Class Explores Hate Crimes
Local law enforcement and government
personnel gathered April 5, in the Memorial Classroom Building
auditorium for an “Intro to Civil Law” class.
Tim Griffon and Michael Johnson of the U.S.
Attorney’s Office invited law enforcement and government officials for a
class in hate crimes. The class began by asking “What is a hate crime?”
“A hate crime does not take something noncriminal and make it
criminal,” Johnson said. “A hate crime is an already existing criminal
act; it is the motive that we are concerned with.”
Johnson said by establishing hate crime motive harsher penalties can
be enacted. The class focused mainly on what constitutes a reason for
the federal government to intervene. The statutes, known as “pegs” allow
federal government to step in.
Mark Gober, Drew County Sheriff, said
all of his experience with the federal law enforcement has been
“This class helps us define what we are
seeing,” Gober said. “We can help identify a hate crime for local
prosecutors. Also, knowing the ‘pegs’ makes it easier to get federal
enforcement which allows for stiffer penalties.”
But, Johnson said, the federal
has limitations and local law enforcement must know the “pegs” that
allow them to investigate.
“Sometimes you can tell a hate crime was committed,” Johnson said. “A
cross burning in the front yard is obvious, but sometimes you have to
pick it apart.”
The “pegs” are important because the Arkansas hate crime legislation
failed to pass in 1993, and a national legislation
failed in 1997. The six laws, known as the “Civil Rights” statutes,
discussed in the class were:
18 U.S.C. 241 makes it illegal for two or more persons to agree to
injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or
district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege
secured to him/her by the U.S. constitution.
18 U.S.C. 242 makes it illegal for any person under color of law to
willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the
constitution or laws of the U.S. This statute refers specifically to
police officers, prison guards, public healthcare providers, judges and
others acting as public officials.
18 U.S.C. 245 makes it unlawful to willingly injure, intimidate or
interfere with any person; or attempt to do so, by force or threat of
force, because of that other person’s race, color, religion or national
18 U.S.C. 247 prohibits anyone from intentionally defacing, damaging
or destroying religious real property because of the religious nature of
the property, so long as the crime is committed in or affects interstate
commerce. The statute also prohibits anyone from intentionally
obstructing or attempting to obstruct, by force or threat of force, a
person in the enjoyment of that person’s religious belief, where the
crime is committed in or affects interstate commerce.
Section 3631 of Title 42 makes it unlawful for an individual to us
force, attempt to use force or threaten with force to injure,
intimidate, or interfere with any person’s housing rights; this based on
race, color religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.
18 U.S.C. Sec. 844 (e) using mail, telephone, telegraph or other
instrument of interstate and foreign commerce to willfully make threats,
or maliciously convey false information; (h) the use of fire or
explosives to commit a felony and ( i) sets punishments of 5
to 40 years plus fines for anyone using fire or an explosive to destroy
buildings, vehicles or other real or personal property used in
interstate or foreign commerce.
Johnson’s experience with hate crimes
spans 30 years. In that time he said he learned hate crimes are more
difficult for the victim. Historically, hate crimes are more violent and
persistent because offenders believe they have justifiable reasons.
“Victims of hate crimes are not like any other,” Johnson said. “They
are chosen for an unalterable reason and that adds more psychological
Robert Rosegrant, Chief of the Monticello Police, said he
enjoyed the class but hoped it would get deeper into the Fair Housing
“As a municipality we would probably use
that ‘peg’ the most,” Rosengrant said.
Campus police chief, John Kidwell, said
in his six years on campus there has never been a reported hate crime.
Still, he said he agrees with Rosengrant’s and Gober’s positive
reactions to the class. Kidwell said
the foundation for a similar class, geared toward students, has been
“We would love to have them on campus
again.” Kidwell said.
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ŠThe Voice 2007