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O’Mara Law Group is the private law practice of Mark O’Mara. Mark O’Mara has been practicing law in Central Florida since 1983.

BREAKING NEWS: Chicago's Unfortunate Event is Unquestionably a Hate Crime

Mark O'Mara - Thursday, January 05, 2017

 

What happened in Chicago is unquestionably a hate crime, and must be treated as such.

Within our criminal justice system, we categorize crimes by the nature. There are property crimes, such as vandalism or petty theft, ‘victimless’ crimes, such as drug offenses, and there is a category called ‘victim’ or personal crimes, and these are more serious than the others. Within victim crimes there are other subcategories, such as crimes against children, crimes against the elderly and crimes against vulnerable victims, such as mentally or physically handicapped. Those categories are enhanced victim crimes because of who they are perpetrated against. Several years ago, we came up with a concept of a hate crime, which is a designation and an enhancement added to a crime because the person victimized was of a special class. In effect, if the crime is perpetrated against somebody because of who they are or what group they belong to, then it is an enhanced or more serious event. In the scheme of criminal responsibility and punishment, the hate crime designation makes sense: if you are victimized because of who you are particularly, that is more egregious than a ‘general’ victim crime. Many states have guidelines that add points to a scoresheet, and therefore the sentence, based on whether there was a victim, whether the victim was injured, and the extent of injury caused.

With what is now known in the Chicago torture crime, there is no question that this victim was targeted because he met one, and maybe two, categories. One, because he was white, and two, seemingly, because of his mental disability, which made him more vulnerable. If there was a double-enhancement available for hate crimes, this would meet that criteria as well.

Sadly, there is an even more sinister facet to this crime. It was done, ostensibly, in the name of a movement which has its roots in attempting to highlight the undeniable inequities inherent in the criminal justice system regarding African Americans. They exist now and they have existed for decades, if not centuries, in our system. Much like the thugs who would beat up a protestor at a Trump rally, these thugs took advantage of a helpless victim, and supposedly did so to further the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. Nothing could be more misdirected than such a sick, bastardized version of loyalty to that movement, and it should be condemned for exactly what it really is: criminal bigotry.

 

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