A social media movement questioning a judge’s treatment of victims of domestic violence and sex crimes and objecting to the alleged racial profiling of some defendants is gathering steam online as some critics have called for an investigation into whether Philly County Judge Craig Stedman discriminates against certain defendants.
A video of Stedman, who was appointed in 2015, has since gone viral, drawing thousands of views and almost 9,000 shares on Facebook after social media users implored police officers to discipline the judge and call for an investigation into whether he discriminated against people of color and repeated victims.
“This dude, in this judgement against six plaintiffs, not once heard the words ‘victim’ or ‘abuse,’” the video’s description says. “Instead, he reads the ‘contentious dispute over property’ – so much so that he resorts to ‘victim-blaming’ and racial profiling language.”
The appeal from the social media post pointed out an apparent bias in Stedman’s office.
“We have been unafraid to ask for victims’ rights to be established in court if they feel that the defendant has broken these laws,” the social media post said. “This is inexcusable for our community and sends an extremely dangerous message to the public.”
Related Image Expand / Contract Stedman is already under scrutiny over his questioning of an accused hate-crime arsonist, Robert Ashford, last year. (AP)
On Thursday, Stedman took to the bench again in courtrooms on the downtown Municipal Court following a report on Philly.com that said he was being investigated for giving defendants the wrong sentencing option for a 2014 hit-and-run case.
After the judge asked Ashford, who is white, whether he’d be able to come back to court for a review, Ashford said he hadn’t yet heard the reaction of other defendants because he was still at the hospital. Stedman gave Ashford a conditional sentencing of probation and a $1,500 fine.
The judge was suspended last year after he questioned the actions of an accused arsonist.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said in a story Thursday it has been informed by a source who said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is conducting an investigation of Stedman for his handling of the arson case. The newspaper did not name its source.
The Stedman spokesman said he can’t comment on pending investigations.
Both Stedman and chief Deputy Jody Johnston, who is black, have come under fire in recent weeks for presiding over what some have called a racially biased case.
Related Image Expand / Contract Stedman was suspended for disallowing a request to use the word ‘victims’ in courtroom. (AP)
“A large scale investigation needs to be brought in that will right this wrong and apply an equal and unbiased light to everyone,” wrote Scott Olson in a lengthy Facebook post last week. “To say your ‘partner’ [sic] is lynched out the window, and then you are moving forward with no criminal convictions, criminal convictions, and disciplinary sanctions is to ignore the sanctity of life and to disrespect people who are trying to seek safety from violence.
“You need to be held accountable for this morally bankrupt act.”
In December, The Inquirer reported that at least two family court judges in the Philadelphia region were suspended for sexual harassment and use of racially discriminatory language in court.
“I know when the inspector general begins his investigation on the Stedman matter he will find far worse issues of discriminatory practices in that court,” Court of Common Pleas Judge David Feiss told The Inquirer.