures have been gathered on a petition on change.org calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot the unarmed teenager in a gated Florida community. Over the weekend, 911 tapes of witnesses to the shooting, including one where the victim and the shooter can be heard screaming in the background, sparked many to action, including a number of celebs. Spike Lee and Wyclef Jean sent out tweets encouraging their followers to sign the petition, and it seems the move is working.
Zimmerman initially escaped arrest under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, dubbed “shoot first, ask questions later” by opposers, which allows a potential victim who is “in fear of great bodily injury” to use deadly force in public places. Crump says that defense is ludicrous.
“It’s illogical, you can['t] claim self defense after you chase and pursue somebody,” he said. “That’s a courtroom defense. That’s not something the police accept on the side of the street.”
Hopefully it’s not something the FBI or the defense department will accept either and George Zimmerman will be arrested as he should have been on Feb. 26.
Have you signed the petition at Change.org?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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(New York Times) — Republicans on Tuesday sought to intensify political pressure on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. over a disputed investigation into a gun trafficking network based in Phoenix, accusing him of misleading Congress. Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent aletter to President Obama asking him to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Holder committed perjury in testimony about the investigation, known as Operation Fast and Furious, at a hearing in May. Mr. Holder testified that he had only recently heard about the matter. But Mr. Smith pointed to two newly disclosed documents suggesting that the attorney general may have encountered references to Fast and Furious the previous year. He contends that the documents raise “significant questions about the truthfulness” of the testimony.
(Washington Post) — The Obama administration is escalating its crackdown on tough immigration laws, with lawyers reviewing four new state statutes to determine whether the federal government will take the extraordinary step of challenging the measures in court. Justice Department lawyers have sued Arizona and Alabama, where a federal judge on Wednesday allowed key parts of that state’s immigration law to take effect but blocked other provisions. Federal lawyers are talking to Utah officials about a third possible lawsuit and are considering legal challenges in Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina, according to court documents and government officials. The level of federal intervention is highly unusual, legal experts said, especially because civil rights groups already have sued most of those states. Typically, the government files briefs or seeks to intervene in other lawsuits filed against state statutes.
(Houston Chronicle) — The U.S. Department of Justice said that two of Texas’ controversial redistricting maps didn’t comply with the Voting Rights Act’s minimum standards, finding that the proposed changes to state House and Congressional districts failed to maintain or increase the ability of minorities to elect their candidates of choice. That decision, in a court filing Monday, is not binding but virtually assures that the new boundaries will be decided after a legal battle.
By Charlotte Young
Between the city of Baltimore, the Federal Reserve and the Department of Justice, Wells Fargo is feeling the heat for alleged discriminatory practices against borrowers, which played a major role in the financial crisis.
Most recently the DOJ is taking on the nation’s largest home mortgage lender, claiming the company deliberately sought out and took advantage of African American borrowers during the housing bubble, and led them to high-cost, subprime loans.
Huffington Post reports that the DOJ’s actions are part of its efforts to toughen up on the actions of major mortgage firms during the financial crisis. Its fair lending unit has opened about 60 matters and has more than 15 ongoing investigations.
The Federal Reserve has also taken public action against Wells Fargo. Last week, the Fed alleged that more than 10,000 borrowers were incorrectly guided towards subprime mortgage loans or were subject to loan document falsification by bank personnel.
In a separate lawsuit filed by Baltimore, the city accuses the company of “reverse redlining,” the practice of guiding black borrowers in majority black areas to high cost mortgage loans. The city maintains that they did this knowing the borrowers would default on their loans, but unafraid of the consequences as Wells Fargo had sold those loans to investors.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is also conducting private audits of Wells Fargo and four other companies. The five companies stand accused of defrauding taxpayers in its dealing of foreclosures and government-backed loan home purchases.
Wells Fargo still admits no wrongdoing in any of the allegations.
“We have a very strong commitment to serving all customers along the credit spectrum, and we do so without bias,” Vickee Adams, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo told the Huffington Post. “That’s the type of responsible lending that we practice.”
Prior to the recent probes, Wells Fargo was seen by most as the most “innocent” of mortgage lenders. Its executives even escaped the heated public questioning from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.
But now, its clean and guiltless image is quickly fading.
Already Wells Fargo has negotiated and consented to pay $85 million in civil charges for the Fed’s accusations, in hopes to settle these accusations without a public lawsuit. In the allegations brought on both the state and federal level, the negotiations could cost the company billions.
(Washington Post) — In a racially mixed corner of Shreveport, La., a small group of white voters protested loudly this year that they did not want to be part of a majority black district when the legislature redrew the state’s political boundaries. The Republican-led statehouse complied, drawing a line around the community to accommodate them. That line is at the heart of a case before the Justice Department that is seen as a critical test of how the Obama administration will interpret the controversial Voting Rights Act as it rules on a new wave of redistricting plans. The law, passed in 1965, was designed in part to prevent white lawmakers from weakening the voting strength of minorities with the deft drawing of district lines. More than a dozen states, including Louisiana, are required because of their history of discrimination to clear their redistricting plans with Justice.
(Wall Street Journal) — The Obama administration on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to fine broadcasters for airing indecent words or images, setting up a potential First Amendment showdown at the high court. The Justice Department wants the high court to review lower-court decisions that have challenged the FCC’s ability to police airwaves. If accepted for review, the case could be a significant test of the government’s ability to police what is said on radio and television broadcasts. Last July, a three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the FCC’s indecency policies were “unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here,” and violated the First Amendment.
(Seattle Post Intelligencer) — The U.S. Department of Justice is launching a formal civil rights investigation of the Seattle Police Department following several high-profile violent incidents, federal officials said Thursday. The incidents include the shooting death of a Native American carver, the stomping of a Latino suspect and the punching of an African American teenage jaywalker. ”I want to emphasize that we have not reached any conclusions,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said at a news conference. “I think this gives us a great opportunity to have experts with a new set of eyes … to help us see what is going right and what can be improved.” The announcement followed the Justice Department’s decision in January to do a preliminary review of Seattle police’s use-of–force practices. That review came after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups called for an investigation into a possible pattern or practice of unnecessary use of force, especially against minorities.
(AP) — In a case that has drawn strong criticism from Republican conservatives, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has found no evidence that politics played a role when department attorneys dismissed three defendants from a voting rights lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party. OPR, which investigates allegations of attorney misconduct, concluded that the government lawyers’ work on the lawsuit in 2009 was based on a good-faith assessment of the law and the facts and had a reasonable basis. ”We found no evidence of improper political interference or influence from within or outside the department” and the government attorneys acted appropriately in the exercise of their supervisory duties, OPR said in a letter Tuesday to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.