Justice Department stepping up enforcement of hate crimes

Kristen Clarke, newly sworn in as assistant attorney general for civil rights, reacts as Attorney General Merrick Garland congratulates her Tuesday at the Justice Department in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is stepping up its enforcement of hate crimes and other bias-related incidents, furthering a promise by Attorney General Merrick Garland to focus on civil rights violations.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, recently sworn in and the first Black woman to hold the position, said the effort has led to indictments in multiple cases over the past six months. But the number of hate crimes has grown: In November, the FBI said they’d reached the highest level in more than a decade.

“Hate crimes are especially pernicious because they harm targeted individuals and the entire community to which the individual belongs,” Clarke said in a statement to The Associated Press. “No community should live in fear because of who they are, where they are from, or what they believe, and it is our goal to make that a reality.”

The statement comes during the first days of Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQ rights, and as the Justice Department has leveled a series of civil rights charges, including against three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, who was Black, in Georgia. It has also opened several investigations into policing practices at departments around the country.

A Texas man pleaded guilty this week to a federal hate crime charge for a scheme to target gay men, using the online hookup site Grindr to lure men to a vacant apartment and elsewhere in Dallas in December 2017. The man, Daniel Jenkins, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, carjacking and firearms charges. Jenkins and others held the victims at gunpoint, stole their money and cars, taunted them, and made the victims drive to ATMs to withdraw cash from their bank accounts. As part of a plea deal, he faces up to 26 years in prison.

Three other men, Michael Atkinson, Daryl Henry and Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, have already pleaded guilty to federal charges in the case and are scheduled to be sentenced in June.

And a Louisiana man was indicted in March in connection with what authorities said was a plot to kidnap men using Grindr and then dismember and eat them. The 19-year-old from Lafayette specifically targeted the men because of their gender and sexual orientation and wanted to keep the victims’ bodies as trophies and mementos, the Justice Department said.

In Montana, a man was charged with federal hate crimes and gun charges after prosecutors said he drove around with an AK-47 rifle targeting gay men and lesbian women. The 44-year-old man fired into one home at least seven times, prosecutors said, and then continued driving around the town of Basin, Montana. Prosecutors said he proclaimed an intent to “get rid of the sickness” of gay and lesbian people.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

People should be punished for their actions, not their thoughts. It's too easy to politicize and selectively enforce laws when "hate" is a consideration in the judicial process.

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