A day after Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens sentenced a defendant to 60 days in jail for contempt for shouting a racial slur as he was being taken into custody, Stevens reduced the sentence to one day when the defendant apologized.
Adam Satterly, whose bond Stevens had just revoked on several methamphetamine charges, shouted “punk a– n—er,” as he was being removed from the courtroom Monday, a video shows.
Satterly is white and the judge is black.
The defendant claimed Monday he was talking to his brother, not the judge. “No, no, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” he said.
“…you don’t speak those words in here. And that word particularly,” Stevens said. “You don’t use that word.”
On Tuesday, Stevens offered to reduce the contempt sentence to one day if Satterly would apologize.
“Yes, sir,” Satterly said. “I apologize. It wasn’t intended for you. I was mad at my brother is all it was.”
Stevens again told the defendant his remarks were disrespectful.
“What you said was a racial epithet that I don’t how it could be directed at your brother, but at any rate, I accept your apology,” he told Satterly.
He then set bond at 10 percent of $5,000.
Satterly’s attorney, Christopher Thurman, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. He was not present in the courtroom when Stevens issued the contempt of court order Monday but stood beside Satterly Tuesday morning.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals in 2003 ruled that contempt committed in the presence of a judge may be punished summarily and requires no fact-finding hearing because all of the elements of the offense are matters within the personal knowledge of the court.
The ruling stemmed from a Kenton County case in which the subject of an emergency protective order used a sexual slur when talking about the woman seeking the protective order. The judge held a hearing, although the Court of Appeals said she didn’t have to. The man was sentenced to six months for contempt but all but seven days was probated.
DePaul University law professor Jeffrey Shaman, a nationally recognized expert on judicial ethics, said that while Satterly’s slur was “obviously reprehensible and odious,” the 60-day jail term for it “does seem a bit harsh.”
Shaman, a former fellow at the American Judicature Society, said the length of the punishment could be appealed.
Stevens has been at the center of recent controversies involving race.
Early last year, he drew national attention after he criticized the victims of an armed robbery for “fostering” the views of their 5-year-old daughter, whom they said was still scared of black men after two African Americans had held the family at gunpoint.
Monday was Stevens’ first full day back in court hearing cases since last month, when Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. referred to the state Judicial Conduct Commission allegations that Stevens may have violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Those allegations stem from Stevens’ Facebook posts that suggested Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine was a racist for questioning the judge’s decision to strike a jury in which the one potential black juror was removed at random.
Some criminal defense lawyers and civil rights leaders applauded Stevens for trying to expand the representation of minorities on juries; Wine said he wanted the state Supreme Court to clarify a judge’s powers. The issue is still before the court.