A Kentucky judge is drawing criticism for comments he made during a sentencing hearing — for an African-American man who pleaded guilty to armed robbery — saying the victims in the case were fostering racist stereotypes in their 3-year-old daughter.
The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, reports Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens made the comments during a Feb. 4 hearing for 27-year-old Gregory Wallace.
An edited version of the video from that hearing (shown below) has recently surfaced online, sparking controversy.
Stevens, who is also black, can be heard in the video saying he is troubled by a statement submitted to the court by one of the victims of the crime.
According to The Courier-Journal, Wallace had pleaded guilty to a 2013 incident in which he and an accomplice broke into the home of Jordan and Tommy Gray and robbed the couple and their 3-year-old daughter at gunpoint.
“There’s a victim impact statement here that bothers me, to be honest with you,” Stevens says at the beginning of the video. “And I just have to read it. I assume the victims in this case are white?”
When the prosecutor replies that they are, the judge continues reading the statement from one of the parents.
“‘This incident has had the most impact on my daughter. She’s in constant fear of black men,’” Stevens reads from the statement. “‘When out running errands, we come across a black male, she holds me tight, and begs me to leave. It has affected her relationships at school and relationships with our African-American friends.’
“Really?” Stevens says in the video after putting down the statement. “You don’t have to answer for it but, I want to make that part of the record. I am offended by that. I am deeply offended by that. That they would be victimized by an individual and then express some kind of fear of all black men.
“I wonder if the the perpetrator had been white would they be in fear of white men,” he adds. “The answer would probably be no. I am offended by that.”
Wallace’s accomplice, 27-year-old Marquis McAfee, who had been on probation for a previous crime, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
But Wallace’s attorney had made a motion for probation for his client.
After reading the statement for the court, Stevens tells the prosecutor the statement won’t “affect what happens here, but I want to make it a part of the record.”
“And perhaps you pass this on, I find this very offensive,” Stevens adds.
The prosecutor in the case can be heard in the video telling Stevens he believes probation would “unduly depreciate what happened.”
Stevens seemed to disagree and sentenced to Wallace to five years probation.
“I think the equities weigh in favor of you having a chance to redeem yourself,” Stevens can be heard saying in the video.
According to The Courier-Journal story, Stevens said he was persuaded by the fact that Wallace had no prior convictions for violent crime and had the support of family and friends.
At one point in the video, Stevens says he understands that the Gray’s daughter was victimized and isn’t necessarily offended by the young girl’s reaction.
“My exception is more with the parents and their accepting of that kind of mentality and their fostering of those kind of stereotypes,” he says.
But users on Reddit, in a thread devoted to the video, argue that the judge likely let his personal feelings get in the way of handing down a just sentence.
“He got emotionally invested in a response a 3 year gave due to being held at gun point,” user kcxd9 wrote, in part, speaking of the judge. “And then went on to say that the parents are fostering racist behavior….”
“Even if the parents we're extremely racist the criminals sentence shouldnt be reduced because of this,” wrote user shane727. “If a white guy robbed some black family who was now scared of white people because of the incident I wouldnt want the judge giving the guy a lighter sentence. Hes still an armed robber.”
Photo Credit: Screen shot from YouTube