A black judge from western Pennsylvania rejected a plea agreement for a man accused of fighting with police during a traffic stop, saying it was “a ridiculous plea that only goes to white boys.”
The plea agreement was for a sentence of three months probation. Allegheny County Judge Joseph Williams said on Tuesday that a black defendant in that situation would not have been treated as leniently.
In court, Williams told Assistant District Attorney Brian Catanzarite that he,
“For some reason comes up with I think ridiculous pleas whenever it’s a young white guy, just telling you what my observation is. If this had been a black kid who did the same thing, we wouldn’t be talking about three months’ probation.”
Catanzarite responded with:
“Now that the court has essentially called me a racist, I think that’s unfair. I don’t make offers based on race. I make offers based on facts.”
Judge Williams later excused himself from the case, and a white judge accepted the plea agreement for 24-year-old Jeffery McGowan.
The defendant, who had no criminal record, agreed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct, and had faced charges including aggravated assault.
On Tuesday, Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, told the Tribune-Review the plea deal was appropriate and agreed to by the officer, who was not injured.
“Negotiated pleas are never based on the race of a particular defendant but rather on the behavior of the defendant and the facts associated with that behavior.”
Do you believe in the judge’s opinion?