Last year, investigators in Texas’ Williamson County sheriff’s office made a series of significant felony drug busts. They dismantled two methamphetamine lab operations and arrested three people, says the Austin Chronicle. During the same period, undercover investigators spent six months making a series of crack cocaine buys in Taylor. Those transactions eventually resulted in nine arrests. Neither meth-lab bust made the news, but the arrests of the nine Taylor crack suspects made headlines. County prosecutor John Bradley labeled the nine suspects “well-connected” and “high-level” drug dealers.
The Chronicle notes that the Taylor nine are black and were arrested for dealing between one and 45 grams of crack; the three meth cooks are white and were charged with the manufacture, possession, and intent to deliver more than 200 grams of speed. Two of the Taylor defenants are doing jail time; one meth defendants with a previous record agreed to a seven-year prison term; the other two were offered deferred adjudication, meaning that, if they successfully complete probation, all record of their guilty pleas will be expunged. Experts attribute the differences to the power of prosecutors to determine plea bargains. “There is an enormous shift of power away from the judiciary and over to the prosecution. The judges are a lot like clerks,” said Steven Bright of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights. “So really, all of the power is being exercised by the district attorney.” Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP, says that, “For the most part [Bradley’s office offers] harsh sentences across the board. But based on our analysis, they are harsher for African-Americans.”