WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A firearms sting conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at a bogus pawn shop in a heavily black Wichita neighborhood was not racially motivated, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot refused to dismiss indictments stemming from the undercover ATF operation. At least 51 people face federal firearms and drug charges. Forty-three are black, four are white, and the race of four others isn't known.
Belot also granted a government motion to quash defense subpoenas of federal agents.
The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the ruling. Federal Public Defender Cyd Gilman, whose office represented most of the defendants, also declined to comment.
Defense attorneys had argued the sting targeted black males because the Bandit Trading storefront was in an area where blacks accounted for 33 percent of the population. The percentage of blacks citywide is about 11 percent.
But Belot said no discrimination was evident because the defendants didn't identify any non-blacks who could have been prosecuted, but weren't.
Belot also rejected claims of discrimination when the government did not charge a white man with possession of a firearm by a substance abuser, while charging a black man with the crime. Both had attempted to sell marijuana to an undercover ATF agent at Bandit Trading, and both sold firearms.
However, Belot said that while there was no discernible difference between the men on the day the firearms were sold, there were other differences that were significant given the government's burden of proof. The black defendant had been arrested on two previous occasions for marijuana possession, while the white man had no prior record of drug possession.
The judge noted that to get a conviction, the government would have had to prove the men possessed guns during the same time period they were using a controlled substance.
Belot found that the defense had not made “a credible showing of a discriminatory effect'' with this evidence.