Chauncey Wright was looking for a job and some friends.
The man, who suffered brain damage as a child, thought he had found both in an odd store on a quiet street in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood in 2012. But he became ensnared in a federal undercover gun-buying sting and ended up being charged and convicted himself.
The same thing happened in Wichita, Kan.; Portland, Ore.; a couple of places in Florida; and possibly elsewhere.
Undercover federal agents — in these cases, with the ATF — argued they didn’t realize the men, some whose IQs were in the mid-50s, had disabilities. Some agents would later tell investigators they just assumed the guys were high on drugs. Others said they detected nothing unusual about the men.
Knowingly or not, it turns out it was not just agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who were not adhering to federal laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination.
The law is the 1973 Rehab act, one of the two or three most important pieces of disability rights legislation in US History, though it required mass protests around the country to get it enforced.
Lots of good reporting, if infuriating, in the piece. Here’s Susan Mizner, for example, an ACLU attorney I’ve interviewed:
“I found it appalling that they had no idea they were working with people who had intellectual disabilities,” said Susan Mizner, disability counsel for the nationalAmerican Civil Liberties Union.
“The fact that our federal government is going into poor neighborhoods of color and not expecting to see disabilities and not trained to know how a disability can manifest itself, is an incredible lack of homework,” she said.
I don’t actually have a section on entrapments and interrogations in my book draft, but I’m going to have to engage with this kind of thing as I revise.