Thursday, February 09, 2006

Robida's Crimes & the Flawed Concept of "Hate Crimes"

Yesterday's Boston Globe ("Teen Gunman Took Own Life") reported that the New Bedford criminal Jacob Robida, who went on a violent rampage in the gay bar in New Bedford, "was known to have friends who are gay." He "had a swastika tattooed on his hand" and "told friends how he hated Jews and African-Americans." But apparently he never told them how he hated gays. (Did he have Jewish or African-American friends?)

The Bristol County District Attorney "said it remains unclear what triggered Robida's crime spree, but he said he hopes to release a report next week providing as much information about the events and Robida that investigators have been able to uncover. 'Some things we are never going to know,' he said."

We now know that Robida shot himself in the head, after killing an Arkansas policeman and the woman traveling with him. We ask again [still no answer from the homosexual radical activist crowd...]: Were these two murders "hate crimes"? Was killing himself a "hate crime"? Might he have hated himself? Why? Maybe he was conflicted on his own sexual identity, and in the midst of a severe psycholgical struggle.

Can we know with any certainty what led Robida to commit his horrible crimes? No. Even if he were still alive, we would likely not be able to discern his deepest motives.

But the very concept of "hate crimes" requires knowledge of motive. Realistically, won't there will always be "reasonable doubt" when it comes to a criminal's motive or "bias" in this sort of crime? So a "hate crime" cannot be proven. It can only be surmised.

Massachusetts is one of few states with "hate crimes" statutes including "sexual orientation" along with religion, race, disability. But a precise definition of "hate crimes" is hard to come by. The statutes are vague, and do not spell out clear standards or thresholds for determining whether a crime was in fact motivated by "hate." In fact, it's sometimes up to the victim (if alive) to determine if they're distressed enough to call the offense a "hate crime"! And "hate crimes" can include non-violent acts, such as speech and written words -- if the "victim" doesn't like them.

The Massachusetts Attorney General's "hate crimes task force" page says little. That office has produced a document called "Erasing Hate" directed at our schools! It states, "Certain types of language or conduct may indicate that a hate crime has occurred. Some indicators that a crime was hate-motivated include..." You get the idea -- it's all highly subjective. (This is "law"?)

The resources at the end of "Erasing Hate" include such dangerous organizations as the ACLU; Anti-Defamation League; Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian & Transgender Youth (BAGLY); Boston Gay & Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS); Fenway Community Health Center (that gave out the Little Black Book to teenagers last April); Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

And it's interesting that we find a list of applicable statutes on a Mass. Dept. of Education web page -- not on the Attorney General's site!

From a Massachusetts Governor's Hate Crimes Task Force document (2001):

A "hate crime" is a crime in which the perpetrator's conduct is motivated, in whole or in part, by hatred, bias, or prejudice, based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of another group or individual.

Hate crimes are characterized by bias indicators: "objective facts, circumstances or patterns attending a criminal act(s) which, standing alone or in conjunction with other facts and circumstances, suggest that an offender's actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by any [prohibited] form of bias..." The most common bias indicators are verbal slurs, epithets, and bigoted language, written or spoken. Careful attention to bias indicator evidence is essential to appropriate investigation and charging of these offenses.

Massachusetts hate crimes laws increase the penalty that applies to crimes of violence, threats and harassment, and property damage whenever a prohibited bias motive is found to have existed. For example, the hate crimes statutes increase the penalty applicable to a simple assault and battery, which causes even minor injury to its victim, from a mere two and one-half years, to as much as seventeen and one-half years incarceration. Hate-motivated activity also exposes perpetrators to the risk of being subjected to a civil rights injunction.