A federal judge in Chicago ruled Monday that controversial drug stash house stings that defense attorneys say overwhelmingly target Blacks and Latinos are not racially biased, but only “distasteful,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Monday’s ruling was the first national verdict about the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives drug stings being racially biased. U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo “reluctantly” said the bar to prove bias wasn’t reached and called for a stop to the stings in his verdict, which could potentially have national consequences, the news outlet says.
“These cases have served to undermine legitimate law enforcement efforts in this country,” Castillo said from the bench. “It is time for these false stash house cases to end and be relegated to the dark corridors of our past.”
Castillo had previously ruled that the stings had a “strong showing of potential bias” in 2013, a verdict that “generated years of legal motions and dueling expert reports,” The Associated Press reported. Castillo and eight other federal judges held rare joint hearings in December to examine statistics on racial bias.
Defense attorneys said that the stings, typically involving agents posing as couriers for drug cartels, unfairly focused on African Americans and Latinos, according to The AP. They opposed several law enforcement practices, including the “arbitrary increase” of charges against suspects prompted by raising the drug amounts that officials said were in the stash houses. They also criticized the practice that suspects often are charged with trying to distribute the drugs, despite the drugs never having existed.
Statistics supported some of the attorney’s main argument. Out of 94 stash-house defendants in the Chicago area between 2006 and 2013, 74 were black, 12 were Hispanic and just eight were white, said Jeffrey Fagan, a defense expert who testified in December. If the ATF criteria for picking targets were truly colorblind, more Whites would have been arrested, Fagan said.
Castillo was the first of the nine judges to rule on the racial bias issue on Monday. The judges, who are examining a dozen different criminal cases involving more than 40 arrestees in stash-house stings, may render rulings later.