A vicious and reportedly unprovoked attack in Baton Rouge has revived debate about hate crimes. The incident resulted in a family of three being badly beaten. One man was charged with felony second-degree battery and two other individuals were charged with misdemeanor battery.
The charges stem from an incident on Mother's Day when police say the family stopped at a gas station at the corner of Plank and Scenic streets. As the father of the family was waiting in line to pay for gas, another man allegedly told him he was "in the wrong neighborhood" and that he was not going to make it out. He then allegedly attacked the man, punching him and knocking him unconscious.
The man's wife and 14-year-old daughter tried to come to his aid, but two other individuals allegedly attacked them. The alleged attackers fled before police could arrive, but three people were later arrested. One of the accused, the man who allegedly punched the father, was charged with the felony crime and sent to jail. The other two were issued summonses to appear in court and then released. Provisional Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. later said that issuing summonses was an error in judgment on the part of the police on the scene, and that the suspects should have been booked into prison.
The family members who were attacked are white, while all three who were arrested are black. However, police said they do not believe the alleged attack was racially motivated. A witness said the fight began when the alleged attacker began teasing the father about his pink shirt.
Federal sentencing guidelines note that hate crimes are not always easy to distinguish from crimes that are not motivated by race or other protected factors. A suspect may have a bias against the victim because of race, but that does not necessarily make the alleged act rise to the level of a hate crime. To be designated a hate crime, the alleged act must have been motivated, at least in part, by the bias. Those convicted of hate crimes may see the penalties from their other charges increased.
Louisiana residents who are facing hate crime or other felony charges should get help understanding the laws and the potential consequences that come with a conviction. They are entitled to a fair trial and a strong defense.
Source: The Advocate, "'Error in judgment' cited in attack," Ryan Broussard, May 19, 2013