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Holder rejects charge victim's race is factor in civil rights cases

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer
  • The idea that race plays a role in prosecution decisions is "simply false," Holder says
  • A veteran Justice Department attorney made that accusation recently
  • Holder takes a swing at the Civil Rights Division's record under Bush

Washington (CNN) -- Attorney General Eric Holder emphatically rejected Monday the charge that his Justice Department's Civil Rights Division considers the race of an alleged victim when deciding which cases to pursue.

Holder's declaration during a Justice Department news conference Monday followed public testimony last month by a veteran Justice Department civil rights attorney that a case of alleged voter intimidation against members of the New Black Panther Party was dropped because the victim was white.

"The notion that we are enforcing any Civil Rights laws, voting or other, on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender is simply false," Holder told reporters.

That contradicts Justice attorney Chris Coates' testimony before the independent Civil Rights Commission that key officials in the Obama administration's Justice Department said openly they would not pursue cases by blacks against white victims. Coates claimed that is the reason Holder's Justice Department dropped the case against the Black Panthers for actions at a Philadelphia polling station.

Holder also took a swing at the Civil Rights Division record during the Bush administration.

"People have to understand the way in which the Civil Rights Division was run and how it was politicized. And how hiring was done there and the way in which enforcement occurred. And some people want to go back to those old days," He asserted.

The attorney general said he would await the findings of an investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general and an internal watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility.