By Gretchen Schuldt
Jacob Maclin lost his effort to show there is racial bias in federal prosecutors' decisions about who gets charged with certain drug and gun cases in federal court, where penalties are heavier than in state court.
The numbers are clear – African Americans in Milwaukee face the harsher federal criminal penalty at a greater rate than do Whites in Milwaukee and elsewhere in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
Federal prosecutors work with gun prosecutors in the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office to decide which cases should go federal, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The feds may never even find out about cases in other counties that could be prosecuted federally.
Maclin's lawyer, Joshua D. Uller argued the feds' practices resulted in racial bias and demonstrated selective prosecution; the U.S. Attorney's Office said it was concentrating resources in Milwaukee because of higher crime there.
U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper sided with the feds. Uller simply did not present evidence that federal authorities were racially motivated by their charging decisions, she said.
Ultimately, then, armed drug dealers in Milwaukee may face harsher penalties because of where they live or were arrested. It's not about race; it's about location.
But criminal complaints filed in state court and cited by Uller show there are great discrepancies in how cannabis/gun cases get treated, even in Milwaukee County.
Consider three different cases – two of them involved minor amounts of cannabis. The third involved more defendants and a lot more drugs and guns.
Only the case involving Maclin, who is Black, went federal. The other two stayed in state court. Where Maclin faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison consecutive to any other sentence he receives, the defendant in one of the other cases was put on probation. The third case is not yet resolved.
Maclin was caught in March 2018 on the North Side of Milwaukee with about 1.8 ounces of marijuana in his car, according to the criminal complaint filed in Circuit Court. Maclin said he planned to share the cannabis with friends.
The pot wasn't his only problem: He also had a loaded 9 mm handgun in the vehicle and was carrying $2,440 in small bills, according to court documents. Law enforcement considers quantities of loose cash floating around drugs to be evidence of dealing.
He was charged in Milwaukee County Circuit Court with possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of cannabis with intent to deliver / use of a dangerous weapon.
The case did not stay in state court for long.
The U.S. Attorney's Office took it over and charged Maclin in Federal Court with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and unlawful transportation of firearms. He also was tagged with having a weapon in furtherance of the marijuana crime.
The latter weapons charge carries a mandatory five-years-to-life prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
The man is no saint. He has previous state court convictions – robbery with use of force in 1999 and manufacturing and delivering cocaine and felon in possession of a firearm in 2003. He was convicted in Michigan in 2015 of carrying a concealed weapon, according federal court records.
Now consider the case of another man without a halo, Charles Blunt Sr., who also was found with a gun and marijuana in his car. Blunt, who is White, was busted in March 2017. Like Maclin, he was arrested after a traffic stop, this one on Milwaukee's South Side.
The smell of cannabis led police to search his car, which led to the discovery of 3.9 ounces of cannabis, a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun with a round in the chamber, a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun with a round in the chamber, and $903.
More pot and more guns than Maclin had. Less money, though.
Blunt was charged in state court with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver / use of a dangerous weapon and with carrying a concealed weapon.
He, like Maclin, had a criminal history, with a previous conviction for misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon. After the traffic stop and arrest but before the case was closed, Blunt picked up more charges that led to convictions: possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, and fleeing an officer.
Unlike Maclin, Blunt's cannabis / gun case stayed in state court, where he reached a plea agreement and was sentenced to three years on probation.
The third case involves five defendants, all White, according to CCAP, who were charged in state court after police searched two South Side residences.
At the first residence, law enforcement found, among other things, 3.3 pounds of cannabis, eight guns, lots of ammunition, and more than $95,000.
At the second house, police recovered 15 ounces of marijuana, 0.2 ounces of crack cocaine, ammunition, and five guns, including a rifle with no butt stock but with a magazine, flashlight and laser attached.
Multiple charges were filed against the defendants. One of them, Kenneth Carney, pleaded guilty in Circuit Court to possession of marijuana with intent to deliver / dangerous weapon and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 3 years on extended supervision.
The most were filed against Richard Stulo, Jr., who was charged with five counts of possession of a firearm by a felon; two counts of maintaining a drug trafficking place; one count of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver / use of a dangerous weapon, second offense or greater; and two counts of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver / use of a dangerous weapon, second offense or greater.
Stulo was convicted in 2001 of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. He also has convictions in four other, earlier cases, but the state's online court records do not contain details of those convictions because of their age.
The cases against Stulo and three other defendants are pending in state court.
The federal case against Maclin also is pending.
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