A federal judge yesterday dismissed a multimillion dollar damage suit by the Black Panther Party against several government officials after ruling that the party had deliberately failed to comply with the judge's order to supply the government with information it needed to defend itself.
U.S. District Judge John Lewis Smith Jr. also ordered the party to pay costs and attorney's fees to the government because the party's behavior frustrated informtion-gathering efforts by the government in preparation for the trial.
Justice Department attorney Larry L. Gregg said the government would submit an estimate of costs and fees to the court, probably within 10 days.
In 1976, the Panther Party, its founder Huey P. Newton, a party chairman and supporters sued 21 former and current government officials and a former White House aide, contending that they had conspired since 1967 to destroy the party both politically and financially.
Allegations in the lawsuit grew out of a congressional inquiry which turned up information that federal law enforcement agencies had allegedly tried to promote violence within the party, to discredit it in the eyes of the public and to prevent members from freely discussing their views.
Last August, Smith ordered the party to clarify and explain inconsistencies in answers it had supplied to the government in pretrial information gathering procedure known as "discovery."
Smith also told the party and Newton that they would have to decide either to drop their contention that certain of the information was "privileged" on constitutional grounds or risk dismissal of claims related to that information. c
About three months later, the government asked Smith to dismiss the case and assess costs to the party because its responses had been inconsistent and evasive.
Bruce Terris, an attorney for the party, said yesterday that the Panthers had provided the government with hundreds of pages of answers to its questions. h
Terris said the information withheld, on constitutional grounds, related to names of party members previously undisclosed and to criminal investigations which involved Newton.