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Charges brought against three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense under the Bush administration have been dropped by the Obama Justice Department, FOX News has learned. The charges stemmed from an incident at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008 when three members of the party were accused of trying to threaten voters and block poll and campaign workers by the threat of force -- 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." VIDEO: Click to watch the incident on YouTube The complaint says the men hurled racial slurs at both blacks and whites. A poll watcher who provided an affidavit to prosecutors in the case noted that Bartle Bull, who worked as a civil rights lawyer in the south in the 1960's and is a former campaign manager for Robert Kennedy, said it was the most blatant form of voter intimidation he had ever seen. In his affidavit, obtained by FOX News, Bull wrote "I watched the two uniformed men confront voters and attempt to intimidate voters. They were positioned in a location that forced every voter to pass in close proximity to them. The weapon was openly displayed and brandished in plain sight of voters." He also said they tried to "interfere with the work of other poll observers ... whom the uniformed men apparently believed did not share their preferences politically," noting that one of the panthers turned toward the white poll observers and said "you are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker." A spokesman for the Department of Justice told FOX News, "The Justice Department was successful in obtaining an injunction that prohibits the defendant who brandished a weapon outside a Philadelphia polling place from doing so again. Claims were dismissed against the other defendants based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law. The department is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who intimidate, threaten or coerce anyone exercising his or her sacred right to vote."
With Judge Sonia Sotomayor already facing questions over her 60 percent reversal rate, the Supreme Court could dump another problem into her lap next month if, as many legal analysts predict, the court overturns one of her rulings upholding a race-based employment decision.
Three of the five majority opinions written by Judge Sotomayor for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and reviewed by the Supreme Court were reversed, providing a potent line of attack raised by opponents Tuesday after President Obama announced he will nominate the 54-year-old Hispanic woman to the high court.