Category Archives: Race & Law

Prosecutor’s “Gorilla Pimp” Comment Admonished by High Court

Gorilla Pimp the skunk ape by seraphonfire on DeviantArt

In State v. McKenzie, the WA Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s convictions because the prosecutor improperly injected race into the trial and used the term “gorilla pimp” to describe the defendant.

BACKGROUND FACTS

In 2018, the defendant Mr. McKenzie, a 27-year-old Black man, was perusing the dating application Skout when he came across the profile for a white female named “‘Samantha.’”  Samantha’s profile listed her age as 18, and stated “‘Fun Times. My age is wrong. Daddy wanted.’” Samantha was actually a fictional person created by Detective Rodriguez of the Washington State Patrol’s missing and exploited children’s task force. They conduct undercover investigations to find sexual predators in part by using fictional profiles on social media and dating websites. The profile picture Mr. McKenzie viewed was that of an undercover female officer who was at least 22 years old.

The two continued to chat on Skout and then moved to text messaging on their
phones. During the text messaging, Samantha asked Mr. McKenzie if he was interested in being her pimp to which he replied, “Oh nah im not doing all that,” “Thats low. I dont need that & dont have time for all that. If you have a way to get money I support that,” and “But pimping? No thanks missed me with that one.”

Samantha made repeated suggestions that she and Mr. McKenzie meet up. The two discussed where to meet and Mr. McKenzie expressed concern that Samantha was “setting him up.” Later Mr. McKenzie asked Samantha about whether she had condoms. Mr. McKenzie drove from Seattle to Puyallup and waited for Samantha at an agreed meet location for just under 30 minutes. Unbeknownst to Mr. McKenzie, he was under surveillance the entire time he waited. After Mr. McKenzie messaged Samantha that he was giving up and leaving, law enforcement surrounded Mr. McKenzie’s car and placed him under arrest. A search of Mr. McKenzie’s car revealed a box of condoms on the passenger seat.

The State charged Mr. McKenzie with sex offenses to include one count of attempted second degree rape of a child and one count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes. Mr. McKenzie exercised his right to a jury trial.

At trial, Detective Rodriguez took the witness stand. The prosecutor initiated the following
exchange:

Q: Are you familiar with the terms gorilla pimp and romance pimp?
A: Yes.
Q: What are those?
A: A gorilla pimp is someone who is very aggressive. They’re very direct. They’re going to tell you what they want. “This is what you’re going to do.” I’ve had them try to get me or the people they’re victimizing to pay them for that. For them to be sexually exploited, they actually want the victim to pay them for it. As far as a romance pimp, they’re going to come across as your boyfriend or your friend. They’re going to romance you, get you into the situation where then they have control. They can continue to play the romance role or they can switch to a more aggressive pimp or they can go back and forth.
Q: So they’re not mutually exclusive?
A: No.
Q: The romance pimp angle can be used to gain confidence with a young person. And then once you’re engaged with them, the roles can change?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Your Honor, leading.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q: Can the roles change once they’re engaged?
A: Yes.
Q: Do Mr. McKenzie’s answers about, “I’m not into that. I would treat you right,” all of those kind of things, do they negate the possibility that he is looking to put Sam out?
A: No.

The defense never voiced a specific objection to the gorilla pimp concept. The prosecutor made no further reference to it. A jury found Mr. McKenzie guilty as charged. The court subsequently imposed a standard range sentence of 76.5 months to life in prison. Mr. McKenzie appealed on arguments that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct by injecting the racially charged term “gorilla pimp” into the trial.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The WA Court of Appeals reversed the Defendant’s conviction. It reasoned that use of the term “gorilla pimp” by the State was not harmless error beyond a reasonable doubt. The court said that when a prosecutor improperly injects race into a criminal trial, a court will generally reverse the conviction.

“Racist rhetoric has no place in our justice system. It is hurtful, thwarts due process, and undermines the rule of law. ~WA Court of Appeals

The Court discussed the State’s argument that the term used was actually “guerrilla pimp.” However, that argument was unpersuasive to the court, which found the analogy of a “gorilla” to be particularly concerning:

“At this point in our history we should not have to belabor the point that using a gorilla analogy when discussing human behavior, specifically the behavior of a Black man, is clearly racist rhetoric,” said the Court of Appeals. It reasoned that individuals involved in criminal enterprises use racialized language that is sometimes offensive. However, that is no excuse for outsiders to do the same.

“The only purpose served by referencing the gorilla pimp concept was to tap into deepseated racial prejudice by comparing Black human beings to primates. The State cannot prove that this racist rhetoric was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. We therefore reverse Mr. McKenzie’s conviction.” ~WA Court of Appeals

My opinion? Great decision. The type of racist rhetoric invoked by the Prosecution appears to have especially strong pull. A six-year study of undergraduates at Stanford University and Pennsylvania State University showed young people are swayed by Black-ape associations, even when they claim to know nothing about the historical context of racist simianization. According to this study, undergraduates who were exposed to words associated with apes were more likely to condone the beating of those in police custody when they thought the suspect was Black.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime, especially one involving race or Prosecutorial Misconduct. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New Washington State Patrol Trooper Class the ‘Most Diverse’ in the Agency’s History

Governor Murphy Sign Laws In An Effort To Try And Boost Racial Diversity  Among New Jersey Police Departments | New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law  Blog

King5 News reports that the latest class of graduates from the Washington State Patrol Academy (WSP) is the agency’s most diverse.

Of the 44 cadets sworn into service Wednesday, 43% come from populations considered historically underrepresented. Two of the new troopers are women, six are Hispanic, four are Asian, two are Black, and five identified themselves as representing two or more of those groups.

However, it’s reported that the agency still does not reflect the diversity of the state’s population. Not counting the recent graduating class, 90% of WSP’s commissioned officers are male, and 85% are white. That lack of diversity prompted state legislators to pass a law requiring oversight of the agency’s minority hiring practices.

WSP spokesperson Chris Loftis said the agency’s recent class is proof WSP was working on the issue before legislative action.

“We’re really seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Loftis. “It’s targeted recruitment, it’s community engagement, but it’s also increasing the allure and respect for law enforcement.”

My opinion? This is good news. And arrives on other reporting that it’s difficult to hire cadets from diverse backgrounds:

“This is a profession in particular over the course of the last many years that has struggled with regards to community acceptance to some degree as a profession, which has made it a lot more difficult to recruit folks within the diverse communities.” ~WSP Chief John Batiste.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Lacks Diversity, Seeks Active Recruitment of Minority Officers

Police Officers Explain Why Diversity in Law Enforcement Matters | Rasmussen University

King5 journalist PJ Randhawa reports that diversity in the Washington State Patrol (WSP) has been lacking for years. A new state law is putting pressure on the agency to attract and retain cadets of color.

WSP data shows the majority of state troopers are white men. Department of Justice and state data found diversity in the state patrol has declined. Compared with 2003, the patrol now employs fewer Black, Asian and Native American troopers.

A new state law looks to change the narrative. In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that puts pressure on WSP to attract and retain cadets of color. The measure will cost the state patrol $1.3 million. It includes the commission of an independent study into retention and recruitment efforts in addition to setting agency benchmarks and providing legislative oversight of WSP’s progress.

THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC AND BEGINS AT RECRUITING

A 2021 state study into WSP’s retention and recruitment practices showed cadets of color were failing the agency’s psychological evaluation at a higher rate than their white counterparts. And there’s a lot at stake – if you flunk the psychological evaluation, you’re out.

According to data compiled in the report, 36% of white candidates didn’t pass WSP’s psychological evaluation compared to 44% of Latinx candidates, 67% of Asian candidates and 60% of Black candidates who didn’t pass the psychological examination.

Dr. Daniel Clark, WSP’s longtime psychologist, was the man responsible for administering the tests. Clark faced criticism from lawmakers after that 2021 state report showed candidates of color were rejected from the patrol at high rates. The report found, “Every focus group and multiple key executives reported concerns of bias in the psychological evaluation process.”

Clark kept his job. He’s been reassigned at the state patrol and now deals with counseling and training.

THE WSP’S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY

Last year, WSP announced they had signed onto the 30×30 pledge, a nationwide effort within police departments to increase representation in all ranks and promote gender equity. According to the WSP, “The ultimate goal of the 30×30 Initiative is to reach 30 percent of women in police recruit classes by 2030 and to ensure policing agencies are truly representative of the jurisdiction the agency serves. While 30×30 focuses on advancing women in policing, these principles are applicable to all demographic diversity, not just gender.”

According to a statement provided by WSP, high vacancy rates across all law enforcement agencies have increased competition for candidates of color. They say they continue to modify their hiring and training practices to eliminate any unintended barriers for candidates of color.

My opinion? I agree with recent studies showing that diversity in law enforcement may improve policing. Compared to white officers, Black and Hispanic officers made far fewer stops and arrests — and used force less often — especially against Black civilians. Also, female officers used less force than their male counterparts. Apparently, de-escalation tactics and a decrease in unnecessary pullovers benefits everyone.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Ban Invasive Policing Technology

On November 2, 2021, Bellingham voters have an opportunity to vote on important initiatives affecting people’s liberty and freedom. Initiative No. 2021-02 concerns the use of facial recognition technology and predictive policing technology.

Face surveillance is the most dangerous of the many new technologies available to law enforcement. This measure would prohibit the City from the following:

  • Acquire or use facial recognition technology.
  • Prohibit the City from contracting with a third party to use facial recognition technology on its behalf.
  • Prohibit the use of predictive policing technology.
  • Prohibit the retention of unlawfully acquired data.
  • Prohibit the use of data, information, or evidence derived from the use of facial recognition technology or predictive policing technology in any legal proceeding.
  • Authorize private civil enforcement actions.

facial recognition system is a technology capable of matching a human face from a digital image or a video frame against a database of faces, typically employed to authenticate users through ID verification services, works by pinpointing and measuring facial features from a given image.

Facial recognition systems are employed throughout the world today by governments and private companies. Their effectiveness varies, and some systems have previously been scrapped because of their ineffectiveness. The use of facial recognition systems has also raised controversy, with claims that the systems violate citizens’ privacy, commonly make incorrect identifications, encourage gender norms and racial profiling, and do not protect important biometric data. These claims have led to the ban of facial recognition systems in several cities in the United States.

According to the ACLU, facial recognition systems are built on computer programs that analyze images of human faces for the purpose of identifying them. Unlike many other biometric systems, facial recognition can be used for general surveillance in combination with public video cameras, And it can be used in a passive way that doesn’t require the knowledge, consent, or participation of the subject.

The biggest danger is that this technology will be used for general, suspicionless surveillance systems. State motor vehicles agencies possess high-quality photographs of most citizens that are a natural source for face recognition programs and could easily be combined with public surveillance or other cameras in the construction of a comprehensive system of identification and tracking.

My opinion? Vote YES on Initiative 2021-02.

The technology itself can be racially biased. Groundbreaking research conducted by scholars Joy Buolamwini, Deb Raji, and Timnit Gebru snapped our collective attention to the fact that yes, algorithms can be racist. Buolamwini and Gebru’s 2018 research concluded that some facial analysis algorithms misclassified Black women nearly 35 percent of the time, while nearly always getting it right for white men. A subsequent study by Buolamwini and Raji at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed these problems persisted with Amazon’s software.

Please contact my office if you a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and experienced criminal defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

“At The End Of The Day, It’s Race.”

U.S. Racism and Inequality Are Rooted in the Law

The Washington Courts website presented its findings on unequal treatment in the criminal justice system.

According to data collected by the Task Force 2.0: Race and Washington’s Criminal Justice System, bias and the legacy of historically racist laws and practices contribute significantly to racially disproportionate treatment and outcomes in Washington’s criminal justice system.

From more frequent police stops, searches, use of force, arrests, longer sentences, fewer non-prison sentencing alternatives, higher or more frequent fines, and higher rates of deaths at the hands of police, people of color are treated more harshly than White people from the first contact with the justice system.

The Task Force presented their findings to the WA Supreme Court over Zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 29, and released their report to the public. The presentation was broadcast live on TVW and recorded for future viewing.

In addition to gathering data from the many points of contact throughout the justice system, Task Force researchers worked to identify reasons for disparities, often comparing “similarly situated” persons (those with similar crimes and criminal histories) and documenting differential treatment.

“At the end of the day, it’s race. At the end of the day, we see that disproportionalities persist in the criminal justice system.” ~Seattle University School of Law Professor Robert Chang

The Task Force report examines data on policing, prosecutorial decision-making, pre-trial release, sentences, incarceration, Legal Financial Obligations (court fines and fees), driver license suspensions, community supervision and reentry from incarceration, and more. The study also addresses the extensive impacts of contact with the criminal justice system on people’s mental and physical health, families, future employment, housing, and more.

Examples of Task Force findings include:

  • From 2013 to 2020 in Washington state, 253 people were killed by police. Based on each group’s relative population, Black people were killed at a rate 3.6 times greater than that of non-Hispanic White people; Indigenous people were killed at a rate 3.3 times greater; Latinos were killed at a rate 1.3 times greater; and Pacific Islanders were killed at a rate 3.3 times greater.
  • Data from four major Washington cities found that Black persons were 3.9 times to 10.6 times more likely to be subjected to use of force by police than White persons.
  • In fiscal year 2019 felony sentencing for non-drug offenses, Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) received significantly longer sentences than White defendants for the two most serious offense levels, and the disproportionality was pronounced for BIPOC defendants with lower criminal history scores.
  • Black persons, Indigenous persons, and Latina/os are sentenced to court fines and fees (Legal Financial Obligations, or ‘’LFOs’’) more frequently and at higher rates than White and Asian persons. Even after controlling for relevant legal factors, Latina/os are sentenced to significantly higher LFOs than similarly situated White defendants.

The Task Force was launched in mid-2020 by the deans of Washington’s three law schools following the death of George Floyd.

The Task Force will release recommendations for action by the end of the year, along with another report from a “task force within a task force” examining the state’s juvenile justice system. Speakers during the presentation pointed to the need for greater transparency and information sharing in all areas of the justice system, the need to examine the role and impacts of incarceration itself, the need for leaders from all branches and levels of government to be involved, and the need to acknowledge that even with neutral laws and policies, implicit bias influences the unequal application of those laws throughout the criminal justice system.

“We need to be intentional . . . Seven decades I’ve been dealing with this. And if we don’t make space for these hard conversations, 70 years from now we’ll be in the same place.” ~Retired King County Superior Court Judge J. Wesley Saint Clair

Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González, who was involved in the 2010 task force before he joined the Supreme Court, closed the presentation by thanking the presenters and the members of the task force for their ongoing work:

“We regret that this work is still needed, but we recognize that it is.” ~WA Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González

More background on the work of Task Force 2.0 can be found here.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime and race is an issue. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

 

Language App Helps Police

LanguageLine Solutions(R) Launches Live Interpreting App

Tacoma police officers are now using a language translation tool to assist during emergency responses. Q13 Fox News reports that all officers have access to Language Line Solutions, a translator app on their phones.

In the past, officers used neighbors or even family members, like kids, to translate.

Lydia Zepeda, who is a member of the Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, worked with the Tacoma Police Department to introduce a better way for officers to help people in crisis.

“A lot of these people are experiencing domestic violence, they may have been sexually assaulted, or they may be some other victim of a crime and we certainly don’t want children to have to interpret for something like this.” ~Lydia Zepeda, Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

“Language Line Solutions allows the Tacoma Police Department to offer equitable services to all members of the community,” said officer Wendy Haddow with the Tacoma Police Department.

The app offers translators for 240 different languages with voice options, and for some languages, video chat options. When you open the app, you can scroll or use the search feature to find the language you are looking for.

“This app is really, really important,” said Zepeda. She says this new tool, gives people going through an emergency an easier way to be heard, and get the help they need. She says it also protects children from having to be involved. “It minimizes trauma.”

My opinion? The language line app is an excellent use of police resources which serves everyone. In an emergency, getting information quick is vital. However, challenges arise when responding officers and the caller do not speak the same language.

Language barriers are the source of much litigation. In State v. Prok, the WA Court of dismissed a DUI case against a Cambodian DUI defendant because the police officer failed to advise Mr. Prok of his right to counsel in language easily understood. By itself, State v. Prok assisted defense attorneys who argued Motions to Suppress evidence based on language barriers between police and defendants.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

U.S. Prison Trends

Mass Incarceration, Then and Now | The New Yorker

The Sentencing Project devised a fact sheet which provides a compilation of major developments in the criminal justice system over the past several decades. Some highlights are as follows:

  • Mass Incarceration – The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500% increase over the last forty years.
  • Drug Policy – At the federal level, people incarcerated on a drug conviction make up nearly half the prison population. At the state level, the number of people in prison for drug offenses has increased nine-fold since 1980, although it has begun declining in recent years.
  • Racial Disparities – Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Latinos are 2.5 times as likely. For Black men in their thirties, about 1 in every 12 is in prison or jail on any given day.
  • Youth – Although youth detention populations are declining, youth of
    color enter the system much more frequently than white youth and are more likely to be sentenced to harsher terms of punishment. In addition, young people are transferred to the adult system each year and tried as if they were adults, and many are sent to adult prisons and jails to serve their sentences.
  • Felony Disenfranchisement – As of 2020, 5.2 million Americans were unable to vote due to state felony disenfranchisement policies.
  • Life Sentences – The number of people serving life sentences endures even while serious, violent crime has been declining for the past 20 years. This population has nearly quintupled since 1984. One in seven people in prison are serving life with parole, life without parole, or virtual life (50 years or more).

The Sentencing Project is a non-profit agency that promotes effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Ending Money Bond

VICTORY: Illinois Just Passed the Pretrial Fairness Act and Ended Money Bail  – Chicago Council of Lawyers

Illinois is poised to become the first state in the country to end the use of wealth-based pre-trial detention. The change has been a long time in the making – so long that one of the first organizers working to change the Illinois bail system six years ago got elected to the state senate and became a co-sponsor of the Pre-trial Fairness Act.

In courtrooms across the US, pre-trial release payments, called bond or bail, create dual systems of justice – one for the wealthy who can pay their way out of pre-trial incarceration and another for those who can’t afford it. Studies have also shown that hundreds of thousands of Americans like Mayes end up pleading guilty or receiving harsher sentences because of unaffordable bonds, whether or not they are guilty.

My opinion? Let’s see what happens. Numerous studies have shown that bail does little to achieve its intended purpose of ensuring court attendance – people released on their own recognizance were just as likely to come back to court for their trials as people who posted money bond and no more likely to reoffend awaiting trial.

Wealth-based detention is at its core, a racial justice issue. Across the country, Black, Latino and indigenous people are detained pre-trial at far higher rates than people of other ethnicities. If given a money bail, Black people receive significantly higher bail than all other ethnic and racial groups and are less likely to be able to post the bail amount. Bail is usually set by judges in less than a minute and people with almost identical charges are often assigned bails that differ by tens of thousands of dollars.

Please read my Legal Guide titled Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

The Consequences of Arrest Leads to Different Outcomes for Black, White Youth

The criminal justice system is riddled with racial disparities | Prison  Policy Initiative

For black youth, the Consequences of Arrest by eighth grade predicts they will be arrested by young adulthood – but the same is not true for white youth, a new University of Washington study finds.

The study, titled, The Usual, Racialized, Suspects: The Consequences of Police Contacts with Black and White Youth on Adult Arrest, finds that Black young adults are 11 times more likely to be arrested by age 20 if they had an initial encounter with law enforcement in their early teens than Black youth who don’t have that first contact.

In contrast, white young adults with early police contact are not significantly more likely to be arrested later, compared with white peers without that history.

The study also found that Black youth are more likely than white youth to be treated as “usual suspects” after a first encounter with police, leading to subsequent arrests over time. Even as white young adults report engaging in significantly more illegal behavior, Black young adults face more criminal penalties, the study finds.

Researchers also said it’s not just the number of stops, but what transpires during a police stop that sets the tone for future interactions with police.

“What we know about police contacts and youth generally is that Black youth are more likely to be stopped by police to begin with, and are more likely to have a negative experience when that happens,” said first author Annie McGlynn-Wright, a postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University who led the study while pursuing her doctorate at the UW. “What we haven’t known previously is the long-term effects of police contacts in terms of criminal justice outcomes.”

Racial differences in who is stopped, why and for what penalty have been well documented, the researchers said. Also, police stops have been linked to individuals’ later run-ins with law enforcement.

While the data was collected in Seattle, researchers say the patterns they found are likely occurring in cities around the country — Seattle is “more like every other town” than some larger metro areas like Chicago and Philadelphia, where many criminal justice studies are located, noted co-author Robert Crutchfield, a professor emeritus of sociology at the UW.

“When police interact with communities, and young people in communities, they have to be especially mindful of the nature and substance of the encounters, and police really need training to avoid negative interactions. What we found is that contact matters. In this study, we couldn’t parse out the nature of the interactions, but I suspect most kids experienced the interaction in a negative way. The message is, cops need to do better to minimize unnecessary contacts, and when they do contact people, to treat them better.” ~Robert Crutchfield, UW Professor Emeritus of Sociology.

For this study, UW researchers wanted to examine the effects of the first stop on the lives of Black and white adolescents, and whether a stop in the early teen years is associated with “secondary sanctioning,” or a “usual suspects” treatment by police that plays out over future stops and/or arrests. The study is among the first to explore the racial differences in police contact over time.

It also comes during a period of significant reckoning over race and policing in the United States, after a series of law enforcement killings of Black people around the country. As communities grapple with how to address institutionalized racism, police procedures and accountability, many school districts, including Seattle, have ended their contracts with law enforcement agencies for school resource officers, the personnel who are assigned to specific school buildings. Research has shown that students of color are disproportionately subject to discipline and monitoring by school resource officers.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged and arrested and race might play a factor in the charges. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

FBI Releases 2019 Hate Crime Statistics

Pie chart depicting breakdown of motivations of bias-motivated crimes in the Hate Crime Statistics, 2019 report.

In a press release issued today, the FBI gave Hate Crime Statistics, 2019, which is the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s latest compilation about bias-motivated incidents throughout the nation. The 2019 data, submitted by 15,588 law enforcement agencies, provide information about the offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of hate crimes.

Law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 7,314 criminal incidents and 8,559 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.

Victims of Hate Crime Incidents

  • According to the report, there were 7,103 single-bias incidents involving 8,552 victims. A percent distribution of victims by bias type shows that 57.6% of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 20.1% were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias; 16.7% were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias; 2.7% were targeted because of the offenders’ gender identity bias; 2.0% were victimized because of the offenders’ disability bias; and 0.9% were victimized because of the offenders’ gender bias.
  • There were 211 multiple-bias hate crime incidents, which involved 260 victims.

Offenses by Crime Category

  • Of the 5,512 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons in 2019, 40% were for intimidation, 36.7% were for simple assault, and 21% were for aggravated assault. Fifty-one (51) murders; 30 rapes; and three offenses of human trafficking (commercial sex acts) were reported as hate crimes. The remaining 41 hate crime offenses were reported in the category of other.
  • There were 2,811 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property. The majority of these (76.6%) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. Robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses accounted for the remaining 23.4% of crimes against property.
  • Two hundred thirty-six (236) additional offenses were classified as crimes against society. This crime category represents society’s prohibition against engaging in certain types of activity such as gambling, prostitution, and drug violations. These are typically victimless crimes in which property is not the object.

In Washington, Malicious Harassment is a crime you may face in addition to any other existing charges if the prosecution has deemed that there is sufficient cause to believe that your actions were motivated by personal bias or bigotry. Malicious Harassment is a Class C Felony. The statute reads:

“(1) A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because of his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap:

(a) Causes physical injury to the victim or another person;

(b) Causes physical damage to or destruction of the property of the victim or another person; or

(c) Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property. The fear must be a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances. For purposes of this section, a “reasonable person” is a reasonable person who is a member of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, or who has the same mental, physical, or sensory handicap as the victim. Words alone do not constitute malicious harassment unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words indicate the words are a threat. Threatening words do not constitute malicious harassment if it is apparent to the victim that the person does not have the ability to carry out the threat.”

The jury must put themselves into the shoes of what the statute defines as a reasonable individual, rather than their own mindset.  From a defense standpoint, the prosecutor’s burden of proof may be difficult to properly enact if the jurors are not members of the group that the alleged hate crime has offended. Moreover, not all crimes that occur between people of different races and nationalities are necessarily hate crimes.

Please contact my office if you or a loved one is currently facing charges for a hate crime, and/or Malicious Harassment. Defending against these allegations is difficult, and there is very little room for negotiation. Hiring competent and experienced defense counsel is your first and best step towards justice.