It looks like there’s yet another attack to add to the LGBT Hate Crimes Project. Not only do I end up discovering old cases during my research, but new one’s keep happening. Like the anti-gay attack on former Top Chef contestant Josie Smith-Malave, which I just read about via the LGBTPOC listserve.
Josie Smith-Malave, who was featured on Season 2 of the Bravo channel show, was one of three women asked to leave Partners, a Sea Cliff bar, the night of Sept. 1 after two of the women danced together, their lawyer, Yetta Kurland, of Manhattan, said yesterday.
Kurland said her clients told her that about 10 or 12 young people from the bar, some of whom appeared underage, followed the women out and began screaming anti-gay epithets, throwing debris and spitting at them, then beating them.
Nassau County police said they were investigating but said they would not provide additional information because it might impede their investigation and ability to make arrests.
Not only are police providing no additional information, but it sounds like this didn’t provide much help at the scene of the crime either.
The women, who had been on Long Island to attend a friend’s birthday party, suffered bruises, and one received injuries to her head. A video camera was taken from one of them during the attack, Kurland said.
When police arrived, several of the attackers were still present, Kurland said, but none were arrested. She said one of the attackers returned to the bar with the stolen video camera the next day, but still no arrest was made.
I’m not a detective, but I’ve seen and read enough crime stories to have absorbed one thing: crimes that aren’t solved in the first 48 hours area a lot less likely to be solved afterwards. And if the police didn’t arrest anybody that night, my guess is that the incident probably wasn’t categorized as a bias crime, much like what happened to Michael Wrenn in Seattle.
I also know that hate crimes legislation would empower federal authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes that local authorities can’t or won’t.
Investigating hate crime is the number one priority of our Civil Rights Program. Why? Not only because hate crime has a devastating impact on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance plant the seeds of terrorism here in our country.
Defining a Hate Crime
A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.
A hate crime is not a distinct federal offense. However, the federal government can and does investigate and prosecute crimes of bias as civil rights violations, which do fall under its jurisdiction. These efforts serve as a backstop for state and local authorities, which handle the vast majority of hate crime cases. A 1994 federal law also increased penalties for offenses proven to be hate crimes.
Limitations in federal statutes prevent the FBI from investigating crimes of bias motivated solely by gender, disability, or sexual orientation. Disability issues may be investigated in housing cases that fall under Title 42, U.S.C., Section 3631.
What I don’t know, and what the opposition hasn’t explained, is why what happened to Smith-Malave and her friends isn’t — and shouldn’t be classified as — a hate crime. It sounds like one to me.