A crime is a crime, right? Why is a special definition needed?

Lawyer: Lesbians’ assault on gay man can’t be hate crime

Boston HeraldThree women identified by their lawyers as lesbians were arraigned Friday on a hate crime charge for allegedly beating a gay man at the Forest Hills T station in an unusual case that experts say exposes the law’s flawed logic.

“My guess is that no sane jury would convict them under those circumstances, but what this really demonstrates is the idiocy of the hate-crime legislation,” said civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate. “If you beat someone up, you’re guilty of assault and battery of a human being. Period. The idea of trying to break down human beings into categories is doomed to failure.

Prosecutors and the ACLU of Massachusetts said no matter the defendants’ sexual orientation, they can still face the crime of assault and battery with intent to intimidate, which carries up to a 10-year prison sentence, by using hateful language.  “Someone who is Jewish can be anti-Semitic,” said ACLU staff attorney Sarah Wunsch. “The mere fact that someone is a member of the same class doesn’t mean they could not be motivated by hatred for their very own group.”

Erika Stroud

But Carolyn Euell, 38, mother of two of the defendants, Erika Stroud, 21, of Dorchester and Felicia Stroud, 18, West Roxbury, told reporters the alleged attack “can’t be hateful” because both her daughters are lesbians.

Prosecutor Lindsey Weinstein said the two sisters and one of their domestic partners, Lydia Sanford, also a defendant, viciously beat the man Sunday, repeatedly punching and kicking him after he bumped them with his backpack on a stairwell.

Felicia Stroud

She said the victim, who suffered a broken nose, told cops he believed the attack was “motivated as a crime because of his sexual orientation” since the three women “called him insulting homophobic slurs.”

But attorney Helene Tomlinson, who represented Sanford, told the judge her client is “openly identified as a lesbian … so any homophobic (conduct) is unwarranted.” She said the alleged victim was the aggressor and used racial slurs: “He provoked them.

Felicia Stroud’s attorney, C. Harold Krasnow, said, “They don’t know what his sexual orientation is, just like he doesn’t know what theirs is.”  Krasnow later noted the low bail the judge gave the women, $100 to $500 cash, and suggested the prosecution’s case was weak.

Civil-rights attorney Chester Darling agreed. “No one should go to court. It’s knuckle justice,” he said. “It’s a fair exchange.”

But Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said prosecutors will have no problem proving the women committed a hate crime, even if they are lesbians.  “The defendants’ particular orientation or alleged orientations have no bearing on our ability to prosecute for allegedly targeting a person who they believe to be different from them,” he said.

Why the need for a special definition of crime?  Isn’t the intent the same – to harm someone or commit an illegal act?  How can you really know the true intent of a crime anyway? Is it really that important to determine their specific motivation (they dislike gay people)?

Crime: An act committed or omitted in violation of a law forbidding or commanding it and for which punishment is imposed upon conviction.

Hate Crime: One that involves threats, harassment, or physical harm and is motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability.

And the mother argues that since her daughters are gay and attacked a gay person this can’t be a hate crime?  Let’s just call it what it is – a crime.  Period.

I understand there are different terms applied to murder and other crimes.  Yet for an assault, isn’t it just enough that you beat someone and call it a crime? If any law expert can provide more insight into this, please feel free to comment.

DCG

10 responses to “A crime is a crime, right? Why is a special definition needed?

  1. How can you protect the protected from each other? that is quite the conundrum.

    Enjoy figuring it out libs! :-)

    • As for “Felicia Stroud” That is the manliest woman I have ever seen! I seen women that try to look like men but, damn this one pulled it off!

    • One group is female, the other male. One group is attracted to women, the other to men. What do they really have in common? Not all that much. Perhaps that’s where some of the problem lies. They see their many differences and not their few similarities. Interesting thought. If a black man or woman was guilty of beating an interracial couple in which one person was also black (presumably in disagreement with their union), could that person be charged with a hate crime, even though they share the same race of at least one of the victims?

  2. I don’t know if I’m supposed to comment on the fact that a crime is a crime or if I should comment on how sad is it that three girls will start beating another human being because he bumped on them… bumped!!! Seriously? There is no reason one should beat another person, with exception to self defense. I think those girls are ridiculous. And this is no hate crime, I think the same about any girl that gets into physical fighting… girls should know better!!!

  3. To find out the answer to what a hate crime is you would first have to figure out what is a love crime.

  4. This is one of the reasons I am opposed to hate crime laws, as they turn the concept of “equal protection under the law” in that some are now more “equal” than others.

    I wonder if this prosecuter would be charging them with a hate crime if the victim were straight?

    -Dave

  5. So now in Orwellian Amerika, a crime is defined by who the perpetrator and victim are, instead of by the actual act committed! Of course, who you are is really just the cover for the government claiming to read the minds of the perpetrators. A crime is worse if there’s “hate”, but “hate” is defined by membership in government-designated victim groups. If you’re not one of the official victim groups, then no matter how much your attacker “hates” you, it’s not a “hate crime.”

    We’re living in Orwell’s 1984, it’s just no one has told us.

  6. It is so sad to me that these girls are so angry and have so much of it pinned up inside that they would do this. So is this saying that if these girls had of beat up a white straight girl it would not be a “Hate Crime” b/c they are black lesbians? Same thing…they have learned to start using this law to their advantage and if they let these girls off it is going to have horrible repercussions!

  7. Even as a flaming liberal, I think the term “hate crime” is WAY too overused, and in this case totally inappropriate. It’s so difficult to prosecute by motivation. A known member of a white supremacy group beating a black man with no warning or prior interaction is one thing, but it needs to be pretty much THAT clear before trying to ascribe a motive of hate.

  8. We are a nation that claims all are equal. It is high time we start living up to that notion and scrap any law that favors one group over someone else.
    Or, are some more equal than others?
    If we want to increase the penalty for a crime, let’s increase the penalty for a crime and stop this unequal stupidity about “hate” crimes. All violent crimes are hate crimes. They certainly are not crimes of love.
    Isn’t a homeless man sleeping on a park bench who is beaten to death every much a victim as the wealthy gay person beaten to death? He sure is. They are both just as dead as the other and in that term they are equal. The criminals who committed such attacks ought to get the same punishment as well.

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