Federal civil rights charges 'unlikely' against Officer Wilson

More grist for the mill in Ferguson, MO – or tinder for the bonfire, if you prefer.  Not that the racialists need any more of an excuse to riot and pillage, but following last week's grand jury leak that Officer Darren Wilson will probably not be indicted in connection with the death of Michael Brown, the Washington Post is reporting that the Justice Department is unlikely to bring a civil rights case against the policeman.

“The evidence at this point does not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson,” said one person briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Justice Department officials are loath to acknowledge publicly that their case cannot now meet the high legal threshold for a successful civil rights prosecution. The timing is sensitive: Tensions are high in greater St. Louis as people await the results of a grand jury’s review of the case.

Many supporters of Brown say they are already convinced there will be no state-level indictment of the officer. Federal officials have wanted to show that they are conducting a full and fair review of the case.

Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said the case remains open and any discussion of its results is premature. “This is an irresponsible report by The Washington Post that is based on idle speculation,” Fallon said in a statement.

Other law enforcement officials interviewed by The Post said it was not too soon to say how the investigation would end. “The evidence we have makes federal civil rights charges unlikely,” one said.

A lawyer for Brown’s family, Benjamin L. Crump, said he would not comment “on something that is not official.”

James P. Towey Jr., Wilson’s attorney, did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

The Justice Department is continuing its broad investigation of the policing practices of the Ferguson Police Department, which could result in wholesale reforms and reorganization. The Justice Department on Friday announced an agreement with the city of Albuquerque intended to overhaul the way its police department uses force, the result of one such civil rights investigation.

At a forum this week organized by the Aspen Institute and the Atlantic magazine, Holder indicated that a similar overhaul could be called for in Ferguson. “It’s pretty clear that the need for wholesale change in that department is appropriate,” Holder said.

Federal law sets a high bar in bringing civil rights charges against a police officer because prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer intended to violate someone’s constitutional rights.

The Post sounds regretful that it's so hard to bring a civil rights lawsuit to trial.  Why shouldn't it be hard?  If the federal government is going to throw its weight around against private citizens, the bar has to be high to prevent scurrilous or, as in this case, politically motivated prosecutions.  It would be easy to satisfy the mob in Ferguson by indicting Wilson for violating Brown's civil rights.  But if the federal government – for political or any other reason – gives into the mob's idea of justice so easily, it will undermine the local civil authorities, whose first responsibility is to enforce law and order.

The threshold to prove that Wilson was not acting in self-defense is necessarily high.  And thank gooidness for that.