Posted on October 20, 2004

Hate Crime Laws Outlined

Bev Darr, Hannibal Courier-Post (Mo.), Oct. 19

ST. LOUIS — Nearly 70 percent of the hate crimes in the United States are committed by young white males between ages 14 and 23, according to Karen Aroesty of the Anti-defamation League in St. Louis.

She explained that hate crimes are usually the work of “gangs of kids who are getting together to cause trouble. They do not necessarily know they are going to commit a hate crime, but that is what kids do.

“Most of the graffiti cases are kids acting out as kids,” Aroesty added, reporting these are, “kids who don’t really understand the federal hate crime statute.

“They have to be helped to understand that even if this was just kids that their conduct has enormous consequences. And even kids who make assumptions about people — they don’t understand how much they are undermining their ability to succeed.”

Outlining Missouri’s hate crime laws, Aroesty explained that the state’s original hate crime law was passed in 1998, and included offenses regarding race, religion, national origin and ethnicity.

In 1999 additional wording was added, she said. “Missouri is actually — surprisingly — progressive in its additional protection for gender, disability and sexual orientation,” which were added in 1999.

She explained that, “if the state knowingly believes that the activity committed was based on hate, that is, that the perpetrator chose the victim intentionally because the victim was or was perceived to be a racial or religious minority, then the state could seek that the penalty for the crime be increased.”

As a member of the U.S. Attorneys’ Hate Crimes Task Force, Aroesty said the type of crime that led to the town hall meeting being scheduled in Hannibal Wednesday (see related article), “is one of the reasons we formed the task force. I am a big fan of the community coming together as a whole when something like this happens.”

Nearly 70 organizations are represented in the task force, which is officially led by the U.S. attorneys from the Eastern District of Missouri and Southern District of Illinois, she said.

She noted that the task force, “had a lot to do with amending the statute in 1999.”