How Much Hate Does A Hate Crime Take?

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Michael J. Sandy, 29, was murdered because he was gay. But did his murderers [really hate him]( ), or did they just believe he was an easy target?

Allegedly, Sandy was lured to Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach for sex, where he became the victim of an attempted robbery, was beaten and then chased into traffic on the Belt Parkway, at which point he was hit by a car. He later died in the hospital.

His attackers, John Fox, 19, Ilye Shurov, 20, and Gary Timmins, 16, have been charged with murder under the state [Hate Crimes Act of 2000]. That charge allows longer sentences for crimes motivated “in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person.” But Defense counsel Gerald J. DiChiara has argued, “The crimes alleged are [not crimes of hate]( but rather crimes of opportunity and therefore not within the purview of the Hate Crimes Act.” Justice Jill Konviser-Levine will make the call.

The defendants met Sandy in an online gay chat room (not a chat room for, say, owners of rescued greyhounds). In fact, they’ve acknowledged that he was indeed chosen based on his homosexuality, which somehow gave them the impression that he wouldn’t fight back when they tried to rob him.

Charles J. Hynes, Brooklyn District Attorney, says, “… the law says that if you pick someone because they are a member of that class you can establish the hate crime." You don’t have to hate blacks or gays to be guilty under this statute; all you have to do is identify them as a class and victimize them [because they come from that class].

So says the U.S. Department of Justice, writing that hate crime offenders aren’t always easy to categorize. For example, thrill-seeking offenders spontaneously attack members of groups they consider to be vulnerable. “Their manifested hatred of the victim is [superficial],” but because the victim was chosen for being a member of a specific group, it’s still a hate crime. DiChiara, however, argues that the statute is applicable only to defendants who truly, madly, deeply hate their victims. Next, someone will argue a crime of passion can only be deemed such if it literally occurs during intercourse. Concrete much?

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