Stephen Colbert was not the only one testifying on Capitol Hill today. Lost in the media circus following Colbert's comments may have been the testimony of a far more important individual.
On Friday, Christopher Coates testified in front of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission about the Department of Justice's handling of a voter intimidation case last year.
Coates is the whistle-blowing Justice Department official who revealed a "hostile atmosphere" within the department, and supports former Justice staffer J. Christian Adams's claims of bias against cases that involved white victims and black defendants. Both have criticized the Justice Department's downgrading of a case involving voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party at a voting station in Philadelphia during 2008 presidential voting.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/neGbKHyGuHU?fs=1&hl=en_US expand=1]
In his testimony Coates blasted "senior political appointees" at the DOJ for "gutting" the case.
"Given this outrageous conduct, it was a travesty of justice for the Department of Justice not to allow attorneys in the voting section to obtain nationwide injunctive relief against" the defendants, Coates testified.*
He said that he believes the Voting Rights Act has not been enforced equally, and that certain civil rights groups have pressured the department into molding it into a de facto law benefiting minorities: "Many of these groups act … as special interest lobbies for racial and ethnic minorities and demand not equal treatment but enforcement of the Voting Rights Act only for racial and language minorities."
The DOJ had advised Coates, a 13-year veteran of the civil rights division, not to honor a subpoena to speak on Capitol Hill, but he decided to ignore their request and testify at a U.S. Civil Rights Commission hearing on Friday anyway.
He called the attempt by the DOJ to silence him part of "the hostile atmosphere that has existed within [Justice’s Civil Rights] Division for a long time against race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act."
Since last year, Coates has been transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina. According to Fox, the Justice Department has denied the allegations over its handling of the New Black Panther intimidation case, saying that it was downgraded "based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity of any party involved."
*(Editor's note: The case was not dismissed in its entirety. Per Coates's testimony, the decision was made to "dismiss three of the party defendants in the case and order the limitation on the broader injunctive relief ... against the one remaining defendant." According to earlier statements by Adams, the original punishment for the defendants was set to be a full injunction -- meaning they could never be near a voting station again. In the end, the only penalty given was that one of the defendants -- seen in the video with the baton -- could not be near a polling place with a weapon until 2012.)
You can view Coates's testimony on the C-SPAN website here.