US Coast Guardsman claims he was charged due to his race

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A Norfolk courtroom is now the site of a racial battle involving the United States Coast Guard. It comes after a Coast Guard officer was arrested and now he is claiming the prosecutors in the case made racist remarks.

Twelve years ago, Robert Woods followed in his parents’ footsteps and chose to serve his country. 

“It’s been great,” said Woods. “I met a lot of great people along the way.”

Woods quickly rose up the ranks in the Coast Guard to Lieutenant, but two years ago he found out he was the center of a drug investigation.

“I had some suspicion at first,” Woods added. “It seemed kind of weird that I was so sought after in the way I was.”

In August 2020, Woods was charged with selling a controlled substance and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

“Everyone I talk to about this case has the same reaction,” said Woods’ attorney Marshall Griffin. “They say, ‘that’s crazy. I can’t believe they are doing that.'”

Woods and his attorney believe he is being targeted by the Coast Guard simply because of the color of his skin.

“When defense counsel has minority clients, we are always looking to see if there is bias in the case,” Griffin added. “This case is unusual because we have it.”

Griffin recently filed paperwork asking for the charges to be thrown out. He points to an email chain between prosecutors talking about “awards for Blacks in government.”

The prosecutor wrote “haha.”

“The government has a right and an obligation to investigate misconduct and prosecute if the evidence justifies it, but that process has to be fair,” Griffin said.

Prosecutors responded by saying there was no racial slur or no racial joke and that ‘haha’ was meant in reference to something else. The Coast Guard tells 10 On Your Side that it is looking into the Woods’ claim.

“I’m just looking for a fair run at this, but with this information, it doesn’t look like I’m getting that fair run,” Woods added.

The case is now tied up in the courts and so is Woods’ future.

“I think I gave the organization everything I can, and I think they gave me a lot too and it is time to move on,” Woods said.

Woods was in court last week asking for a judge to throw out his charges. He is now waiting on the judge’s response. 

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