Tuesday, 22 June 2010
New York prosecutors' definition of "hate crime"
An ABA Journal report refers to a New York Times article about how prosecutors in Queens are broadening the definition of the term "hate crime." They are applying hate crime law to nonviolent crimes (for example, mortgage fraud) committed by people who prey on the elderly because they believe older people are easy to deceive and might have substantial savings or home equity. The legal theory is that New York’s hate crimes statute does not require prosecutors to prove defendants “hate” the group the victim belongs to, merely that they commit the crime because of some belief, correct or not, they hold about the group. The theory has not yet been tested in an appellate court, possibly because many of those charged have pleaded guilty and waived their right to appeal. But Queens trial judges have upheld it against defense lawyers who argue that the hate crime charges are inappropriate. At least five defendants have pleaded guilty to or have been convicted under this hate-crime theory, and charges against two others are pending. Prosecutors across New York state are closely watching how this approach is being used, because it can result in stiffer sentences for the criminals.