Not enough evidence to charge Darren Wilson in rights investigation, officials say

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Civil rights charges unlikely against Ferguson cop in Brown case, official says.

Darren Wilson isn’t expected to face civil rights charges over the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last August after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said on Wednesday. The Justice Department has yet to make any official announcement, but sources close to the department have said such a prosecution would be unlikely, in part because of the extraordinarily high legal standard federal prosecutors would need to meet. Wilson was cleared in November by a state grand jury in the August 9 death of Michael Brown, a shooting that touched off protests in the streets and became part of a national conversation about race relations and police departments that patrol minority neighborhoods. Prosecutors would have to prove that Wilson violated Brown’s right “to be free of unreasonable seizure of his person,” that Wilson intended to violate Brown’s right when he opened fire and he had done so willfully – essentially, that he knew it was wrong to fire but did so anyway.

The investigation into the shooting, which prompted months of unrest, was largely completed weeks ago, said the officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly. The case is now in the hands of federal prosecutors and a final decision is expected sometime before Attorney General Eric Holder leaves office in the next several weeks. That standard, which means prosecutors must prove that an officer knowingly used more force than the law allowed, is challenging for the government to meet. The timing of his departure is dependent on the confirmation of nominee Loretta Lynch, who is scheduled for hearings next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That investigation, which will examine potential racial bias among officers, has the potential to have more sweeping consequences than any individual criminal prosecutions, experts say. Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Brown’s family, said in a statement that the family would not address speculation from anonymous officials and was waiting for an official Justice Department announcement. Louis whose community officials and police officers are mostly white, and across the nation in communities that have seen similar police killings – especially of young black men – go unpunished.

But a broader Justice Department civil rights investigation into allegations of discriminatory traffic stops and excessive force by the Ferguson Police Department remains open. Multiple high-profile police-involved deaths, including the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant, in New York City, have not resulted in federal charges. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Michael Brown’s family, told USA TODAY Wednesday that neither he nor the Brown family has been informed of the Justice Department’s decision. “The last we heard from them, they were still investigating,” Crump said. “We won’t respond to rumors and speculation because it’s too much to put the family through. The investigation could lead to significant departmental changes, as other federal reviews have done for police departments in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Newark, New Jersey. Louis County grand jury decision in November, followed closely by a December Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury decision to clear a white officer in the choke-hold death of another black man, Eric Garner, touched off national protests and a re-examination of police tactics and law enforcement’s interactions with minority communities.

The episode, along with the death of Eric Garner — an unarmed black man who died after a chokehold by a New York police officer in July — set off a nationwide discussion about policing, race and the use of deadly force. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Justice Department lawyers were preparing a memo recommending against prosecuting Wilson, but that the memo was not yet complete and that Holder — who is expected to leave his position within weeks — had not yet made a decision. Holder and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, speaking about the issue in personal terms, said they understood the concern that minority neighborhoods had with the police. The U.S. attorney whose office is handling that investigation, Loretta Lynch, has been nominated to replace Holder and faces a Senate confirmation hearing next week.

Brown had charged at him, and other witnesses backed up his account. “I’m backpedaling pretty good because I know if he reaches me, he’ll kill me,” Mr. Holder ordered a separate autopsy, which was conducted by pathologists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s office at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the officials said.

He traveled to Ferguson, spoke of his experiences as a victim of racial profiling and emerged as a peacemaker during the tense days after the shooting, when the police used tear gas on demonstrators and the National Guard was summoned. Mayor James Knowles III of Ferguson did not respond Wednesday afternoon to a voice mail message and email seeking comment about the broader federal investigation of his city’s police department. Jeff Small, a Ferguson spokesman, said city officials did not have any new information to share about either federal inquiry and would not comment on them.

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