On December 7, 2018, an undercover Columbus Police officer shot and killed sixteen-year-old Julius Ervin Tate Jr. in a sting operation. The police allege that Tate pulled a gun on one of the officers during their exchange, but that claim is under dispute. A week later, the police arrested sixteen-year-old Masonique Saunders, Tate’s girlfriend, for aggravated robbery and the felony murder of her boyfriend.
Masonique celebrated her seventeenth birthday in detention this year and now Franklin County’s prosecuting attorney seeks to transfer her case to adult court where if convicted her sentence would likely be longer and more severe.
This case and others like it in Alabama and Florida, are the result of unfettered law enforcement and prosecutorial discretion that most often leads to the adultification of youth of color. Despite being 14% of the youth population, Black youth are over 50% of youth transferred to adult court by juvenile court judges on the motion of prosecutors. In FY 2017, in Franklin County, where Columbus is located, black youth were 32.7% of the population and 87.5% of the youth transferred to adult court.
Starting the week of May 3rd, Columbus advocates are calling on supporters to take action to #FreeMasonique by doing the following:
- Sign the #FreeMasonique petition
- Tweet using the hashtags #FreeMasonique and #DropTheCharges. Tweet demands at Ron O’Brien (@prosronb)
- Donate and share the fundraising link: https://www.gofundme.com/free-masonique-legal-fees
- Follow @FreeMasonique on twitter
More actions are available on their website: https://freemasonique.home.blog/national-week-of-action/
There are numerous issues associated with the prosecution of youth as adults. Cases like Masonique’s highlight the inherent problems and great risk of racial bias and disproportionality associated with the policy. We hope you will join local advocates and CFYJ in supporting the #FreeMasonique Week of Action.