Tags: MidPoint | Alberto Gonzales | Ferguson | Scott Wilson | Michael Brown

Ex-AG Alberto Gonzales: 'Justice Was Achieved' in Ferguson

By    |   Friday, 23 January 2015 03:03 PM

A federal probe into the death of Michael Brown appears to have been conducted diligently and without bias, and a decision to clear Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown last August, will be a conclusion firmly based on the law, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Newsmax TV on Friday.

While the public doesn't know every detail of the Justice Department probe into the racially charged incident, "the people of Ferguson should be reassured by the fact that it appears that the Department of Justice went well beyond what you would normally see in an investigation, to reassure the people in Ferguson that justice was achieved," Gonzales told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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The Justice Department is preparing to end its inquiry and will clear Wilson, who is white, of having violated Brown's civil rights when he shot the unarmed 18-year-old, who was black, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Wilson was spared indictment in November by a St. Louis County grand jury that heard evidence over the course of three months, while the Justice Department probe continued, and as racial tensions over policing reached a peak amid protests that spread across the country. 

Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, took a personal interest in the Ferguson case, visiting the majority-black city to talk with residents about their relations with a majority-white police force.

Gonzales, dean of Belmont University College of Law in Nashville, said that Holder's obligation as the nation's chief law enforcement officer — in the Ferguson matter or any other — is to act without fear or favor.

"Obviously when I was the attorney general, there were households in America that were happy a Hispanic had been elevated to the position," said Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush.

"But there is no brown justice, no black justice, no white justice," said Gonzales. "There is just justice, and the attorney general of the United States has to administer justice equally, no matter the skin color of the defendant, no matter the skin color of the victim. Your job is to simply apply the law."

Gonzales said that in the wake of last year's conflicts over policing, both sides need to come to the table.

"Communication is a very important part of trying to calm the waters here," he said.

The goal, he said, is greater mutual understanding between police and communities of both parties'  needs and challenges.

"One of the things that really dismayed me about this whole episode was that there seemed to be so much talk about justice for Michael Brown and so little talk about the fact that 99 percent of police officers around the country, they go to work every day risking their life," said Gonzales.

"They do a great job and in many communities around the country, law enforcement officers have worked hard to establish strong relationships with the community," he said.

Where problems with policing exist, they are "isolated," said Gonzales, and he said that the country as a whole is "working hard to eliminate those."

But a community has to have confidence that its police officers are as accountable under the law as everybody else, he said, noting that some cities employ citizen review boards — comprised of people outside the tight circle of law enforcement — to conduct independent inquiries into excessive-force allegations.

"To the extent you can involve the community in understanding what the police department is doing in investigating certain kinds of crimes, that's very, very important as well," he said.

But Gonzales also acknowledged the tension between due process and the rights of the accused on the one hand, and a community's desire for swift justice and resolution on the other.

And he argued that even in cases where an allegation of police abuse appears to be substantiated by video, "sometimes [video] doesn't tell the whole story."

"Sometimes those images are out of the context in some way," he said. "Even though you may have something — video that shows what appears to be police brutality, police wrongdoing — we want to be careful in terms of making sure we get it right.

"Coming to some resolution within a reasonable period of time is important," he said, "but what's more important is that we get it right. The investigation has to be handled right, and we have to come out with a right outcome, which is, of course, the truth."

Asked about the 2016 presidential race, Gonzales said that his erstwhile boss's brother, former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, "would make a fine president."

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A federal probe into the death of Michael Brown appears to have been conducted diligently and without bias, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Newsmax TV on Friday.
Alberto Gonzales, Ferguson, Scott Wilson, Michael Brown
Friday, 23 January 2015 03:03 PM
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