A Florida circuit judge wants to make sure a man has truly learned his lesson after racially profiling a teenager.
Luis Santos-Santiago was sentenced to 12 months’ probation on Tuesday after earlier pleading guilty to assault with prejudice. But Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Lyann Goudie didn’t stop there. She told Santos-Santiago to write an apology letter to the teen he profiled, gave him 25 hours of community service, and suggested he watch Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th to educate himself more about the criminal justice system and being Black in America. He was also instructed to take an implicit bias class and an anger management class.
“Except for my gender, I don’t wear my minority on my skin,” Goudie said. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a Black person living in our country, being profiled, being stopped, being assumed that they’re up to no good, committing a crime, don’t belong.”
In June 2020, Santos-Santiago accused a Black teen who was on his way to basketball practice of breaking into cars. The 56-year-old went so far as to film himself stopping the teenager at 5 a.m. in Seffner, Florida, a suburb of Tampa. The footage showed Santos-Santiago badgering the teen and asking him where he lives.
Santos-Santiago called 911, claiming that he was an off-duty officer. He told the dispatcher, “I have somebody breaking into cars. I got him with his hands up.”
Santos-Santiago is a former security officer, and his license expired a week after the incident. Needless to say, his background in security did not give him the authority to stop and hold the teen. He was charged with illegally detaining the teenager.
Santos-Santiago agreed to plead guilty in July to a lesser charge of assault with prejudice. According to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, being charged for racial profiling is not particularly common, but the assault charge was enhanced due to Santos-Santiago’s racial prejudice.
“Racial profiling has no place in our community. The idea of a regular citizen holding someone against their will, just because they’re Black and on a bike, should worry all of us,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren told The Daily Beast. “We’ve seen similar examples of this around the country, and we’re fortunate that this one didn’t end in tragedy.”
The teen has not been publicly identified in the case. His mother wrote a statement that the family’s attorney read during Tuesday’s sentencing.
“My son was emotionally distraught because he was wrongfully profiled in a community he resides in because of the color of his skin,” she wrote. “As an African American mother, we have to have difficult conversations with our sons about defusing situations, about keeping your hands up if you are stopped... I hope people hear this and change the narrative of judging young Black men... Please use this situation as a learning tool. Do not judge people by their appearance.”