William Otis, one of President Donald Trump’s picks to sit on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, testifying on May 30, 2014, before the House Judiciary Committee
Screenshot: C-SPAN via the Washington Post

William Otis, a former special counsel to President George H.W. Bush and a current professor at Georgetown University Law Center, was nominated by President Donald Trump this week to sit on a federal commission that sets policy on how to punish criminals.

It would come as no surprise that Otis is a staunch supporter of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ hard-line approach of imposing mandatory minimum sentences and resurrecting the war on drugs. But Otis, thanks to his popular legal blog, Crime and Consequences, has also made his racist beliefs both explicit and easily searchable.

As the Washington Post reports, Otis once defended a federal judge who was called out for saying that black and Latinx people were more violent than white people.

In a 2013 post he titled, “The PC Attempt to Intimidate Judges,” Otis wrote:

When Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones said at a University of Pennsylvania Law School talk that blacks and Hispanics are more violent than whites, a consortium of civil rights organizations filed a complaint. ... The complaint calls for stern discipline on the grounds that the remarks were “discriminatory and biased.”

So far as I have been able to discover, it makes no mention of the fact that they’re true.

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As the Post noted, Otis dug himself further into the racist-commentary trenches in the comments section, where Otis saw fit to compare black people to Asians, whom he called “Orientals.”

“Orientals,” Otis claimed, have a lower incidence of crime than other groups because they have the right values. Here is that passage in full:

This is the reason that, for example, Orientals have less incidence of crime than whites. Orientals were unquestionably the victims of long and rancid racial bigotry; coolie labor was little more than slave labor. And Yick Wo v. Hopkins is one of the most famous civil rights cases of all time.

The reason Orientals stay out of jail more than either whites or blacks is that family life, work, education and tradition are honored more in Oriental culture than in others.

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This, of course, is flatly ahistorical. While Asian groups have certainly been discriminated against, that treatment simply cannot be compared to the history of anti-black racism in the U.S. “Coolie labor,” as Otis puts it (the term is dated and derogatory, and refers to Asian laborers) is not comparable to over 200 years of chattel slavery.

In the same post, Otis also flatly denied that white people’s racial bigotry caused black people to “make ... more criminal choices.”

As if trying to hit all the twisted, racist lines of “logic” that he could, Otis next brought up Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as his example of a good black person with the “right values”:

Values, not race or skin color, influence choices. Some of the bravest men in public life — Justice Clarence Thomas comes to mind — had the “wrong” skin color but the right values (see Thomas’s autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son”). They made honorable and courageous choices, and succeeded. This is one of the reasons the grievance-monger crowd — the people who now want to hammer Judge Jones — have a special hate for Justice Thomas.

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That Thomas’ values apparently include perjury and harassment of women apparently evaded the Georgetown law professor.

The Post also found another blog from 2014 in which Otis referred to an offender sarcastically as “Mr. Nicey.” The post was written in response to a bill called the “Smarter Sentencing Act” that would have reduced sentences for some drug and low-level offenders.

Here’s what he wrote:

Last I looked, when you needle yourself with too much heroin, you’re still dead; when a thug belts you to grab your purse, you still have a knot on your head and no purse; and when Mr. Nicey rapes your eight year-old, you still have a defiled little girl to try to help.

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This bears repeating: Trump’s pick for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which determines what criminal sentences to dole out, has written that black and Latinx people commit more crimes because of their collective substandard values, and appears to think that selling an eighth of an ounce of weed (a low-level offense) is akin to child rape.

The comments that Otis has made on his blog aren’t racist dog whistles. They’re the air horn of racism. They’re also terrifyingly recent—all made within the last five years.

Otis’ nomination was announced on Thursday and is one of four that Trump made. His appointment could still be rejected by the Senate.

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