When is a Hate Crime Not a Hate Crime? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/11/04

When is a Hate Crime Not a Hate Crime?

Last Sunday there was no doubt in Mohamed El-Moctar's mind about what had happened to his mosque. A shattered window, ransacked office, racial slurs on the walls.

"Do you think it was a hate crime?," asked NewsChannel 11. "Yes, it was a hate crime," he replied.

Four days later the LPD had good news, sort of. Four Hispanic juveniles arrested, ages 13 to 15, charged with burglary, but as to a hate crime? A mixed message. "The investigation so far has indicated to us that this is not a hate crime," said Assistant LPD Chief Thomas Esparza. But, just minutes later. "Don't get me wrong. This is a hateful crime. It was mean, it was mean spirited, it was hateful," he said.

What gives? The letter of the law. Two major factors necessary in order to be considered a hate crime are age and affiliation. Juveniles are considered too young, capable of rehabilitation. And they need to be part of a group, known for hateful acts, i.e.. the KKK or Hell's Angels.

"What do you think? They're not going to charge them with a hate crime?," asked NewsChanel 11 of El-Moctar. "What is important is that it is a hateful crime. Is legally a hate crime or not, that is not the most important thing," he smiled.

A gracious response from a religious leader seeking to move on, despite a second insult from the law. Last weekend as he sat in his demolished office he distinguished between the physical damage and the slurs on the wall. "It is not the action itself, it's what the action says," he said.

Thursday, the law said volumes with its lack of action.

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