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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Justice Department Wins First Conviction Under Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

May 25, 2011 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

A federal jury recently convicted an Arkansas man of committing hate crimes against five Hispanic men. The trial conviction of Frankie Maybee is the first under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Maybee and Sean Popejoy, both of Green Forest, Ark., accosted the victims at a gas station, then pursued them in a truck, yelling racial epithets and repeatedly slamming their truck into the victim’s car. Eventually, the car was rammed across the road, smashed into a tree, and ignited in flames. All five of the victims suffered injuries, including one whose injuries are life-threatening.

“The defendants targeted five men because they were Hispanic, and today’s verdict shows that the Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting individuals who perform acts of hate because of someone’s race or national origin,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to use the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and every other tool in our law enforcement arsenal to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever they occur.”

The HCPA, passed in October 2009, expanded the previous hate crimes law, giving the federal government jurisdiction over prosecuting hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate or when local authorities are unwilling or do not have the resources to do so themselves.  It also expands the federal government’s authority to investigate and prosecute hate crimes to include bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Popejoy plead guilty on May 16 to one count of committing a federal hate crime and one count of conspiring to commit a federal hate crime.

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