The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Justice Department Announces Resolution of Racially Motivated Crimes

September 7, 2011 - Posted by Corrine Yu

Two brothers who admitted they had hung a dead raccoon from a noose from a flagpole located in front of a Louisiana junior high school pled guilty to intimidating students based on race, the Justice Department announced on September 2.

The brothers were angered by the school’s new busing policy, which had increased the number of African-American children attending the school, and wanted to scare the children into leaving the school, the department said.

"Racially-motivated intimidation and violence is contrary to the American ideal of freedom, and it is particularly deplorable when it targets children," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. "The Department of Justice remains committed to prosecuting hate crimes whenever and wherever they occur."

In other recent Justice Department announcements:

  • A member of the Aryan Brotherhood pled guilty to hate crime charges stemming from a series of racially-motivated arsons in Texas, including the arson of a historically African-American church as part of an effort to murder a disabled African American. In addition to the church, the defendant admitted he set fire to the house of a man he believed to be Jewish. He also admitted to setting fire to a local gym because he believed the gym served African-American and Mexican American patrons, and because he felt “disrespected” by the fact that the owner of the gym, who is White, had married a woman of Mexican descent.
  • A Washington state man was sentenced to prison for hate crimes related to his participation in a racially-motivated attack on an African-American man who had been socializing with White friends in a sports bar. Others in the bar came to the man’s aid, and they were able to fend off the attack, which included the throwing of bottles and the shouting of racial epithets.
  • A Washington state man pled guilty to placing a bomb alongside a planned Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Unity March attended by hundreds of individuals. Though the explosive device the man placed was capable of inflicting serious injury or death, no one was at the parade was injured.

These cases were prosecuted by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, one of the oldest of the division's units. The Criminal Section enforces laws that date to the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, as well as newer laws like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Criminal Section is unique within the division, prosecuting criminal cases while the remainder of the division handles civil matters such as housing, voting, employment, and education.

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