The judge who scrubbed the fatal shooting of black motorist Terence Crutcher from the record of a white cop has been criticized for allowing the murder of a Lebanese man that the victim’s family describe as a hate crime.
Tulsa County district Judge William “Bill” LaFortune belongs to one of the most prominent families in Oklahoma. LaFortune, a Republican, served as the 34th mayor of Tulsa 2002-2006. His uncle served as mayor of Tulsa in the 1970s and his nephew, G.T. Bynum, is the current mayor.
As Raw Story reported Thursday, Judge LaFortune sealed the documents involving the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher by white former Tulsa Police Department officer Betty Jo Shelby, essentially making it, “as if it never happened.”
Attention on Judge LaFortune’s wiping of Shelby’s record hung a lantern on an earlier, controversial decision that may have cost the life 37-year-old Khalid Jabara last year.
Prosecutors allege that Stanley Vernon Majors murdered Jabara after Judge LaFortune ignored prosecutors and allowed Majors to be released from jail while awaiting charges of running over Jabara’s mom.
Majors lived next door to the Jabara family and was under a protective order at the time of both attacks. The order came after a history of threats and racial slurs.
In Sept. 2012, prosecutors charged Majors with assault and battery with a deadly weapon, leaving the scene of a collision involving injury, violating a protective order and public intoxication after he alleged hit Haifa Jabara with a car, Tulsa World reported.
Majors was initially denied bail while awaiting trial for the attack.
Despite Majors having been convicted in 2009 of threatening a crime with intent to terrorize, Judge LaFortune allowed him to be released on $30,000 bail.
Majors was released for jail and returned home to live next door to the Jabara family.
Assistant District Attorney Brett Mize filed a motion asking Judge LaFortune to reconsider allowing bond or at least raise the amount to $300,000.
Majors has “demonstrated a wanton disregard for the life of the victim and the safety of the public,” the prosecution concluded.
“At that bond hearing, the judge was told Majors was a dangerous man, with a prior conviction of threatening with intent to terrorize someone in California. That he was a flight risk. That hitting Haifa Jabara was an intentional act and it was likely he would be convicted,” CNN reported.
Judge LaFortune disagreed. Bail was raised to $60,000 — one fifth of the minimum the state had suggested — and Majors bonded out immediately.
The district attorney’s office asked the judge to reconsider, Fox 23 News reported. The judge did not.
Officials at the DA’s office refused comment to Fox 23 on why Majors was not charged with a hate crime in the initial attack on the mother.
“The perpetrator was not unknown to us—he is our neighbor—someone whom we continuously brought to law enforcement’s attention. He killed our brother while awaiting trial for running over our mother, resulting in a broken shoulder, collapsed lung, broken ankle, broken nose, head trauma, and fractured ribs amongst other injuries,” the Jabara family said in a statement.
The Jabara family had harsh words for the fact that Judge LaFortune had allowed Majors to go free.
“My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years. Yet in May, not even one year after he ran over our mother and despite our repeated protests, he was released from jail with no conditions on his bond—no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, nothing,” the family noted.
The family says the racial aspect can not be ignored.
“This suspect had a history of bigotry against our family. He repeatedly attacked our ethnicity and perceived religion, making racist comments. He often called us ‘dirty Arabs,’ ‘filthy Lebanese,’ ‘Aye-rabs,’ and ‘Mooslems’ — a fact highlighted by the Tulsa Police Department who also heard these comments from the suspect. The suspect’s bigotry was not isolated to us alone. He made xenophobic comments about many in our community — ‘filthy Mexican’ and the ‘n-word’ were all part of his hateful approach to anyone from a different background,” the family explained.
The family charged that Khalid Jabara’s murder was entirely preventable.
“Today, in our pain, we are also keenly aware that this is not just another murder to be added to crime statistics. Our brother’s death could have been prevented. This man was a known danger. He intentionally tried to kill our mother less than one year ago when he ran her over with his car. Based on his racist comments towards us, he should have been charged with a hate crime then. He should not have been released without monitoring. Yet he was released and put back next door to us, the family he assaulted just months before,” the family reminded. “This is troubling at any time, but profoundly disturbing given the current climate of our country and the increase nationally in cases of hate crimes.”
Judge LaFortune comes from a position of vast privilege.
“LaFortune is a third-generation member of one of Tulsa’s most prominent families active in the petroleum industry, philanthropy and civic affairs,” News OK explained when LaFortune was elected mayor in 2002. “His grandfather – Joseph LaFortune Sr., gave millions for medical research, an athletic dorm at the University of Tulsa and a high school football stadium. His uncle – Robert A. LaFortune – served as the city’s street commissioner from 1964 to 1970 and as mayor from 1970 to 1978.”
Despite his history in Tulsa, Judge LaFortune was largely unaware of the 1921 “Tulsa Race Riot” when whites burned the segregated black business district of Greenwood, reportedly killing 300 black citizens.
“I’m 39 years old, and I was born and raised in Tulsa,” LaFortune admitted in 1996. “I never really learned about the race riots until the last several years.”
“How many red flags does it take to keep somebody that’s obviously dangerous to the community, to the public in general, who’s a flight risk … How many red flags does it take to keep this guy in custody so that he can face trial?” Jabara’s younger brother, Rami wondered.
Watch Fox 23 News coverage investigating why Judge Bill LaFortune allowed Vernon Majors released from jail: