By Sheryl Estrada
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens
Using a racial slur in Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens’ courtroomon Monday earned a Kentucky man 60 days in jail.
A video shows Stevens, who is Black, revoking Adam Satterly’s bond on drug charges.
As Satterly left the courtroom he shouted, “Punk a** n***er!”
Stevens asked deputies to bring him back then promptly corrected him.
“Is there something that you wish to say to me” Stevens asked Satterly.
Satterly, who is white, told Stevens he was talking to his brother, not the judge.
“Because I heard you say a racial epithet,” Stevens said.
“No, no, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” Satterly said.
“Oh, you didn’t mean it like that” the judge responded. He then told Satterly he was holding him in contempt of court.
“You don’t speak those words in here,” Stevens said. “And that word particularly, you don’t use that word. I’m going to give you 60 days for having used that word. I’m going to hold you in contempt right now for having used it in this courtroom. It’s disrespectful; don’t ever do it again.”
Click here to see WDRB’s video of the incident.
Stevens had Satterly brought before him again on Tuesday, with his attorney present. Helectured Satterly on proper court conductand the inappropriateness of using racial slurs, accepted his apology and reduced his 60-day contempt sentence to time served.Stevens then again set Satterly’s bond on drug charges at 10 percent of $5,000.
This is the latest incident regarding race for Stevens, who has been an advocate for diverse juries.
“[Jury diversity] is central to everything that we do,” Stevens said in an interview last month. “I think from the vantage point of the defendant, it’s very important to have a diverse jury, particularly African-American defendants in Louisville. African-Americans represent 21 percent of the population, but represent 55 percent of the jail population. So the numbers are really disproportionate when it comes to that. We need to make sure our juries are diverse. From the perspective of the jurors themselves, everybody has the right to serve.”
According to 2014 U.S. Census data, Jefferson County is 73 percent white and 22 percent Black.
Stevens approved motions that two new juries be formed for Black defendants who received trials with all-white juries in October 2015 and in November 2014, when 40 of the 41 potential jurors were white.
In January 2015, conservativechief prosecutor in Louisville Thomas Wine asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to clarify legal questions derivingfrom the November 2014 decision and whether or not Stevens had the authority to dismiss the jury based on race.
Wine called for Stevens to be recused from all criminal cases in November 2015 because he criticized the prosecutor’s office in a series of Facebook posts. Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Mintonissued two orders removing Stevensfrom the two criminal cases, writing that Wine “demonstrated disqualifying circumstances.”
However, in December, Minton denied the request to disqualify Stevens from all criminal cases, as it would essentially result in removing him from the bench.
“Beyond simple disqualification, this is tantamount to a request for removal from office,” Minton wrote. “A disqualification of this magnitude would effectively remove Judge Stevens from his criminal docket for the foreseeable future and render him unable to fulfill the constitutional duties of a circuit judge.”
But Minton has referred the request to the Judicial Conduct Commission as he said Stevens is “exploiting the deep-seated and widespread distrust of the criminal-justice system by minority communities.”Stevenshasalso made headlines for criticizing a white couplefor fostering stereotypes because theyclaimed that their 5-year-old daughter still had a fear of Black men after being held at gunpoint.
Stevens made the following Facebook posts, according to the NY Daily News:
Nov. 14: “When a Black man is acquitted and then the prosecutor asserts his right to an all white jury panel, those who remain silent have chosen comfort over principle.”
Nov. 12: “History will unfavorably judge a prosecutor who loses a jury trial in which a Black man is acquitted and then appeals the matter claiming his entitlement to an all white jury panel. No matter the outcome, he will live in infamy.”
Nov. 11: “The Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney claims I am the only one of 200. I would venture to say he is the first prosecutor in the history of American jurisprudence to lose a jury trial and appeal claiming the jury panel should have been all white. I guess he believes that would have changed the result.”