Judge agrees to suspension over racially charged comments

Judge Olu Stevens. Image courtesy WAVE 3.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – A Kentucky judge facing possible banishment from the bench for racially charged comments aimed at a prosecutor has instead been suspended by the state Judicial Conduct Commission.

Olu Stevens, a circuit judge in Louisville, accepted a 90-day suspension without pay on Monday in an agreement with attorneys for the commission.

The agreement came at the start of a hearing that potentially could have ushered Stevens off the bench for good.

A contrite Stevens admitted to violating judicial canons and said his social media onslaught against prosecutor Tom Wine was wrong. Stevens is black; Wine is white.

In provocative posts that threatened to end his judicial career, Stevens’ comments ignited a debate about racial fairness, judicial impartiality and free speech for judges. He wrote that Wine’s request that the state Supreme Court review Stevens’ decision to dismiss the jurors amounted to an attempt “to protect the right to impanel all-white juries,” a charge Wine vehemently denies. Stevens suggested there was “something much more sinister,” and wrote that the prosecutor will “live in infamy.”

His outburst came after Wine questioned his authority to scrap a jury panel because it lacked minorities.

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