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Monday, December 19, 2005

Khalsa Trial: Effectiveness of NY Hate Crime Law Questioned

DNSI has been closely following the trial of those accused of assaulting Rajinder Singh Khalsa [previous reports available here, here, here, and here], and the Sikh community's reaction to the verdicts [see here and here]. The Associated Press is now questioning the effectiveness of the state hate crime statute that the accused were prosecuted under:
The case illustrated what is complicated about prosecuting cases under the state's hate crime law, which increases penalties for offenses committed with bias....

"In criminal law, the only crime where one has to prove motivation is a bias crime," said Amardeep Singh, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group. "These crimes are inherently difficult to prosecute."

Salvatore Maceli's attorney, Joseph Corozzo, said that while his client acknowledged hitting Khalsa, it wasn't a hate crime. Maceli arrived at the confrontation after the initial verbal exchange and simply came to the aid of his companions, the lawyer said.

Maceli didn't hit Khalsa because he was Sikh, Corozzo said. "Salvatore Maceli from moment one admitted to hitting Mr. Khalsa because he was defending his friends and family," he said.

Khalsa and his supporters disagree, saying racial and religious epithets were heard during the entire incident, and that the men hitting him were acting in support of those who had taunted him about his turban.

"If one guy is doing any action and another man is supporting him, then he is supporting a hate crime," Khalsa said. "It is a hate crime."

While the bias crime law, passed in 2000 after a 10-year push by advocates, is a valuable tool, there needs to be more done to promote its effective use, said Clarence Patton, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

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