A federal judge in Memphis is challenging the federal prosecutor’s office saying the prosecutors are bringing harsher charges against African-American defendants than white defendants for similar crimes, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. U.S. District Judge John Fowlkes has raised questions of racial discrimination in at least three cases in recent weeks. The U.S. Attorney denies discriminating based on race. One case involves two drug dealers, one white, one African American. Last year, the men traveled together to a Wendy’s parking lot sell a man 100 ecstasy pills for $800. The white man got into the buyer’s vehicle to sell the drugs while the black man stayed in a vehicle with a gun between his legs.
The supposed ecstasy buyer was an undercover Memphis police officer. Police arrested the two dealers and a woman traveling with them. All three pleaded guilty. The black man got a 15-year term due to prior convictions. The white man, with a limited criminal record, got one year in prison. Fowlkes asked why prosecutors didn’t charge the white man with a gun crime, too, because he worked with the armed black man to complete the drug deal. “This is another situation where a white defendant appears to have been treated differently than African-Americans,” the judge said. Prosecutor J. William Crow, said he didn’t think he could prove the five-year-minimum gun charge against the other people in the car. “I apologize to the court if you’ve ever thought that I or anyone in our office is taking race into account in what we charge because that’s just not the truth,” he said.