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It’s all about the Hate

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There’s a trio of thugs on trial here in Atlanta for what, by all accounts, was a savage beating of a pair of brothers last year in the Little Five Points neighborhood.

Actually, all three people charged in the beating have already pleaded guilty to six counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal damage to property. Those pleas came without any sort of plea agreement, and each of the three attackers face 15 years in prison for this crime.

Yet they are still on trial. Why? Because they are also charged with a “hate crime” because, apparently, this attack was motivated by the victims being black.

The evidence in the “hate crime” trial so far shows that these three do appear to be racist idiots, as witnesses said the defendants shouted things like “If you ain’t white, you ain’t right” after police broke up the beatings.

If the judge determines that “racial bias” drove the attack, the three defendants could get as much as five years added to their sentences.

As you might have guessed, I am not a fan of “hate crime” laws.

First off, the existence of “hate crimes” laws means that if these scumbags hated hippies rather than blacks and chose to beat up a couple of hippies in Little 5, they’d be facing 5 years less in prison. And that’s not right.

My head is just as valuable as a black guy’s head. And if someone cracks my head open on a fire hydrant, that person should be punished as strongly as if he had cracked a black guy’s head open on a fire hydrant.

Secondly, Does anyone think “hate crime” laws are actually a deterrent? “Gee, I had better not beat the crap out of that black guy, because I have KKK material at my house, and I’ll end up with 5 more years in prison because of it.” Right.

Thirdly, Isn’t it logical that the existence of “hate crimes” just serves to fuel the hatred that exists in the racist population already? The racist who believes the rights of whites are being taken away or whatever probably just gets that idea reinforced when “hate crime” laws are passed.

I understand the goal of “hate crime” laws. We, as a society, want to emphasize that we will not tolerate racially-motivated attacks. But passing laws that enable judges to tack more time on to a sentence when a crime was committed by a person who held certain opinions about the person he was attacking is wrong.

My suggestion is to make the maximum penalty for all felony crimes life in prison (I’d say the death penalty, but that’s another discussion) and leave it up to the judge to decide the appropriate penalty for the specific crime’s circumstances.

That way, a person who commits an assault because, say, the person he assaulted had just broken in to his car would get an appropriate sentence for that crime and a jackass racist who randomly picks black people to beat up can get the book thrown at him.

&#149: AJC Story

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  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    First, let’s dispense with this, uh, gross misinterpretation of the law, Cap’n:

    “Yet they are still on trial. Why? Because they are also charged with a “hate crime” because, apparently, this attack was motivated by the victims being black.”

    Hate crime laws apply across the board. If three black people had beaten up a pair of white people with racial animus the hate crime statute would still apply. Or Indians and whites. Or blacks and Hispanics. Or Japanese-Americans and Korean-Americans. (You ain’t seen hate until you get into that ball of wax.) The point is racial animus as a motivation. Got the animus? Get the statute.

    As a law student I was opposed to hate crime laws because I considered myself a free speech absolutist. I have grown up since.

    Some criminal acts are directed at the whole population, not just the actual victims of the crimes. Hate crimes are among them. The message from a skinhead assaulting a black person is that black people are a lesser ‘species’ that should be treated accordingly. It is being sent to other African-Americans as a message to stay in your place and to white Americans as a message to discriminate against blacks, including acts of violence. An assault that occurs because Joe stepped on Jack’s new white Nike’s sends no such message. It is a dispute between the actual parties. Because of this difference in scope of harm, I believe hate crime statutes are justifiable.

    Hate crimes statutes are rarely used, definitely not enough to explain the animosity toward them. Much of the brouhaha against them is rooted in the belief that people of color deserve their position as second-class citizens. The statutes, invariably described (see the Cap’n’s entry above) as protecting only minorities, are seen as interference with the racial status quo.

  • http://eastatlanta.blogspot.com Cap’n Ken

    But if I get beat up by a Klansman, the Klansman is going to get 5 years less jail time than if he’d beat up a black guy. My head doesn’t hurt any less than a black guy’s, and I’m no more happy about getting beat up.

    Or if a white guy (Cartman, for instance) hates hippies and beats up a hippie who happens to be white, his punishment should be less than if he hated blacks and beat up a black guy?

    Or are you saying we should look at the motivation behind every crime and assign punishments based on a particular motivation?

    A rapist who rapes blondes and only blondes should get more jail time because he targets blondes?

    Personally I think sentences are way too weak across the board. Give a guy life in prison – and a real prision with no TV, bad food, etc. – and fry a guy for rape. Then you don’t need to worry about the little add-on penalties for committing a politically-incorrect crime.

  • http://eastatlanta.blogspot.com Cap’n Ken

    Also Mac:

    From your post: “The statutes, invariably described (see the Cap’n’s entry above) as protecting only minorities, are seen as interference with the racial status quo.”

    Excuse me, but I described this as “passing laws that enable judges to tack more time on to a sentence when a crime was committed by a person who held certain opinions about the person he was attacking is wrong.”

    I never said anything about hate crimes existing to protect minorities or my disagreement with them having anything to do with minorities, their place in society, etc.

    This particular case involves whites beating up blacks, which is why I have the “black” references throughout.

    Maybe you’re throwing your prejudices into the mix.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Cap’n, if the Klansman beat you up because you spoke in favor of racial equality or were in the company of people of color, then you might be protected under the hate crimes statutes since racial animus would be his motivation.

    Your solution of more severe penalites period just isn’t workable. We cannot afford it. Prosecutions, prisons and post-sentence supervision are very costly.

    I found three things I learned about the perps from the AJC story interesting.

    1) They are street people. One of the differences I have with liberal friends is the generous embrasure of the homeless as always just folks down on their luck. In my experience, street people are often drunk or drug addled, mentally ill in a dangerous way or sociopathic. (Not all, or most, but lots.) As recently as Sunday, I was accosted by guy selling a homeless newspaper with racial verbal abuse. Happens fairly often.

    2) I also noticed two of the three are Italian-American. That is a reminder of how even nominally white ethnics identify with with white supremacy.

    3) The description of the white supremacist perps as preaching to the crowd that gathered really stood out. It is evidence of what I said above about hate crimes sending a message of intolerance.

  • The Theory

    I’d be in favor of zapping all people over the age of, say, 18 who break the law. We could use a form of population control.

  • http://eastatlanta.blogspot.com Cap’n Ken

    … but if the Klansman beat me up for no reason, his crime against me is less serious than a crime against someone he holds prohibited views about. That’s simply not right.

    And if prisons were the bare, brutal, feared places they should be, we could afford to put a lot more people away (and ultimately far fewer people would be willing to risk going there).

    Also, it’s not quite correct to call the attackers “homeless”. They were more “drifters” than “homeless” (they didn’t “live” in Little 5, in other words).

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Cap’n, having formerly lived in Atlanta, I am pretty familiar with it. I don’t believe the perps were going to retire to Buckhead after the assaults.

    Yes, if the Klansman beats the crap out of you because he hates LSU alumni, there is no violation of the hate crime statute. That is because racial intolerance is such a major problem in our society. Other grounds for meaning mean don’t compare to it.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Correction: “being mean.”

  • The Theory

    And if prisons were the bare, brutal, feared places they should be, we could afford to put a lot more people away (and ultimately far fewer people would be willing to risk going there).

    exactly. if i was a notch poorer than I am, I’d say lock me up! Minimum Security… all the luxuries of home. Without having to make your bed.

  • JR

    “… but if the Klansman beat me up for no reason, his crime against me is less serious than a crime against someone he holds prohibited views about.”

    No, that aspect of the crime is the same. But if his views represent a threat to a group of people, them he has also committed a crime against the whole group by acting on that threat. Whereas if he had no professed reason for beating you up, he hasn’t implicitly threatened anybody else. Therefore, his PUNISHMENT is less than if he had targeted a member of a group as such. You can think of it as an act of terrorism.

  • http://eastatlanta.blogspot.com Cap’n Ken

    Congratulations on your familiarity with Atlanta. I guess you don’t appreciate being corrected when you’re wrong.

    Fact is they were “drifters”, not “homeless”, which is relevant to this particular story.

    And, actually, the Georgia “hate crime” law would allow for the bonus 5 years of jail time if someone attacks me because I’m an LSU alum. And I’m still against it!

  • http://eastatlanta.blogspot.com Cap’n Ken

    JR:

    Yes, legally in Georgia it is a “domestic terrorism” law. And, in instances where someone’s actions were aimed at broader “terror”, a stiffer penalty is called for.

    But that’s a higher standard than simply holding a “bias” against the group of people of which your victim is one, and I think that intent should have to be proved.

    Case in point: The first person to receive a “hate crime” sentence here in Georgia was a redneck up in Gainesville who was drunk at his daddy’s funeral and punched a mentally-retarded Hispanic child because he said his father wouldn’t want any Hispanics at his funeral.

    He got 4 years tacked on to his 2-year sentence for the assault.

    A drunk redneck at a funeral is hardly threatening the safety and security of Hispanics in Georgia.

  • http://mcfrank.blogspot.com Chris Arabia

    no matter how you explain it, hate crimes still penalize people for their thoughts. you cant make the “threat to a group” argument without assigning added liability to the perps because of their thoughts (and by thoughts I do NOT mean mental state).

    if anyone has statistics (with their sources provided) on the racial/ethnic breakdown of hate crime prosecutions (for both victims and perps) i’d like to see them.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    There are very few prosecutions for hate crimes, as I said above. I mean single digits per state much of the time.

    If you oppose hate crimes statutes, I gather you also oppose the Patriot Act, Chris?

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    The latest stats are from 2001:

    http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm

    http://www.ncjrs.org/hate_crimes/facts.html

    I will add to these comments if I decide to blog the topic.

  • http://eastatlanta.blogspot.com Cap’n Ken

    Update on the Little 5 case – One of the two drifters on trial (there’s a woman involved who will be tried separately next week) was found guilty of the “hate crime” and the other was acquitted.

    Oddly enough, the guy who got the “hate crime” conviction was white and the guy who got acquitted of the “hate crime” was of Mexican and American Indian origin.

    According to today’s AJC story, the judge (who, for completeness of information, is black) “suggested that [the Mexican/Indian guy] should be sensitive to the scars that bigotry can leave on its victims.” It wasn’t clear in the story if the judge’s views on that influenced his decision to acquit the Mexican/Indian guy.

    Interestingly, the judge is also quoted in the article as relating his own personal experiences with racism, talking about getting spit at as a child when the Brown vs. Board of Education decision came down, etc. He also said “I hate racism.”

    So, obviously he has a bias against racism, which one would think would make it a conflict of interest for him to hand down a “racism” based “hate crime” verdict.

    I guess that also means that if the judge ever gets into a fight with someone he knows to the “racist” he’ll be subjected to an additional five years in jail because it’s known that he “hates racism”.

    And it’s hard to make a lot from those FBI stats, as they are more about reported “hate crimes” tha actual prosecutions. The 2001 numbers say 39 “hate crimes” were reported in Georgia. The Little 5 incident is at least the 4th prosecution this year (the first year we’ve had such prosecutions under the law, passed in 2000). So that suggests – maybe – 10% or so of reported cases get prosecuted, which would suggest about 975 per year nationwide.

    But that’s a rough, rough guess. It’ll be interesting to see the trend over time. The FBI says about 60% of “hate crime” offenders are white. I would bet my house that a far higher percentage of prosecutions are against white offenders.

  • http://mcfrank.blogspot.com Chris Arabia

    mac divka, why pray tell would opposition to hate crimes legislation suggest opposition to the Patriot Act? i mean that seriously, i’m interested in the connection.

  • http://eastatlanta.blogspot.com Cap’n Ken

    A final follow on the hate crime trial – the two defendents who were convicted on the “hate” charge were sentenced late last week. Both of them got a TOTAL of 8 years in prison for the attack; 6 years for the assault and 2 years for the “hate”.

    They could have received 15 years for the assault charges alone, plus 4 years for the “hate”.

    So what’s the point of the “hate” charge if the TOTAL time they get in jail is just slightly over HALF of what the judge COULD have given them even without the “hate” conviction?