Liberals, particularly the NAACP, in the past few weeks have repeated the claim that Sen. Jeff Sessions is a racist based on his 1985 prosecution of civil rights activists for absentee ballot vote fraud.
What are the facts and legal history of that case? Then-U.S. Attorney Sessions was acting pursuant to a complaint brought by African-American candidates who believed that their African-American supporters' votes were being stolen or altered to steal the election away from them. He prosecuted after a grand jury indictment, with the assistance and oversight of the Department of Justice, and evidence of the stealing of African-Americans' votes was presented at trial. He was upholding his duty as a federal prosecutor to prosecute violations of the law for which there is sufficient evidence to believe a conviction may be achieved; it was not a malicious prosecution on racist grounds:
“No federal prosecutor faced with the evidence seen by the grand jury would have failed to take the case and go forward with the prosecution,” [former head of the Election Crimes Unit inside the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section Craig] Donsanto told me. “The evidence in the case was overwhelming. I was there with the other assistant U.S. attorneys and not one dissented — everyone thought it was a solid case. I told Jeff Sessions to go forward with the case.” . . .
Donsanto is highly offended by any claims that the prosecution was racist. The federal prosecutors were “trying to protect black voters who were having their votes stolen,” he notes. Moreover, the investigation was initiated only after local black voters and candidates complained to the Justice Department. When asked about the fact that a jury found the defendants not guilty, Donsanto says that as a former federal prosecutor, he respects the jury system. . . .
In Perry County, Jeff Sessions and the other Justice Department lawyers were trying to protect black voters from having their right to vote stolen — a precious right that those voters had fought very hard to obtain during the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, a jury let the defendants off despite the evidence in the case, including testimony from black residents of the county about how their ballots had been altered and changed without their permission. And that is the real tragedy of this case.
As Craig Donsanto says, this was a prosecution intended to preserve and protect the right to vote, something to which he dedicated his entire professional career. Anyone who claims this was a racist prosecution by Jeff Sessions is, according to Donsanto, “a liar and a political opportunist of the worst kind.”
Similarly, the Public Interest Legal Foundation pointed out five important ways in which former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had distorted the facts and history of the case in his opposition letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Mr. Patrick misleads readers to believe the ‘Perry County Three’ in Alabama were prosecuted by Mr. Sessions for ‘assisting’ voters. They weren’t.
Prosecuting voter fraud is not itself an act of voter intimidation.
Mr. Sessions was not a rogue prosecutor – he acted with oversight from multiple DOJ offices.
If Sessions’ advancement of the case was as faulty as Patrick alludes, why did the Court refuse to acquit the defendants from the outset?
Patrick fails to remind Congress that the defendants offered to enter guilty pleas for the misdemeanor election crimes.
Unfortunately, the facts of the case will not prevent liberals from using it as a basis to call Sen. Sessions a racist, despite all evidence to the contrary. We can only hope that the American people will see through this name-calling and learn about the actual history of the Perry County absentee ballot fraud prosecution.