Some Police Mislabel ‘Anti-Heterosexual’ Incidents

The FBI has a category of crime called anti-heterosexual hate crime. The FBI counted 142 of them over seven years reported by local police departments, but on closer examination, none of them seem to have been provoked by anti-heterosexual bias.

When a gay man in Columbus, Oh., was threatened by a man using a homophobic slur, police acknowledged his concern that the incident may have been motivated by bias, but they got a key detail wrong in their incident report: They mistakenly marked it as a case of anti-heterosexual harassment, reports ProPublica. Since 2010, Columbus police have reported six incidents that list bias against heterosexuals as the purported motivation. That’s more than any other local law enforcement agency in the nation reported during that period. Columbus Police Department Sgt. Dean Worthington acknowledges it’s likely that the officers who filed the reports marked the wrong box.

Those reports made their way from Columbus to the FBI, where they were compiled with thousands of others into the Uniform Crime Report. Every year a small number of anti-heterosexual hate crime reports end up in the UCR. From 2010 to 2016, the FBI reported that local law enforcement agencies noted a total of 142 of them. ProPublica reviewed dozens of these reports, and found few, if any, actual hate crimes targeting people for being heterosexual. ProPublica sent Freedom of Information Act requests to every law enforcement agency that reported a heterosexual bias crime in 2016, and was able to locate records for 58 cases. None described hate crimes spurred by anti-heterosexual bias. As with the case in Columbus, about half were actually anti-gay or anti-bisexual crimes that were miscategorized. Seven cases appeared to reflect other types of bias, with victims targeted because they were Jewish or black or women. Some 18 cases don’t seem to have been hate crimes at all. The findings show that many local law enforcement agencies do a poor job tracking hate crimes. It’s a problem that can leave policy makers blind when grappling with the problem of hate crimes and bias incidents.


Black Nationalist Hate Groups Expanding, Report Says

Black nationalist groups expanded to 233 chapters in 2017, from 193 the previous year, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. Even with the growth, black nationalist groups lagged far behind the more than 600 hate groups that adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology, and they have virtually no supporters or influence in mainstream politics.

The ranks of black nationalist hate groups – groups that have always been a reaction to white racism – expanded to 233 chapters in 2017, from 193 the previous year, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. Even with the growth, black nationalist groups lagged far behind the more than 600 hate groups that adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology, and they have virtually no supporters or influence in mainstream politics, the center said.

Within the white supremacist movement, neo-Nazi groups saw the greatest growth – from 99 groups to 121. Anti-Muslim groups rose for a third straight year. They increased from 101 chapters to 114 in 2017, growth that comes after the groups tripled in number a year earlier. Ku Klux Klan groups fell from 130 groups to 72. The decline is a clear indication that the new generation of white suprem­acists is rejecting the Klan’s hoods and robes for the hipper image of the more loosely organized alt-right movement. The overall number of hate groups likely understates the real level of hate in America, because a growing number of extremists, particularly those who identify with the alt-right, operate mainly online and may not be formally affiliated with a hate group. “President Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” said Heidi Beirich of the center’s Intelligence Project. “When you consider that only days into 2018, Trump called African countries ‘shitholes,’ it’s clear he’s not changing his tune. And that’s music to the ears of white supremacists.”


Suit Seeks To Pin Blame in Charlottesville White Rally

A lawsuit testing First Amendment issues contends that the alt-right movement is responsible for injuries and a death at the Virginia rally. Defendants say the case is aimed at silencing them and destroying them financially.

After last summer’s white power rally in Charlottesville, Va., erupted into violence, the planners of the protest claimed that they had a First Amendment right to self-expression, and that none of the bloodshed was their fault. That narrative of blamelessness is now being tested in the courthouse. In a direct assault on the alt-right movement, a lawsuit contends that the leaders of the Charlottesville gathering engaged in a conspiracy to foster racial hatred, and are legally responsible for 30 injuries and the death of Heather Heyer, the New York Times reports. “There is one thing about this case that should be made crystal-clear at the outset,” the suit says. “The violence in Charlottesville was no accident.”

The 15 individual defendants and the groups they represent have filed motions to dismiss the case in federal court in Charlottesville. The nine plaintiffs — students, clergy members and local residents who say they were hurt — have accused the event’s leaders of plotting to deprive them of their civil rights by encouraging followers to arm themselves and partake in violence. The defendants — an array of neo-Nazis and old-line pro-Confederates — have ridiculed the charges as an act of “lawfare” maliciously intended to silence them and destroy them financially. “The goal here is to break us and keep us from taking to the streets,” said Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement. “That should concern all Americans, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum.” The case is likely to explore the limits of the First Amendment’s free-speech provisions and the principle that incitements to violence are not protected. It was filed by New York lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued the United States v. Windsor case in which the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.


CA College Killings Called Start of ‘Alt-Right’ Deaths

The Southern Poverty Law Center says Elliot Rodger, who killed six students in 2014, was the first of a series of 13 “alt-right killers” who have murdered 43 and injured 60 in the last four years. The perpetrators were all men, mostly under 30.

Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six students in the college town of Isla Vista Ca., in 2014, was the first “alt-right killer” to strike in recent years, says a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, quoted by the Los Angeles Times. The report counts Rodger among 13 alleged alt-right killers whose actions left 43 people dead and more than 60 injured since 2014. The alleged perpetrators were all men and most were under 30, the report says. The common thread: All participated in the “far-right ecosystem that defines the alt-right.” One of them made several references to Rodger before carrying out his attack last year.

William Edward Atchison used the pseudonym of “Elliot Rodger” online and praised the “supreme gentleman,” a moniker Rodger gave himself that became an alt-right meme. Atchison, 21, entered a New Mexico high school on Dec. 7 and killed two students before taking his own life. The list also includes Dylann Roof, the white supremacist convicted of fatally shooting nine black members of a Bible study class in South Carolina in 2015. The Law Center says the “timeline for alt-right killers began on May 23, 2014.” On that day, Rodger killed six people before shooting himself. The slayings started in an apartment he shared with two of his victims. Deputies said Rodger left his laptop on and open on his bed; on the screen was the YouTube page where Rodger had just uploaded his video titled “Retribution.” He also posted a 137-page autobiographical essay that laid out his motives and his racist beliefs. “How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself,” Rodger wrote. “I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves.”


Illinois Set to Bar ‘Gay Panic Defense’ for Attacks

The state joins California in banning the use of a rare criminal defense that uses a victim’s sexual orientation as justification for a violent crime. Similar legislative measures will be introduced in other states in 2018.

Starting in January, Illinois will bar a rare criminal defense allowing the use of a victim’s sexual orientation as justification for violent crime, a ban gay rights advocates say they will attempt to replicate in about half a dozen states in 2018, reports the Associated Press. Defense attorneys will no longer be able to mount the so-called “gay panic defense” in Illinois, the second state after California to prohibit the tactic. It isn’t common, but one study shows it has surfaced in about half of all U.S. states and has been used with some success. Advocates say bans are necessary because crimes against gay and transgender people are on the rise, but some attorneys remain skeptical, calling the ban politically motivated and unnecessary because the old-fashioned defense wouldn’t hold up in court today.

The Illinois ban sailed through the Legislature in May with no opposition, and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it into law without comment. Supporters called it a major victory for LGBTQ rights. There are variations, but it generally goes like this: A person doesn’t realize someone is gay or transgender and engages in a flirtation, then discovers that person’s sexual orientation and that discovery triggers a passionate involuntary response such as murder.


Top Lesson From Hate Crimes Beat: We Have a Lot to Learn

After a year of attempting to quantify hate crimes in America, ProPublica says it has found a muddled and haphazard system for reporting the crimes that desperately needs a data makeover.

Did the jump in reports of hate crimes after the election of Donald Trump indicate an increase in such crimes, or did the reports reflect an increased willingness by victims to come forward? ProPublica studied that question and came up with a distressing answer: Nobody knows for sure. Hate crimes are so poorly tracked in America, there’s no way to undertake the kind of national data analysis commonly used in other areas, from bank robberies to virus outbreaks. There is a vast discrepancy between the hate crimes numbers gathered by the FBI from police jurisdictions around the country and the estimate of hate crime victims in annual surveys by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The FBI counts 6,121 hate crimes in 2016, and the BJS estimates 250,000 hate crimes a year.

While the law requires the Department of Justice to report hate crime statistics, local and state police departments aren’t bound to report their numbers to the FBI — and many don’t. And hate crime laws vary by state, with some including sexual orientation as a protected class of victims and some not. Five states have no hate crime statute. ProPublica said it has learned that more than half of hate crime victims don’t file reports to the police; many police officers get little training about how to handle hate crimes; only 12 states have statutes requiring this type of instruction at police academies; there are widespread discrepancies in what local police consider a hate crime; last year, almost 90 percent of local law enforcement agencies reported having zero hate crimes in their communities; and even if hate crimes are investigated, they aren’t always prosecuted. In Texas, just eight of 981 potentially bias-motivated crimes reported to police from 2010 to 2015 ended in convictions.


Hate Crimes Up? Some Clarification is Necessary

Observations We have multiple measures of hate crimes, one touting a 20 percent increase, and one from the US Department of Justice stating that hate crimes decreased. Who is correct? If the percentage of hate crimes suspected to be motivated by gender bias nearly doubled from 15% in 2007 to 29% in 2015, why isn’t […]

Observations We have multiple measures of hate crimes, one touting a 20 percent increase, and one from the US Department of Justice stating that hate crimes decreased. Who is correct? If the percentage of hate crimes suspected to be motivated by gender bias nearly doubled from 15% in 2007 to 29% in 2015, why isn’t […]


Hate Crime Data Called ‘Complete and Utter Joke’

A deeply flawed system for collecting hate crime data has left the U.S. with unreliable, incomplete official counts and little handle on the true scope of bias-motivated violence. Law enforcement agenciesr reported 6,121 cases to the FBI last year but the National Crime Victimization Survey estimated that there were 250,000.

A deeply flawed system for collecting hate crime data has left the U.S. with unreliable, incomplete official counts and little handle on the true scope of bias-motivated violence, ProPublica reports. Under a 1990 federal law, the FBI is required to track and tabulate crimes in which there was “manifest evidence of prejudice” against a host of protected groups, including homosexuals, regardless of differences in how state laws define who’s protected. The FBI relies on local law enforcement agencies to collect and submit this data, but can’t compel them to do so. Many police agencies across the country are not working very hard to count hate crimes. Thousands of them opt not to participate in the FBI’s hate crime program at all. Among the 15,000 that do, some 88 percent reported they had no hate crimes.

Local law enforcement agencies reported a total of 6,121 hate crimes in 2016 to the FBI. Estimates from the federal National Crime Victimization Survey put the number of potential hate crimes at almost 250,000 a year — one indication of the inadequacy of the FBI’s data. “The current statistics are a complete and utter joke,” said Roy Austin, former deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ civil rights division. Many hate crime cases fall away before they start because about half the victims never report them to authorities. But to understand why so many cases that are reported to authorities still fall through the cracks, ProPublica requested incident reports or aggregate data from more than 350 law enforcement agencies in 48 states, including the 50 largest agencies nationwide, on the bias-motivated crimes they had investigated since 2010. More than 280 agencies responded, but in many cases only to say they hadn’t investigated any such incidents, or had no records, or that their records were bad.


FL Synagogue Bomb-Plotter Sentenced to 25 Years

James Gonzalo Medina, 41, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in South Florida. A federal judge ordered him to undergo mental treatment while serving his sentence.

A Hollywood, Fla., man who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up a South Florida synagogue suffers from such acute psychosis due to a cyst in his brain that he will be placed in a U.S. prison’s medical facility while serving at least 25 years, a federal judge in Miami ruled Tuesday. James Gonzalo Medina, 41, who was arrested last year on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, will be treated and then likely placed in a general prison population, reports the Miami Herald. “This is a very, very serious offense,” Scola said, noting that without the FBI’s “intervention,” many Jewish people at the synagogue could have died as a result of Medina’s bomb threat.

The actual bomb — sold to Medina in Hallandale Beach by an FBI undercover operative just before the planned terror attack — was a dummy, authorities said. During Tuesday’s hearing, Medina, who has a previous criminal history, urged the judge to place him in a U.S. prison’s medical facility so neurological experts can evaluate and treat his brain condition. “I just need help,” Medina said. Medina said he became a Muslim and lost his wife and children before he carried out the bomb plot. “I lost my mind,” he said. “I lashed out.” During an earlier plea hearing in Miami, Medina seemed reluctant to accept responsibility for the planned synagogue terror attack, suggesting he was “manipulated” by a federal confidential informant and an FBI undercover employee. But when questioned repeatedly by Scola, Medina admitted he was guilty of plotting the bombing to kill innocent Jewish people.


FBI: Hate Crime Reports Surged After Trump’s Election

The federal agency’s tally of reported hate crimes reached a five-year high in 2016, with a significant bump in the last quarter of the year as Trump was unexpectedly swept into the White House.

The number of hate crimes reported in the United States reached a five-year high in 2016, taking a noticeable uptick toward the end of the year around the time of Donald Trump’s unexpected electoral college victory, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FBI said Monday that law enforcement agencies nationally tallied 6,121 reports of hate crimes last year, up about 5 percent from the 5,818 reported in 2015. However, 88 percent of participating law enforcement agencies reported no hate crimes in their jurisdictions, an ongoing challenge for data collection efforts. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates an annual average of 250,000 incidents of hate crime victimizations in the U.S., about 40 times the number reported by the FBI.

The FBI figures show that 1,747 hate crimes were reported in the last quarter of 2016, a 25.9 percent increase over October through December in 2015. That figure supports a sharp increase in bias incidents reported by journalists and civil rights organizations in the wake of the election. The FBI said about 59 percent of victims were targeted because of their ethnicity, race or ancestry. Another 21 percent were picked out because of their religious affiliation and 16.7 percent based on sexual orientation. The FBI reported 381 anti-Muslim crimes, up more than 20 percent from the 301 reported in 2015. Anti-Jewish crimes increased to 834 reported incidents in 2016, up 16 percent from the previous year.