Prosecutor wisely passes on hate crimes
The state attorney general has identified six criminal cases last year as having characteristics of hate crimes.
WHEN the Legislature enacted the state's hate-crime law six years ago, state Public Defender Jack Tonaki warned that it would unfairly punish those who "in the heat of the moment" utter slurs that do not constitute motivation for the crime. Fortunately, prosecutors have declined to apply the law in such cases
, the most recent being the beating of a military couple at Waikele Center during which an assailant called the soldier a "f--ing haole." Victims of crimes suffer regardless of motive.
"If someone kills me because I am a man, that would be a hate crime," City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle once explained, "but if someone kills me because I am an obnoxious neighbor, it is not a hate crime, but I, as the victim, would have a hard time telling the difference."
Of six cases last year in which bias played a role, only two were "classic" hate crimes, according to a state attorney general's report, and prosecutors even then did not seek stiffer sentencing provided by the law. Those involved a Hawaiian who shouted anti-white epithets before attacking a white male, and two military assailants who, according to their slurs, mistook their victims as Arab and Muslim.
One case involved a "neighborhood bully" who used anti-white, anti-Japanese and anti-homosexual epithets in threats to kill his Ahuimanu neighbors. He was convicted of terroristic threatening and was sentenced to a maximum five-year prison term without use of the hate-crime law. The other four cases might have involved "mentally impaired offenders," according to the report.
The law covers crimes motivated by a victim's race, religion, disability, ethnicity, national origin, sex or sexual orientation. Federal law allows prosecution of violent crimes motivated by a victim's race, religion or national origin, and Congress is considering the addition of sex, sexual orientation and disability. That would amount to meddling further into an area that states should have avoided in the first place.
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