Civil Rights Panel to Hold Hearing on Justice Dept.'s Handling of New Black Panthers Case

The United States Civil Rights Commission will hold a public hearing next week on why the Justice Department dropped charges last May against three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in a voter intimidation case that the government won.

Among those expected to testify at next Friday's hearing are Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who has led the charge for answers from the Justice Department, and three Philadelphia poll watchers. 

But notably absent from the commission's list of witnesses are the Justice Department officials. 

"They haven't responded," commission spokeswoman Lenore Ostrowsky told FoxNews.com. "What they have done is prevented their current employees from showing up for depositions. And that position to this moment has not changed."

"That may change. Right before the hearing, they might allow it. We're not holding our breath," she said with a laugh.

Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told FoxNews.com that department is providing witnesses but none will appear at the hearing.

"We're working on scheduling," she said.

The Justice Department has defended its move to drop the case, saying it obtained an injunction against one member while dismissing charges against the others "based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law."

But that explanation hasn't satisfied the commission or Republican lawmakers, who say the dismissal could lead to an escalation of voter intimidation.

Three members of the radical group were accused of trying to threaten voters and block poll and campaign workers by the threat of force in November 2008 -- one even brandishing what prosecutors call a deadly weapon.

The three black panthers, Minister King Samir Shabazz, Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were charged in a civil complaint in the final days of the Bush administration with violating the voter rights act by using coercion, threats and intimidation. Shabazz allegedly held a nightstick or baton that prosecutors said he pointed at people and menacingly tapped it. Prosecutors also say he "supports racially motivated violence against non-blacks and Jews."

The Obama administration won the case in April but moved to dismiss the charges in May without explanation.

The commission has repeatedly sought information from the Justice Department, going as far as filing subpoenas. Justice spokeswoman Schmaler said the department has provided 2,000 pages of information in response.