A Marion County deputy district attorney referred to a criminal defendant as a “drunk Hispanic guy” in a discussion with the man’s lawyer, leading the county’s top prosecutor to dismiss the case later that day, according to the defense lawyer and public records.
Deputy District Attorney Mae D’Amico made the remark March 2 in Marion County Circuit Judge Courtland Geyer’s courtroom, said Salem attorney John Knodell, who represented Favio Luna Mondragon, 30, of Salem. Geyer was not present for the conversation. Mondragon was scheduled to go to trial March 17.
Court records show Mondragon faced four misdemeanors — driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and two counts of fourth-degree assault — related to two separate incidents in 2022, one on Feb. 5 and another on March 4.
The thing that’s fascinating about this is that the Deputy DA’s remark is exactly what the the State’s case would contend: that Mondragon was a “drunk Hispanic guy.” Neither “Hispanic” nor “guy” are illegal (or pejorative) and “drunk”while driving(!) is what the case is about. The headline here and the lede both fail to make an actual argument for the DA’s dismissal of the case.
Knodell said he and D’Amico were waiting to be called to Geyer’s chambers to update the judge on the status of the case. He said they were in the jury box discussing the circumstances of the allegations against Mondragon, and Knodell pointed out what he viewed as weaknesses in the state’s case.
He said he “started listing off the evidence” that showed his client was innocent.
“Her response to that was he’s a drunk Hispanic guy,” Knodell told The Oregonian/OregonLive in an interview this week.
D’Amico’s response is not an argument; it’s a statement that veers toward the stereotypical. In itself, I don’t think that’s grounds for complaint or dismissal of the case. However…
[Knodell] said another defense lawyer challenged D’Amico over the remark, and Knodell said D’Amico said, “Well, they have machismo,” apparently referring to Latino men.
This is the heart of the problem. As guilty as Mondragon may or may not be, he’s an individual and needs to be judged as such. This is exactly what the principle of equality under the law means. Do Latino men “have machismo”? Certainly, some do! I’ve seen it myself, and it’s definitely a part of Hispanic culture. But that doesn’t mean all Hispanic men do. Like anyone else, Mondragon (and his actions) deserves to be judged upon his own merits and deficiencies regardless of his ethnicity.
The Oregonian story ends with the common leftwing bias trope:
About 28% of Marion County residents are Latino, about twice the statewide average, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, a criminal justice statistics clearinghouse, shows Latinos in Marion County are placed on felony probation and sent to prison at disproportionately higher rates when compared to the county’s Latino population. For instance, 30.9% of people sentenced to probation in the county are Latino; 30.1% of people who are sent to prison from Marion County are Latino.
The commission’s analysis shows a similar disparity for Black men in Marion County. The figures mirror statewide trends; both groups are disproportionately represented in Oregon’s probation and parole systems and in prison, figures show.
As I’ve said before, disproportionality is not prima facie evidence of discrimination. In fact, being within 3 percent in terms of population versus incarceration (in either direction) is probably about what one would expect if the system were working in a non-discriminatory fashion. It would be much more suspicious if the numbers were identical.