1. Headline
  1. Headline
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/6/2010 12:10:17 PM ET 2010-10-06T16:10:17

A black judge from western Pennsylvania rejected a plea agreement for a man accused of fighting with police during a traffic stop, saying it was "a ridiculous plea that only goes to white boys."

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The plea agreement was for a sentence of three months probation. Allegheny County Judge Joseph Williams said on Tuesday that a black defendant in that situation would not have been treated as leniently.

In court, Williams told Assistant District Attorney Brian Catanzarite that he "for some reason comes up with I think ridiculous pleas whenever it's a young white guy," according to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I'm just telling you what my observation is. If this had been a black kid who did the same thing, we wouldn't be talking about three months' probation."

Catanzarite responded that he was standing in for another prosecutor and didn't broker the plea deal.

"Now that the court has essentially called me a racist, I think that's unfair. I don't make offers based on race. I make offers based on facts," Catanzarite said, according to the Tribune-Review.

Williams later recused himself from the case, and a white judge accepted the plea agreement for 24-year-old Jeffery McGowan.

The defendant, who had no criminal record, agreed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct. He had faced charges including aggravated assault.

Williams' secretary on Wednesday told The Associated Press the judge does not give interviews.

The Allegheny County district attorney's office did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, told the Tribune-Review the plea deal was appropriate and agreed to by the officer, who was not injured.

"Negotiated pleas are never based on the race of a particular defendant but rather on the behavior of the defendant and the facts associated with that behavior," Manko told the newspaper.

"The assistant district attorneys who handled this plea on behalf of the commonwealth have outstanding reputations, and we firmly stand behind their integrity and the integrity of all of our prosecutors."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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