Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell has decided to discipline prosecutor Karl Price for an inflammatory letter to opposing counsel in one of his private practice cases, though he will remain in his job as an assistant county attorney.
As Insider Louisville reported last week, Price sent a letter to the attorneys of Hwang Martial Arts Academy on May 22 that repeatedly referred to their Asian-American U.S. citizen owners as “foreigners,” adding that they relied “on some ancient Asian principle” in not agreeing to his clients’ preferred financial settlement.
Price told IL last week that his remarks were not derogatory, saying he assumed some of the Hwangs were “illegal aliens” because of their “broken English.” Price also apologized for the language in his letter “if I’ve offended anyone.”
In a letter to Price on Tuesday, O’Connell told him he would receive a written reprimand for his remarks in the letter and to IL, and that he would be required to attend sensitivity training. O’Connell added that Price has “served admirably and with integrity as an Assistant County Attorney for 25 years,” and that “I am confident you will never again make such inappropriate statements.”
This isn’t the first incident in which Price has drawn negative attention for inflammatory remarks, as a public defender accused him in 2009 of saying “he could not believe I was making him deal with these ‘—- faggots.'”
In O’Connell’s letter, he stated that Price argued his letter was in response to believing his clients were racially stereotyped, but “no matter what the reason nor the impetus for your making these comments, they are insensitive and derogatory.”
O’Connell stated that Price’s comments were prejudicial to the administration of justice, and “we must strive at all times to avoid even the appearance of any bias or potential conflict of interest. Your comments in this civil case did not live up to these standards. And although you made these comments in the context of your civil practice, they reflect poorly on you and on this office.”
O’Connell added that Price’s remarks violated the County Attorney Office’s principles of behavior and “discredited this office.”
“While I sympathize with your explanation as to why you made these comments, your comments were discriminatory on their face and can never be justified,” wrote O’Connell.
The full letter to Price can be read below.
***** Updated at 1:30 p.m. *****
Mimi Hwang of Hwang Martial Arts Academy sent the following statement to IL, saying that she finds “the minimal discipline imposed upon Mr. Price to be both appalling and insulting.”
“Given the fact that Karl Price is an experienced attorney who is obviously intelligent and well-versed in the law, as well as a minority, he should full well comprehend the importance of diversity. Therefore, any statements which he made in his May 22, 2015 letter were deliberate and calculated to incite fear, intimidation and racial discord. Once contacted by Insider Louisville and given an opportunity to apologize and walk back his statements, Mr. Price instead deliberately chose to throw more fuel on the fire by further demeaning and defaming our family and its business.
I have just been made aware through media reports that the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office has issued Mr. Price a letter of reprimand with respect to this comments and actions. From this letter, it is clear that Mr. Price has made statements in attempting to defend his actions which claim that my family’s business and our corporate attorney employed racial bias in dealing with his client. Such statements are false or were made by Mr. Price with a reckless disregard for the truth. My family’s company has an exemplary record with respect to racial diversity, and I find the minimal discipline imposed upon Mr. Price to be both appalling and insulting.”