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Three hate crime bills introduced

A downstate Republican wants to allow crimes committed against someone because of political differences to be prosecuted as hate crimes.

Assemblyman Michael LePetri, R-Massapequa Park, has introduced A.10959 to amend the state Penal Law to include crimes committed based on political ideology as a hate crime. Crimes could include violence, intimidation and destruction of property.

“Due to the increase and severity of violent attacks on individuals or groups based on their political affiliation or beliefs, it is incumbent upon the state of New York to strengthen their laws to increase penal- ties for these abhorrent acts against humanity,” LiPetri wrote in his legislative justification.

At the same time, Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, D-New York City, has introduced a pair of hate crimes bills in the Assembly. A.10962 would allow a presumption of a crime as a hate crime if prosecutors can show a pattern of prior prejudice. The legislation is co-sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jo Anne Simon of Brooklyn, Simcha Eichenstein of Brooklyn and Inez Dickens of New York City.

Seawright said hate crimes prosecutions are difficult unless the motive is known immediately.

“Hate crime laws are meant to send the message that hate and bias motivated crimes will not be tolerated, because they are often attempts to silence and instill fear into entire groups,” Seawright wrote in her legislative justification. “There is a loophole in the hate crimes statute. Violent hate crimes that occur without knowing the intent of the criminal, and are later discovered to be motivated by bias or hate would not be pursued as a hate crime. Currently, the known or perceived protected classes as defined in statute is not legally sufficient to satisfy the people’s burden. This legislation is the missing piece to bring justice to those who want to establish the substantiation of a hate crime, or a specified offense by establishing a pattern of previous prejudice by a defendant with evidence relevant to the offense and case.”

Seawright, with backing from Dickens, Simon and Eichenstein, has also introduced A.10958 to require those convicted of hate crimes to undergo mandatory training or counseling in hate crime prevention and education.

“Currently, the court may require the defendant in a hate crime to complete a program, training session or counseling session directed at hate crime prevention and education,” Seawright wrote. “This legislation will mandate the completion of such a program, training session or counseling available and developed or authorized by the court or local agencies in cooperation with organizations serving the affected community. Education is key to tolerance and respect for others and is essential to keeping communities safe from hateful acts and violence.”

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