Ferguson DOJ Report: No Charges Against Officer
March 4, 2015

A federal investigation that cleared a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer for killing Michael Brown concluded that the physical evidence and credible witnesses all bolster the officer’s account that he feared for his life when he fatally shot the black 18-year-old.

The Department of Justice released an 86-page report Wednesday summarizing its reasons for not charging former officer Darren Wilson, who is white, with a federal civil-rights violation for the Aug. 9 shooting that sparked protests in the St. Louis area and across the nation.

“Based on this investigation, the Department has concluded that Darren Wilson’s actions do not constitute prosecutable violations,” the federal report said.

That mirrors the determination of a St. Louis County grand jury, which decided in November not to bring state criminal charges against Wilson. Here’s a look at some of the key findings in the federal report:

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ROBBERY SUSPECT

Wilson first encountered Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, walking in the middle of a Ferguson street, just minutes after a report of a robbery at a nearby convenience store. According to Wilson’s testimony, after he told the two to move out of the street, he realized they matched the description of the robbery suspects. The Justice Department report says that police dispatch recordings and Wilson’s radio transmissions show that he was aware of the theft and had a description of the suspects as he encountered Brown, who was carrying stolen cigarillos.

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VEHICLE STRUGGLE

After the initial encounter, Wilson backed up his police vehicle and confronted Brown. A struggle ensued. The Justice Department report says that Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown reached into the police SUV through an open window “and punched and grabbed Wilson.” The report says that is “corroborated by bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm.”

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GRABBING FOR GUN

Wilson has testified that Brown reached for his gun during the struggle in his vehicle. The report says Wilson fired two shots from the vehicle. Brown was shot in his hand. The federal report says autopsy results and the trajectory of the bullets back Wilson’s account. It says skin from Brown’s palm was found on the outside of the police SUV door, and Brown’s DNA was also found on the inside of the driver’s door. That would “corroborate Wilson’s account that during the struggle, Brown used his right hand to grab and attempt to control Wilson’s gun,” the report says.

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HANDS UP

After the initial shots, Brown ran away from Wilson’s vehicle. The Justice Department report says Brown was not shot in the back, because there were no entrance wounds there. At some point, Brown stopped and turned around. Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up in a sign of surrender- an assertion that became popular among protesters. The federal report notes that there are varying accounts of what Brown was doing with his hands. But the report concludes: “There are no credible witness accounts that state that Brown was clearly attempting to surrender when Wilson shot him.”

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CHARGING BACK

Wilson has testified that after Brown stopped running, he turned around and began charging back toward the officer. Wilson said he feared for his life as he then fatally shot Brown. The federal report says that all the credible witness accounts “establish that Brown was moving toward Wilson when Wilson shot him.” The report says the physical evidence – namely, blood stains on the road – also confirms that Brown moved toward Wilson after he turned to face them.

Report: DOJ Ferguson Report Close, Officer Charges Not Likely
January 22, 2015

AP) – The FBI has completed its investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

The Justice Department has not yet announced whether it will file a federal civil rights charge against former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. But officials and experts have said such a prosecution would be highly unlikely, in part because of the extraordinarily high legal standard federal prosecutors would need to meet.

The official was not authorized to discuss the case by name and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson declined to comment.

Wilson, who is white, was cleared in November by a state grand jury in the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown, a shooting that touched off protests in the streets and became part of a national conversation about race relations and police departments that patrol minority neighborhoods. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson in the days after the shooting to try to calm tensions and to meet with Brown’s relatives and federal law enforcement.

Wilson, who shot Brown after a scuffle in the middle of a street, told the St. Louis County grand jury that spent months reviewing the case that he feared for his life during the confrontation and that Brown struck him in the face and reached for his gun. Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him.

To mount a federal prosecution, the Justice Department would need to show that Wilson willfully deprived Brown of his civil rights. That standard, which means prosecutors must prove that an officer knowingly used more force than the law allowed, is challenging for the government to meet. Multiple high-profile police-involved deaths, including the 1999 shooting in New York City of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant have not resulted in federal charges.

Justice Ruling Legalizes Inter-State On-Line Gambling
December 26, 2011

The Obama administration has cleared the way for states to legalize online poker and other forms of virtual gambling with the release of a new interpretation of the law, reports the Associated Press.

The Justice Department opinion, dated September but only released Friday, holds that the Wire Act of 1961 does not make it illegal for states to use the internet to sell lottery tickets to adults.

Previously, the Justice Department has held that wagers through telecommunications that cross state lines or international borders were illegal.

The question at issue in the Justice Department’s decision was confined to whether states like Illinois and New York could sell lottery tickets online to in-state adults, but the principles behind the DoJ’s decision has wide-ranging effects throughout the industry.

The Justice Department said that the "ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘sporting event or contest’ does not encompass lotteries," which sparks a precedent in interpretation that could free up states to legalize other forms of virtual gambling.

"The United States Department of Justice has given the online gaming community a big, big present," said I. Nelson Rose, a gaming law expert who consults for governments and the industry, according to the AP.

The new decision would eliminate "almost every federal anti-gambling law that could apply to gaming that is legal under state laws," Rose wrote on his blog.

If a state were to legalize intra-state gambling, "there is simply no federal law that could apply," given the new decision, he said, according to the AP.