Our Weekly: Ridley-Thomas overcharged and overly punished

Our Weekly: Ridley-Thomas overcharged and overly punished

OUR WEEKLY LLC | August 16, 2023 . 3:32 PM |  2 min read

Sentencing scheduled for Aug. 21

By Tavis Smiley | Guest op-ed

As Black folk, we know how to fade tragedy and not fall into despair.

And yet, sometimes the points of pain are felt so acutely; especially when we know full well that we’re being targeted unfairly by our so-called justice system that at times appears to be anything but just.

After more than 30 years of public service, Mark Ridley-Thomas is set to be sentenced on Monday, Aug. 21, for his conviction on bribery and conspiracy in a federal corruption trial. Ridley-Thomas was found not guilty on 12 of the 19 counts the feds brought against him.

This is not your typical corruption case–no lavish trips, no victim, no cash in a brown paper bag or stashed away in a freezer, no illegal contributions from a wealthy donor, no money received by the accused, no use of taxpayer dollars.

There is, therefore, no need to incarcerate Ridley-Thomas to protect the community.

Indeed, the probation department has recommended a mere 18-month sentence.

But the feds? They want Ridley-Thomas to serve six years.

Six years?

How is that fair?

This happens far too often to defendants who just happen to be Black and Brown.

First, they target you. Then they overcharge you. Then they fight to keep certain folk off the jury. Then they spend millions of your tax dollars prosecuting a victimless $100,000 criminal allegation. Then, typically, they win. And why shouldn’t they? In reality, no case of the United States government against you is really a “fair trial,” if you feel me. Then, after they win, they ask for a sentence of more than three times what the probation department is recommending.

Again, how is that fair?

I read the federal government’s summary document regarding the sentencing of Ridley-

Thomas, and the charged language they use is both revealing and despicable. You can clearly see their disdain for the constituent community, for the Black clergy who have stood with Ridley-Thomas , and mostly for Ridley-Thomas who dared to exercise his constitutional right to even go to trial to defend himself.

The feds are demanding a six-year sentence in this case as a way of punishing an uppity negro who dared to fight back.

Let’s hope that the judge in this case sees this racist masquerade and delivers a sentence of time commensurate with the crime, even as Ridley-Thomas appeals this verdict.

There are no good times to be Black in America, and some times are worse than others.

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