The latest example occurred last week when a Justice Department attorney tried to explain to a U.S. magistrate judge why the government had failed to turn over documents as ordered in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Ghaisar’s family. That judge had issued the order in January, with a deadline of Feb. 17. Now it was March 6. And instead of having produced the FBI investigative files on the shooting, the government had transmitted nothing but policy manuals from the Park Police. What, asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Ivan D. Davis, was the problem?
“It’s an extremely voluminous file,” said Kimere J. Kimball, the lawyer.
The judge suggested transmitting it by thumb drive.
“It’s a sensitive case,” said Ms. Kimball, who then suggested the government might formally request that some documents be withheld. The judge, cutting off Ms. Kimball and barely containing his anger, gave the government until this Friday.
That exchange neatly reflected the smokescreen that has poured forth from the government, which has had months to prepare for the family’s lawsuit, first filed in 2018. The FBI files, the product of an investigation that dragged on, inexplicably, for nearly two years, have already been turned over to Virginia prosecutors, who are weighing criminal charges. So how can it take months more to render the same files to the Ghaisar family, and what is so “sensitive” about the case, anyway?
The answer, Justice Department officials say, is mainly that the Ghaisar case involves two U.S. Park Police officers, Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, killing a civilian. In fact, that is a non-answer. The fact that police officers pulled the trigger — in this case, without facing any threat to themselves or others — is no excuse, as the judge made clear in court. “There are plenty of cases in this court that are sensitive,” he said. “You do not not produce information because it is sensitive. The other side has the right to information that’s necessary to prove their claims.”
From the outset, however, officials in this case have done the opposite. In contrast with officer-involved shootings elsewhere, the Park Police officers’ names were withheld for 16 months after the incident, a show of open contempt for the Ghaisar family and the public.
As is plain from the dash-cam video of the Ghaisar incident, what’s really “sensitive” about the case is that the shooting was unwarranted. What has followed, first in the criminal case, now in the civil one, is a prolonged coverup that has left an indelible mark of disgrace on the Park Police, the FBI and the Justice Department.