Justice Department: Zimmerman Will Not Be Charged With Federal Crimes

department-of-justice-logo1Zimmermanx-inset-communityYesterday, the Justice Department closed the book on the George Zimmerman case with the announcement that it will not file federal civil rights charges. When Attorney General Eric Holder ordered in federal investigators soon after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, some (including myself) questioned the legal basis for entering the case based on the still developing evidence. The Justice Department usually allows state or city prosecutors and police to finish their investigation before entry into a case. Holder was viewed as responding to political pressure in ordering the premature entry in the case. That investigation will now end shortly before Holder leaves his very controversial tenure as Attorney General.

It was clear to some of us that there was no clear basis for civil rights violations given the high standard for such prosecutions. That is not to say that there were not legitimate concerns. There were obvious questions surrounding the shooting. However, the facts were largely in equipoise and would normally have been allowed to progress to a grand jury before an intervention. Despite the claims of some legal commentators, there was never a compelling basis for federal charges, even for highly motivated federal prosecutors. For prior columns, click Here and Here. Holder later followed the same approach with an early intervention into investigating the officer involved in the Fergusan, Missouri shooting. That investigation is equally likely to be closed without charges.

The Justice Department however held the case to the very end of Holder’s tenure despite the clear lack of foundation for federal charges. The Justice Department announced: “Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface. We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

Thursday will be the third anniversary of Martin’s death.

41 thoughts on “Justice Department: Zimmerman Will Not Be Charged With Federal Crimes”

  1. AnneMarie – you are completely wrong. Please read the witness testimony, which is available online.

    The witnesses who claimed they saw his hands up for the most part admitting they lied. Some weren’t even there, or didn’t see what happened, but merely repeated what they heard others say.

    There was, however, agreement among witnesses that Brown charged at the officer after first attacking him in the car and grabbing for his gun.

    So, there’s that.

  2. “Despite the claims of some legal commentators, there was never a compelling basis for federal charges, even for highly motivated federal prosecutors.”

    A lot of people have egg on their faces. I well remember being attacked for merely remarking we should wait for a thorough investigation. What is especially sad is the great damage that was done by the race baiters. Think of all the violence that was done in retaliation “for Treyvon.”

    Now we have the ignorant “hands up, don’t shoot” mantra that shows a complete disregard for the actual facts of the Brown shooting. But they sure did have fun rioting and burning down the shops of innocent business owners in their own community.

    Racing to an inflammatory conclusion before we know all the facts can actually do great harm in the community you’re supposedly standing up for.

    Who suffered from the Brown riots? Ferguson, of course.

  3. “All the hands up people are going to be in mourning today.”

    Mr. Schulte

    Intellectually, I’m not sure you understand the concept of movements or demonstrations as exhibited by your comments. Regardless of your feelings on the case, it’s a social movement that used particular phrases to rally around at demonstrations.

    1. TJustice – it is a movement based on a lie that helped burn down parts of Ferguson. I am a child of the 1960s. Started college in 1961. I know what movements are and I know how they are manipulated. George Soros spent 33 million supporting protesters in Ferguson. Not sure how that helps a movement.

      That vaunted Muslim holding hand around the synagogue? Turns out there were about 10 Muslims and about 1000 lookee loos. The AP combined them all to make it 1000 Muslims holding hands. And the guy who called for the hand-holding had earlier called for the death of all Jews.

  4. Ari, The point is there was no prima facie case to even consider civil rights violation crime. Holder pandered to the hoody crowd just like he pandered to the “hands up” crowd. Lamenting about the high threshold is just political horseshit. The threshold SHOULD BE HIGH!

  5. I agree with the dropping of potential charges against Zimmerman. Do I think he acted sensibly? No, I do not. However, he did not commit a hate crime or anything like it. Would I have acted as Zimmerman did? No. Not because it wasn’t my right, but because I know, without a shadow of doubt, that if I directly become involved with using my side arm (save the dangerous person spiel) my life would be ruined and it wouldn’t be called for if not to stop venal assault or a crime against another person otherwise. I am the last on the list to defend, personally, and that is just how it is for me. I find ways to avoid such situations. Others’ mileage may vary. I think I’ve made it clear in my previous comments that the color or ethnicity of a questionable person, whose behavior is suspect, is not one of my criteria, and frankly I do not notice it, for direct action short of threat to another’s life.

  6. Alyssa, I misread the blurb online. I was WRONG. Crazy, mean, Keith was only suspended for a week. Mea culpa.

  7. The threat of prosecution was never credible, but has now lost its political utility.
    The administration got what they needed out of it, and strung it along long after the carcass started to rot.

    Or like the Sword of Dom DeLuise hanging over your head.

  8. “If there was any truth whatsoever to the “Hands Up” narrative, I fail to see how the DOJ would not indict Wilson.”

    I’d like to believe that, but it’s hard to know these days. The truth can be elusive.

    Tossing this into the mix:


  9. According to a previous comment: “And PaulS, I see the former MSNBC hero, Keith Olbermann just got fired from ESPN 8, “The Ocho.”[Movie Dodgeball reference]. The crazy man just can’t seem to keep a job.”

    Olbermann suspended and off-air until next Monday:

    “Keith Olbermann will not host his show for the rest of the week, ESPN said Tuesday, because of tweets critical of Penn State and its annual THON fundraiser.

    “We are aware of the exchange Keith Olbermann had on Twitter last night regarding Penn State,” ESPN said in a statement. “It was completely inappropriate and does not reflect the views of ESPN.

    “We have discussed it with Keith, who recognizes he was wrong. ESPN and Keith have agreed that he will not host his show for the remainder of this week and will return on Monday.”

    If anyone has a source, stating that he’s been fired…?

  10. Holder is the most lawless and ideological AG in my lifetime. I mean I have seen some lawless ones like George Mitchell, and some idiots like Ed Meese. But for sheer lawlessness, pandering, and ideological driven actions, Holder is the worst. Good riddance. I hope he stays out of public life and retires to some golf course in Florida or Palm Springs.

  11. It’s great to see Bob Stone back here, a GOOD attorney w/ common sense and experience. His take on Ferguson has been reasoned, and based on facts, not emotion and flat ass lies.

    Isaac is right about Angela Corey. And PaulS, I see the former MSNBC hero, Keith Olbermann just got fired from ESPN 8, “The Ocho.”[Movie Dodgeball reference]. The crazy man just can’t seem to keep a job.

  12. “Funny how almost every other witness supported the ‘hands up’ incident”

    Exactly what source are you relying upon for that statement?

    It sure as hell can’t be the actual grand jury transcript.

  13. It was a lie started by Anthony Shahid and Dorian Johnson.

    Funny how almost every other witness supported the ‘hands up’ incident (except, of course, the discredited and mentally ill racist white woman “witness 40” who was cited continually by Hannity on Fox News untill it was revealed she was never there…)

    So they all lied too, eh? Just can’t trust those black people amirite?

    1. AnneMarie Dickey

      Had you actually read the transcripts, you would have seen that Witness 40 was only one of NINE witnesses that admitted to providing false claims.

      The others were Witnesses 22, 35, 37, 41, 42, 45, 46, and 57.

      All 8 of those admit to false claims in support of indictment. And Witness 22 testified to obtain immunity because her two previous statements were found to be entirely false.

      All the articles you’ve read about Witness 40 omitted the witnesses I mentioned above to make it sound like she was the only liar in the case.

      Do you really think singling out Witness 40 while exclude the other eight witnesses that admitted to lying in favor of indictment makes the “hands up” narrative any more true?

  14. If there was any truth whatsoever to the “Hands Up” narrative, I fail to see how the DOJ would not indict Wilson.

    Recall that in the Rodney King case there was no allegation of discrimination as it is not a required element under 18 USC 242.

    From a NY Times article on the Federal indictment of the four policeman in the Rodney King case:

    “The first count of the Federal indictment named officers Powell, Briseno and Wind, the three who could be seen on the videotape raining blows on Mr. King. It charges that, while “acting under color of the laws” of California, they “did willfully strike with batons, kick, and stomp Rodney Glen King,” thereby violating a Federal law that dates to 1909 making it a crime to deprive any person of a Constitutional right “under color” of law. The statute is meant to apply to police and other public officials.

    Mr. Koon, who did not strike Mr. King, was separately charged under the same law with willfully failing “to prevent this unlawful assault,” thereby depriving Mr. King of “the right to be kept free from harm while in official custody.”

    Though the case has been widely seen in racial terms, the indictment made no mention of a racial motive. Ms. Baird, the prosecutor, said none was needed to obtain a conviction under the statute. “The indictment does not allege any racial animus,” she said. “Racial motivation is not an element of any of these charges.”


    Here’s how Wilson’s indictment would look like if the FBI and DOJ believed they had a case:


    On or about August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, within the Eastern District of Missouri defendant DARREN WILSON, then police officer with the Ferguson Police Department, while acting under color of the laws of the state of Missouri, shot Michael Brown, an inhabitant of the state of Missouri, willfully depriving him of the right, preserved and protected by the Constitution of the United States, to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer. The offense involved the use of a dangerous weapon and resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of, Michael Brown.
    All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2 and 242.


    The DOJ’s refusal to indict Wilson, despite the pressure of a clearly biased Attorney General, clearly indicates a complete lack of evidence supporting the “Hands Up” narrative.

    It was a lie started by Anthony Shahid and Dorian Johnson.

    I just hope that the DOJ will release the memo describing how it arrived at its decision not to indict after Holder resigns.

  15. I’m glad to see that MSNBC is back to using the picture of Trayvon Martin when he was 12. No shame. None.

  16. This is going to disappoint a lot of people. All the hands up people are going to be in mourning today.

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