During the sentencing phase on a burglary charge, in 2018, former New York Judge Frank LaBuda made some outrageous and blatantly racist remarks to the Black defendant, Angelo Johnson:
LaBuda told Johnson in court, “I feel sorry for you. Because I know that if we were to look in your mind we would find that your brain, your frontal lobes, your decision-making processes are probably retarded in growth.”
Then the jurist doubled down: ”[T]he sentence here is in a way to make you safe from hurting yourself or others, because I appreciate the fact that your brain is not developed, through no fault of your own.”
Three times during the trial, LaBuda also ordered that Johnson's be silenced by slapping masking tape over his mouth. Fortunately, deputies refused to comply with the order.
LaBuda then labeled Johnson a "persistent offender," and sentenced him to 15 years.
The case was reviewed by a panel of Appellate Court judges, who issued a strong rebuke to LaBuda and cut ten years off the sentence:
The four-judge appellate panel decided that Labuda’s comments from the bench recalled an outrageous 19th century racist ideology which claimed that Blacks were inferior because they had smaller brains.
“It is shocking that any court, in 2018, would refer to this black defendant’s brain, frontal lobes and retardation of growth in concluding that defendant’s brain was not developed,” the judges wrote.
“To invoke such reasoning today is utterly racist and has no place in our system of justice.”
The Appellate Division panel ordered Johnson’s sentence for breaking into an inn in 2016 slashed from 15 to five years and the persistent offender designation removed.
“Not to be overlooked is the court’s abrupt draconian order to have defendant’s mouth bound with masking tape,” the panel wrote. “The court’s remarks cannot be condoned or countenanced.”
LaBuda retired and ran for Sullivan County District Attorney last year. Fortunately, he lost.
The state will probably end up reviewing most, if not all, of the cases LaBuda presided over, which they ought to do anyway.