The American Civil Liberties Union is accusing federal prosecutors of ethnic bias in a sting last year in which South Asian owners of Georgia convenience stores were charged with selling products that could be used to make methamphetamine, reports the New York Times. The ACLU charged yesterday that prosecutors ignored extensive evidence that white-owned stores were selling the same items to methamphetamine makers and focused on South Asians to take advantage of language barriers.
Informants visited convenience stores in rural northwest Georgia starting in 2003 to buy ingredients that can be used to make the drug – household items like Sudafed, matches, aluminum foil and charcoal. Prosecutors said the clerks should have known that the ingredients would be used to make methamphetamine. Forty-four of the 49 people charged were Indian, and 23 out of 24 stores in the sting were owned or operated by Indians. David Nahmias, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, denied any bias. To date, he said, 23 defendants have pleaded guilty. Of 629 convenience stores in the sting’s six-county area, 80 percent are owned or operated by whites, said the ACLU.