It's not difficult to understand the frustration felt by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who last week found himself having to answer suggestions that he's racist.
Local black leaders blasted Prater on Friday for asking District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure to step down from the trial of Jerome Ersland, who is charged with murder in the shooting of a 16-year-old who tried to rob Ersland's pharmacy last year. Prosecutors had concerns about Bass-LeSure's fairness given her dealings with one of the members of Ersland's defense team.
J.A. Reed Jr., pastor of Fairview Baptist Church, said Prater was misusing his power by "going after" Bass-LeSure and the only other elected black judge in the courthouse. Prater needs to remember, Reed said, that the black community helped get him elected four years ago. "And you also need to know that we are watching, and we will remember."
Surely they were watching when Prater filed the first-degree murder charge in this case. The teenager who was killed was black, and there were some who felt Prater was pandering to the black community by filing such a charge. Now his actions involving the judge are racially motivated?
Yes, in the view of the two dozen pastors and community leaders, who also are seeking a civil rights investigation. "We will no longer stand by," the state president of the NAACP promised.
Prater angrily rebutted the allegations. With both sides dug in, what has been a difficult case from the beginning has now turned toxic. And the trial is still three months away.