Pittsburgh Judge Rejects Plea Agreement As Something That Prosecutor Only Gives “To White Boys”

In Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Judge Joseph Williams has caused a controversy by rejecting a plea bargain on the ground that it is the type of deal that “only goes to white boys.” The plea agreement involved three months probation for a man accused of fighting with police during a traffic stop.

In the hearing, Judge Williams (who is African American) rejected the plea agreement on the grounds that it was “a ridiculous plea that only goes to white boys.” He said that a black defendant would never have been given such a plea agreement. He further accused Assistant District Attorney Brian Catanzarite of racial bias, observing that he “for some reason comes up with I think ridiculous pleas whenever it’s a young white guy.” He continued “I’m 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.” The first problem, the prosecutor noted, is that it was not his deal — Catanzarite was standing in for another prosecutor and did not cut the plea deal.

Catanzarite was not backing down from the allegation, however. He stated “[n]ow 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.”

Williams later recused himself and another judge (who was white) accepted the plea agreement.

It is hard to judge the leniency of the plea from the known facts. In favor of the plea, the defendant had no criminal record. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. We have seen that in some cases officers charge assault with even the most limited contact with a defendant. It is not clear if this involved something more serious.

I would be surprised if the police would allow a prosecutor to plead out a serious assault case against an officer — or that the police union would remain silent in such a circumstance. In this case, the officer was not injured and agreed to the plea agreement.

Catanzarite’s legal options are limited. In-court statements are generally privileged and cannot be the basis for defamation actions. If the judge makes such statements outside of the courtroom, he could face such a lawsuit. Catanzarite could also file for judicial discipline in such a circumstances.

The judge, however, is not without supporters in this controversy with some people applauding him for objecting to the disparate treatment given white and black defendants.

Source: MSNBC

24 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Judge Rejects Plea Agreement As Something That Prosecutor Only Gives “To White Boys””

  1. Slartibartfast

    Although I understand your point, there are some disturbing issues for me concerning this Judges behavior.

    Unless this Judge is going blind, or cannot read then he knew that the Prosecutor before him was not the one who made the plea deal. I have yet to see a Judge not handed a case file for each case before him.

    To me that says that this Judge deliberately sought to berate this prosecutor, by using a Racist epithet from the bench. Whether one chooses to qualify “White Boy” as a Racist epithet, need only answer one question. If a White Judge had made a reference to a defendant as a “Black Boy” would it be deemed as Racist?

    Don’t get me wrong, I have always viewed most Prosecutors as borderline if not full blown sociopaths, thus most Judges as well.

    A review of the Prosecutors cases may be warranted, but a review of this Judges sentencing record should be viewed with equal scrutiny. His remark was clearly Racist, and there should be zero tolerance for Racism
    on the bench, as well as; in the Prosecutors office.

    Until Racism is denounced equally no matter its color
    or creed, than there can never be true Justice in our society, or our courts.

    If I have learned nothing else in my life, it is that “Racism is not Racist, it does not discriminate.
    It deserves no just degree of measure, nor excuse by reason. It is deaf, dumb, and above all else Color Blind, and the vilest of all evils ever to be unleashed upon humanity”.

  2. Using “white boys” was dumb and insulting. It’s the common usage equilavent of saying “blackies”. For that, in my opinion, he should be ridiculed and have a “talking to”. But, he did recuse himself so he is in the clear about the case itself. Finally, how about it DA? Any truth to it? Wouldn’t be anything new. It’s my understanding that the worst thing to be in court is “male”, after that it’s to be “non-white”.

  3. Mike Spindell wrote:

    “Perhaps the term “Justice is Blind” refers to our need to pretend our Justice Systems works as advertised.”

    Well said and worth repeating.

  4. Let’s face it the criminal justice system in our country does not apply the laws equally to each citizen. Never has and presumably never will given the inequity of wealth and the innate, varied prejudices of a given venue. Laws within States are enforced differently and arbitrarilly given the venue. Secondly, the inability, or lack of will to adequately fund the criminal justice system (excepting prisons)makes plea bargaining a necessity. however, despite calls for further evidence, I know damn well that these plea arrangements are blatantly unfair given the particularity of the particular defendent’s background. Perhaps the term “Justice is Blind” refers to our need to pretend our Justice Systems works as advertised.

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