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Sunday, 1 November 2020

The Justice Department Has Stopped the Civil Rights Probe Into Tamir Rice's Killing, but Didn't Bother To Notify His Family

 

Illustration for article titled The Justice Department Has Stopped the Civil Rights Probe Into Tamir Rices Killing, but Didnt Bother To Notify His Family
Photo: Shutterstock (Shutterstock)

In case we needed any more evidence that the Trump administration is working overtime to protect police officers in this country from facing any repercussions for killing Black people, news has now come to light that the Justice Department has deliberately blocked a federal inquiry into the killing of Tamir Rice.

Rice, as you’ll remember, was the 12-year-old Black boy who was shot and killed by Cleveland police on a playground in 2014 for the crime of holding an air pellet gun. Timothy Loehmann, the cop who shot Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene, had escaped any charges in the killing after a grand jury in Cuyahoga County, Ohio found him not culpable of any crime under the recommendation of a prosecutor there.

The Justice Department under Obama then opened up its own civil rights investigation into the killing at the request of the Rice family. Federal prosecutors then began pursuing civil rights charges against Loehmann, gathering evidence they could use to launch a grand jury investigation.

But under Trump’s Attorney General William Barr, and Jeff Sessions before him, that investigation has been stopped cold, reports the New York Times.

From the NY Times:

Under Justice Department rules, criminal prosecutors with the civil rights division must receive permission to use a grand jury to subpoena for documents or witness testimony. In mid-2017, the people said, Mr. Fishman and Mr. Reddick wrote a roughly 20-page memo analyzing the case and requesting permission to pursue a grand jury investigation.

Two career supervisors in the section concurred with the request, the people said. They submitted the memo to Robert Moossy Jr., a deputy assistant attorney general, who, although a career official, works alongside Mr. Trump’s political appointees who run the division.

Typically, the people said, such a request is approved or denied within a few weeks. But no one responded to the memo. In fall 2018, the career prosecutors submitted a supplemental memo of about equal length that contained additional evidence and analysis making the case that a grand jury investigation was justified, the people said. But that memo also yielded no response.

Two career supervisors in the section concurred with the request, the people said. They submitted the memo to Robert Moossy Jr., a deputy assistant attorney general, who, although a career official, works alongside Mr. Trump’s political appointees who run the division.

After letting the grand jury request sit without an answer for two years, higher ups at the Justice Department finally denied it in August 2019. Yet this is only coming to light now, at the end of 2020, because a lawyer named David Z. Seide filed a whistleblower complaint accusing the Department of mishandling the case.

The extensive delay in responding the grand jury request also coincidentally pushes up against the five year statute of limitations for charges of obstruction, which the officers involved in the incident could have been charged with. Seide says the the possibility for obstruction charges to be laid, on the basis of Loehman’s official statements that he repeatedly told Rice to put his hands up before shooting and killing him in seconds after arriving on the scene, will expire in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, no one at the Justice Department is copping to the reason behind freezing the investigation or for neglecting to notify Rice’s family and the public that it is effectively going nowhere.

Subodh Chandra, a lawyer representing the Rice family, says Tamir’s mother was devastated to hear the latest development—and through media reports.

“When Samaria Rice heard the news, she cried out repeatedly, ‘I’m not ready for this!’” Mr. Chandra said to the New York Times. “The federal investigation was her last hope for justice.” 

 

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