Sunday, March 17, 2002

Hate crime not same as federal crime

        The FBI is following the Cincinnati Police Department's investigation into the fatal shooting of a Mexican man, but the agency likely will not get more involved.

        It's a common misconception that the federal agency handles all hate-motivated incidents, said Ed Boldt, counsel and spokesman for the Cincinnati FBI office.

        “There is no such thing as a federal hate crime statute,” he said. “That's the important thing to understand. These are not, in and of themselves, federal crimes.”

        The few the FBI can prosecute must fall under federal civil-rights statutes, where the death was intended to threaten, intimidate or to stop someone from the “free exercise of some right of privilege secured by the Constitution.”

        Mr. Boldt's examples:

        • A person killed on Election Day, while on his way to vote.

        • A crime witness murdered to silence his testimony.

        Many states do, however, have laws that specifically outlaw hate crimes. In Ohio, “ethnic intimidation” is a secondary charge added when an assault, killing or other crime is believed to have been motivated by the victim's ethnicity. Conviction on the secondary charge adds prison time.

        But in cases of murder, Mr. Boldt said, adding prison time doesn't necessarily mean that much since the primary charge already carries a life sentence.
        — Jane Prendergast

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