WASHINGTON – The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against six white men involved in a July 24, 2004, altercation which resulted in the death of Noah Jamahl Jones, an African-American teenager.
The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with the FBI, opened this investigation based on allegations that Mr. Jones’ death may have resulted from a racially-motivated attack. The U.S. Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation.
During the federal investigation, the FBI interviewed witnesses and reviewed investigative reports, an autopsy report, and records from a state investigation and prosecution. In May 2005, the state of Maryland tried Jacob Fortney, one of the six white men involved in the incident, for voluntary manslaughter. After a four-day trial, a jury acquitted Fortney of that charge.
Experienced civil rights prosecutors reviewed the voluminous transcripts from the state investigation and criminal trial. Based on careful review and analysis of all of the evidence related to Mr. Jones’ death, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office determined that the evidence was insufficient to support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.
In order to prove a violation of federal criminal civil rights law, the United States would have to meet a high burden of proof that cannot be met in this case. The two relevant civil rights statutes require the government to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Jones was killed both because of his race and because he was exercising a specific federally-protected right, such as the right to enjoy a home, a public education, or a public facility.
The available testimonial and physical evidence in this case is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the subjects’ actions were motivated by the victim’s race. Moreover, the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the violence was intended to interfere with any of Mr. Jones’ federally-protected rights. The evidence is insufficient to prove that it involved a willful violation of federal criminal civil rights laws. Accordingly, the Department of Justice has no choice but to close this matter without prosecution.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and the FBI devoted many hours and significant resources to a complete and careful review of the events surrounding Mr. Jones’ tragic death. The decision not to pursue criminal charges is based on painstaking analysis of the facts developed during a lengthy and thorough investigation. The Department of Justice remains committed to investigations of this kind and stands ready to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated. The Department of Justice aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever the evidence developed in these investigations warrants doing so.
Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the FBI met earlier today with representatives of Mr. Jones’ family to advise them of this decision.