Judge Slams Victims for Tot’s ‘Black Men’ Fear

Andrew Wolfson, USA Today, April 10, 2015

Jordan and Tommy Gray’s 3-year-old daughter was watching SpongeBob Squarepants when two armed men broke into their home near Buechel on March 21, 2013, and robbed them at gunpoint.

Two years later, when one of the offenders was about to be sentenced, Jordan wrote in a victim impact statement that her daughter was still “in constant fear of black men.” Both robbers were African-American.

“Whenever we are running errands, if we come across a black male, she holds me tight and begs me to leave,” the mother said. “It has affected her friendships at school and our relationships with African-American friends.”

Tommy Gray also wrote that since the crime, his daughter had been terrified of black males and that probation was not sufficient punishment for Gregory Wallace, 27, who had pleaded guilty to robbery.

“If holding a little girl at gunpoint gets you probation, then our system is flawed,” Gray said.

But when Wallace was brought up for sentencing Feb. 4 in Jefferson Circuit Court, it was the parents, not Wallace, who suffered Judge Olu Stevens’ wrath.

“I am offended. . . . I am deeply offended that they would be victimized by an individual and express some kind of fear of all black men,” he said.

“This little girl certainly has been victimized, and she can’t help the way she feels,” he said. “My exception is more with her parents and their accepting that kind of mentality and fostering those type of stereotypes.”

The Grays were not in court as Stevens denounced their statements and granted probation to Wallace, whom he said deserved the opportunity to redeem himself.

But they did see when Stevens condemned their statements again, in a post on Facebook.

“Do three year olds form such generalized, stereotyped and racist opinions of others?” he wrote. “I think not. Perhaps the mother had attributed her own views to her child as a manner of sanitizing them.”

Stevens, who was appointed to the bench in 2009 and re-elected last year without opposition, did not mention the Grays or Wallace by name on Facebook. He noted in court and in his post that “the statement played absolutely no role in the sentencing decision.”

And in an interview, he said he did nothing improper in court or on social media. “I was cautioning the parents against allowing racial stereotypes to impact their behavior and that of their child,” he said.

But leading experts on judicial ethics condemned his remarks, as did Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine and friends and family of the Grays, some of whom have started a Facebook page urging Stevens’ removal from office.

“Judge Stevens blamed and shamed the victims,” said the girl’s paternal grandmother, Dawn Renee Bryant, who said her daughter-in-law cried when she read the judge’s post. “It is very disturbing to be called something you are not.”

{snip}

Wallace and his accomplice, Marquis McAfee, both 27, were arrested about three weeks after the robbery. Both pleaded guilty and McAfee, who was on probation for a prior crime, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, which he is serving.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Elder objected to probation for Wallace, who pleaded guilty to a 20-year sentence, saying he was “guilty as hell” and “put a gun in that little girl’s father’s face.”

But Stevens said in court that Wallace had no prior convictions for violent crimes and strong support from his family and friends, who wrote letters to the judge noting that he had won the “Johnny Unitas Scholar Athlete Award” at Iroquois High School and stayed out of trouble during 17 months in jail awaiting trial.

Stevens said in court that “more times than not” he sends offenders who use firearms during their offenses to prison, but in this case “I think the equities weigh in favor of you having the opportunity to redeem yourself.”

Of the victim statement, he said to Elder, “I wonder if the perpetrator had been white would they be in fear of white men. The answer would probably be no.

“I am offended by that,” Stevens continued. “Perhaps you can pass this on that I find this very offensive. You don’t need to answer for it.”

“Certainly I can understand the court’s outrage there,” Elder said before changing his mind. “I guess I really don’t.”

{snip}

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT

(Jordan Gray, mother)

Has the crime had a psychological impact on you?

My husband works nights and there are many nights I still can’t sleep. Even with a security system I don’t feel safe in my own home. I’m nervous about when random people walk down the street and constantly have our doors locked.

Has this crime effected the lifestyle of you or your family?

Due to the impact it has had on my 5-year-old daughter we have to consider the area in which we go. While my daughter and I used to play outside, we are hesitant to do so now by ourselves.

If you have any additional information, please feel free to attach it to this form. (i.e, recommended sentence).

This incident has had the most impact on my daughter. She is in constant fear of black men. When we are running errands, if we come across a black male, she holds me tight and begs me to leave. If (she) is playing in a room and I walk into another, she freaks out. It has affected her friendships at school and our relationship with African American friends.

(Tommy Gray, father)

Has the crime had a psychological impact on you?

For months after this crime I couldn’t sleep. I would relive this incident every night before bed. I would constantly see their faces every time I closed my eyes.

Has this crime effected the lifestyle of you or your family?

Since the crime occurred my daughter is terrified of black males. Where ever we go, we are constantly reminded of her fears. She brings up the crime and can’t be left alone in our own home because she is afraid someone will bust in the door.”

Has this crime resulted in any damages or loss of property?

My wife’s cell phone and vacation fund of about $1000.

If you have any additional information, please feel free to attach it to this form. (i.e, recommended sentence).

I don’t have a recommended sentence but I feel like probation is not enough. This crime will effect my daughter for the rest of her life and Mr. Wallace deserves to serve time. If holding a little girl at gunpoint gets you probation, then our system is flawed.

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