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What is considered a hate crime?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was created as a way to assist state, local, and tribal jurisdictions more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes. William Hatch, a man from New Mexico, was one of the first people charged under the federal statute after participating in a hate crime. This week the Supreme Court has refused to review the hate crime conviction of Hatch.

A hate crime is when an individual causes, attempts to cause, or threatens to cause injury to someone or to interfere with someone's civil rights because of that person's actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The 2009 federal statute added gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the class of protected victims in cases of actual or attempted willful bodily injury. The only thing needed to trigger the federal law is that the act has an effect on interstate or foreign commerce. The penalties of the federal statute include fines of up to $250,000 and prison sentences of not more than 10 years, or up to life imprisonment for actual or attempted killing, kidnapping, and/or aggravated sexual abuse.

William Hatch was charged in 2009 under the new federal hate crime statute after branding a swastika on the arm of a Navajo man with mental disabilities. Hatch and two other men lured Vincent Kee from a McDonald's in Farmington, N.M., to an apartment where they used a metal coat hanger to burn the swastika onto his arm. Hatch pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a federal hate crime.

Now, several years later, Hatch's case is on appeal. Unfortunately for him, the Supreme Court has refused to review the hate crime conviction.

Source: ABC News, Court Rejects Appeal Swastika Branding Case, 3/24/14

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