Florida prosecutor sorry for racist memo that singled out Hispanic residents | Florida

A state attorney in Florida has apologized for a “racist” memo produced by staff in a rural county office of all-white prosecutors, advocating more severe punishments for defendants who are Hispanic.

The document covering plea deals was exposed by a whistleblower former employee who worked briefly for Jack Campbell, state attorney for the second judicial circuit based in Tallahassee.

It states that Hispanic drivers caught without a valid license are recommended for a guilty verdict and court costs while others avoid prosecution.

In an interview with the Guardian, Campbell said he regretted the “error” in the production of the memo, which he confirmed as genuine, and said he had disciplined the “entry level” prosecutor who wrote it.

“Is it authentic? Yes. Is it the policy of this office? No,” Campbell said, conceding the memo was “inappropriate and insensitive”.

Mackenzie Hayes, the whistleblower, claimed in an account published by the news blog Our Tallahassee the memo was part of a wider culture of racism in the prosecutor’s office that covers a six-county region heavily populated with migrant workers.

Former colleagues at the Jefferson county office, Hayes said, had an “us versus them” mentality towards migrants working in agriculture, and routinely called them “Mexicans” regardless of where they came from.

“People are being prosecuted differently on the basis of their race or skin colour, it’s not right,” said Hayes, now a prosecutor in Philadelphia.

Campbell denied any employees in his department of about 100 were racist.

“I recognize, and [the writer of the memo] does now, how terrible that looks and why it was wrong to write that word. He used the wrong phrasing, and instead of the word Hispanic, he should have used the phrase undocumented immigrant,” he said.

“He’s been reprimanded and is deeply remorseful, and I am confident he was not actually prosecuting or sentencing people based on racial or any other impermissible factor, and nor is anyone else.

“If I thought he was racially biased in his prosecution, I would have fired him immediately.”

The memo, which Campbell said was a kind of “cheat-sheet” for judges of standard plea deals, advocates court-avoiding “diversion” for drivers without a license or any criminal history.

But those with an “extensive criminal history and/or Hispanic”, it states, would be adjudicated guilty and made to pay court costs.

“The reason undocumented immigrants are handled differently is because we can’t see what their criminal history is when you don’t have a driver’s license,” Campbell said.

“If you were a drunk driver and had a terrible criminal history we would handle you more severely than if this was the first time you’d been pulled over. That’s what [the memo] should have shown, and I understand the public outrage and concern about it.”

In the blog, Hayes said she worked for the state attorney’s office from December 2022 until January this year.

“It was very clear that this was a white office, in leadership, staff, attorneys. Both the Leon and Jefferson county offices were like that,” she said.

She found the memo on a colleague’s desk when she spent five days in the small office of Monticello, in rural Jefferson county, she said, recalling that she thought: “Oh my God, they wrote down the racism policy.”

An immigration lawyer, Neil Rambana, told WFSU public media the damage caused by the memo could be “profound”.

“You’re talking about profiling a particular group and giving them punishments that far exceed the crime,” he said.

“And that kind of punishment can affect them with employment, can affect them with their immigration matter. They could be here going through a process with immigration and now they have been blackballed.”

Campbell insisted everyone in his office dealt with potential defendants equally under the law, and that Hayes’ claims of racism were “unfounded”.

He also defended the racial makeup of his department.

“We are far more diverse than most legal offices and I’m proud to have dramatically increased the diversity both in race and sex,” he said.

“I enjoy having African Americans and Hispanic Americans all working on this team. Are we as diverse as the community? No. But of those who are qualified to be attorneys, we are more diverse than the norm.

“If there was racism, or racist language, I would immediately intervene and discipline it, and my supervisors and teammates would do that also.”

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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