Kentucky Judge Accuses Prosecutor in Fatal Hit-and-Run Case of Racial Prejudice for Charging Black Man with More Severe Charges than White Defendant

Cornell Denmark Thomas II
Cornell Denmark Thomas II Facebook

A Kentucky judge has dismissed charges against a Black man in a fatal hit-and-run case and accused the attorney's office of misconduct and racial prejudice, according to local reports.

Tammy Botkin, 50, died on July 3, 2020, when her car caught fire after being hit by an SUV traveling over double the speed limit of 45 miles per hour in Fayette County, Kentucky, WKYT reported.

As reported by The Messenger, Cornell Denmark Thomas II was arrested in September of that year in connection to the crash and police accused him of fleeing the scene of the accident. Thomas was later indicted on charges of murder and leaving the scene of an accident/failure to render aid, according to court records.

Thomas, Who Had No Previous Arrests, Faced More Severe Charges Than an 'Intoxicated' White Defendant with Similar Charges

This week, Fayette County Judge Julie Goodman dismissed the case, citing "serious concerns over the way this case and others have been prosecuted," per the outlet.

Thomas, a 36-year-old Black man with no previous arrests, was facing a capital charge and a white defendant accused of a similar charge who was "clearly intoxicated" was facing a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, Goodman noted in her ruling.

The judge wrote that in her 15-year tenure, she has "noted a clear pattern of disparate charging decisions by the Commonwealth in which white defendants are charged with lesser offenses and given better offers than defendants of color."

Prosecutors Failed to Provide Evidence to Support Accusation That Thomas was Under the Influence of Drugs

Goodman also cited statistics from the state's Department of Public Advocacy, and said Black defendants are charged with felonies at a "grossly disproportionate rate" in Lexington.

In addition to noting the alleged racial prejudice at play in the case, Goodman also said prosecutors were unable to provide evidence to back up their claims that Thomas was under the influence of drugs or establish that Thomas acted "wantonly or intentionally" during the incident.

The Commonwealth Attorney's Office says they will be appealing this dismissal, WKYT reported.