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Black Man Found Not Guilty of Crime, Still Sentenced to 7 Years In Prison

In today’s example of how the American justice system treats black bodies, we take a look at Ramad Chatman, a 24-year-old man who was

found not guilty by a jury of his peers but will serve seven years in prison because ...

Come on, you know why. Read the first two words of the headline again.

According to The Independent, in 2012 Chatman was convicted of breaking and entering for stealing a television worth $120. It was his first offense, but because he was—again, you know why—Chatman was sentenced to five years’ probation. You read that right. He was 19, and a judge thought it necessary to make him property of the state for half a decade.

During his probation period, court papers show that he paid his restitution, attended every meeting, finished his community service and even kept himself employed.

Unbeknownst to Chatman, he was identified as a suspect in a convenience store robbery in 2014. Although he was on probation, which means that he was required to submit his whereabouts to law-enforcement officials monthly, Chatman was never arrested for the robbery. In fact, according to him, he had no idea that he was a suspect.

In 2015 Chatman learned that he had been accused of the crime, so, like most thug gangsters who need to be removed from society for the safety of the good citizens, Chatman did what any criminal would do after evading law-enforcement officers for a year: He turned himself in. Chatman said that he only turned himself in for the crime because he knew he was innocent.

But Judge Jack Niedrach wanted to send Chatman to jail.

That’s not just hyperbole. When he was arrested, Chatman offered to plead guilty to assault in exchange for having the armed robbery charge dropped, but the judge rejected the deal. Chatman wanted to enter an “Alford plea,” which means the defendant pleads guilty but maintains his innocence, but the judge wasn’t having that.

So Chatman went to trial. It turns out that during the trial, the police had no evidence for the case. They didn’t find a weapon. They didn’t recover any money. There was no video. In fact, the clerk who identified Chatman ID’d him on Facebook over a year after the robbery. So the jury found Chatman not guilty of all charges.

But the judge wanted to send him to jail, so he did.

Niedrach still thought Chatman was guilty, so he revoked Chatman’s probation and sent him to jail. Now Chatman must sit in prison until 2022.

To be clear, Chatman’s original probation would have been finished five years after he was sentenced on July 6, 2012. Although that initial punishment seems harsh, Chatman complied with every requirement of the court. Even when faced with other criminal accusations, he turned himself in. By all accounts, he was a model citizen.

So Ramad Chatman is either imprisoned for a $120 TV he tried to steal in 2012 or is wasting away behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Either is an injustice. Both are indicative of the statistics that show black men receive 60 percent longer sentences than their white counterparts and are twice as likely to receive mandatory minimums.

There is no logic or fairness in it. It is abundantly clear that justice for people of color is an oxymoron. It is as real as a Bigfoot being chased by a mermaid riding a unicorn. For us, due process is a myth. It is an old wives’ tale we hear about but have never witnessed. A black man expecting to be treated fairly within the legal system would be just as well-served closing his eyes, standing in front of a bathroom mirror and reciting an incantation.

There is no justice for a black man in America.

There is no justice for a black man in America.

There is no justice for a black man in America.

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