President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as deputy attorney general helped prosecute a black man who was sentenced to 27 years in prison for selling $20 worth of heroin to an undercover police officer. The government dropped charges against the man’s co-defendant as part of a plea deal, court records show.
Lisa Monaco, who Biden tapped for the Justice Department position, was one of the assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted a case in 2003 against Reginald C. Steward, a Washington, D.C. man who was charged following an undercover drug bust.
Steward was arrested in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 20, 2002 and was charged with unlawful distribution of heroin, according to court records.
He was convicted at a jury trial on April 16, 2003, and was sentenced to 27 years in prison. An appeals court in 2007 upheld Steward’s conviction, but noted that the evidence presented against him at trial wasn’t “overwhelming.”
But Steward’s co-defendant, who physically conducted the drug exchange with the undercover police officer, had his charges dropped after he pleaded guilty to drug possession in another case. Court records for the man, Bobby Praylow, show that he received a 12-month jail sentence.
Monaco, whose most recent government position was as homeland security adviser to then-President Barack Obama, disclosed her work on Steward’s case in her written responses to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of her confirmation process to the Justice Department position.
Can it really be true that most people in jail are being held before trial? And how much of mass incarceration is a result of the war on drugs? These questions are harder to answer than you might think, because our country’s systems of confinement are so fragmented. The various government agencies involved in the justice system collect a lot of critical data, but it is not designed to help policymakers or the public understand what’s going on. As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build, however, it’s more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture.