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Opinion

Why It Absolutely Makes Sense to Charge Chicago Facebook Live Four With Hate Crimes

Four suspects have been arrested for the disturbing torture of a disabled young white man in Chicago that was broadcast live on Facebook. The accused have been charged with hate crimes, felony aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. In the video, you can hear one of the suspects yelling “f*** white people.” Police say they tied up the 18-year old for as long as four hours while they tortured him. On Tuesday, the police found the disoriented man walking in the area and then became aware of a video posted by Brittany Herring to Facebook live.  As a result, many have questioned whether the violent incident is in fact a hate crime. As a criminal defense attorney, I think there is absolutely no question. If the tables were turned, and it was four white suspects attacking a black man, yelling “f*** black people” then there would be no question that the incident would qualify as a hate crime. The same is true here when the roles are reversed.

So let’s get to the law. Under Illinois law, a hate crime is defined as the following:

 “A person commits hate crime when, by reason of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin of another individual or group of individuals, regardless of the existence of any other motivating factor or factors, he commits assault, battery, aggravated assault, misdemeanor theft, criminal trespass to residence, misdemeanor criminal damage to property, criminal trespass to vehicle, criminal trespass to real property, mob action, disorderly conduct, harassment by telephone, or harassment through electronic communications.”

Further, a hate crime in Illinois is a Class 4 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense. However, not all states have laws on the books that provide additional penalties for hate-related crimes.

But in this case, was it appropriate to charge the culprits as hate crime offenders? I believe so.

Not only is the victim white and all the alleged perpetrators black, but the victim is also apparently mentally disabled; both criteria meeting the underlying requirements of the statute.  And to make their intent incredibly obvious, the assailants belt out racial slurs including “f*** white people!” during the beating. However, as noted by the Washington Post, the use of racial insults during an attack isn’t necessarily conclusive, but it is relevant. And hate crimes differ from a bias incident such as when someone picks on someone based on one of the above-identified classes without actually committing a crime.  Here, however, the accused actually committed assault in addition to a litany of other offenses.

All in all, for the prosecution, this should be a fairly open and shut case.  The evidence is readily available and clearly proves the case for a hate crime charge.  The defense may not be as lucky.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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