A Black Kentucky judge has been suspended without pay for â€œracially-chargedâ€ comments accusing a Louisville prosecutor of intentionallyÂ seeking all-white juries.
On Monday, state officials decided to suspendÂ Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens for 90 days without pay following an investigation into judicial misconduct charges. According to Reuters, Stevens was accused of eightÂ code of conduct violations after criticizing Commonwealthâ€™s Attorney Tom Wine on Facebook and during a speech at the Louisville Bar Association. Wine had previously questioned the judgeâ€™s motion to replace two all-white juries with more racially diverse ones.
StevensÂ dismissed a jury panel back in 2014 after aÂ Black defendant complained that it â€œdidnâ€™t represent a cross-section of the community,â€ Louisvilleâ€™s WDRB reports. A new jury was formed, this time featuring four African-American members; the defendant was later found not guilty. Stevens took similar action in 2015 due to the lack of minorities on a jury. According to the station, thatâ€™s when WineÂ filed a motion with the Kentucky Supreme Court questioning if Stevens had the power to dismiss a jury based on the lack of diversity.
The judge has since apologized for his accusations.
â€œI recognize how serious it is to accuse someone, either expressly or implicitly, of racism,â€ Stevens said in a statement. â€œI do not believe Tom Wine is a racist. I apologize for any statements that implied as much.â€
â€œMy intent in making these comments was to emphasize the need to have jury panels that reflect our Commonwealthâ€™s racial and ethnic diversity so that all individuals can receive fair trials,â€ he continued.
Stevens faces several other judicial misconduct charges, many of which stem from critical comments he made about state defense attorneys and a bashing of two robbery victims who he accused ofÂ allowing their daughter to develop a fear of all Black men.
â€œI wonder if the perpetrator had been white, would they be in fear of white men?â€ Stevens said during the Feb. 4, 2015 hearing. â€œThe answer would probably be no. Iâ€™m offended by that.â€
He later apologized for the statement, saying that he initially took offense because the parents were perpetuating â€œnegative racial stereotypes.â€
â€œWhile I maintain that we should continue to speak against racial stereotyping or discrimination of any kind, I acknowledge that directing my frustration at the victims of the crime was not the appropriate methodÂ or venue to address the subject,â€ Stevens said.
The Louisville judge was removed from his duties in December 2015 pending investigations into his criticisms of racist judicial practices. According toÂ Atlanta Black Star,Â Stevens filed a lawsuitÂ against the judgesÂ and prosecutors who sought to remove him from the bench in April 2016. In it, he asserted that his comments on racism were protected by his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The suit didnâ€™t seek monetary compensation, but requested that the state cease its actions against him,Â ABSÂ reports.
The lawsuit has since been dropped, as Stevens and the KentuckyÂ Judicial Conduct Commission mutually agreed to a 90-day unpaid suspension. Per WDRB, the judgeÂ could have been cleared, reprimanded, suspended or even removed from the bench.
His suspension is effective immediately and will last through Oct. 30, according to the commissionâ€™s executive secretary,Â Jimmy Shaffer.
A GoFundMe page has since been launched for Stevens reports atlantablackstar.com.