Go figure. How do you commit a hate crime sans hate? Set out to rob someone, choose your victim from a gay chat room, then commit the crime when he shows up to the meeting you’ve arranged. Here’s the statute:
485.00 Legislative findings.
The legislature finds and determines as follows: criminal acts involving violence, intimidation and destruction of property based upon bias and prejudice have become more prevalent in New York state in recent years. The intolerable truth is that in these crimes, commonly and justly referred to as “hate crimes”, victims are intentionally selected, in whole or in part, because of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation. Hate crimes do more than threaten the safety and welfare of all citizens. They inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage and tear at the very fabric of free society. Crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups not only harm individual victims but send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs…
485.05 Hate crimes.
1. A person commits a hate crime when he or she commits a specified offense and…:
(a) intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct…
There are two different theories of hate crime statutes: deterring bigots whose prejudice motivates them to commit crime and protecting “vulnerable communities” who might be targeted more often by criminals generally. Usually they dovetail, but not in this case. As I read the legislative findings, which are there precisely to help guide courts in interpreting the statute, New York State is pretty clearly signing on to theory 1. The court, however, seems to be focusing exclusively on the hate crimes statute itself to sign on to theory 2, with the requisite “belief or perception” about gays, I guess, being that they’re more willing to meet a stranger from a chat room face to face for sex. Under the same theory, presumably, someone who snatches an old lady’s purse because he thinks she’s less likely to be able to chase him down is also guilty of a hate crime, as is a con man who sweeps into a Jewish neighborhood and goes door to door pretending to sell copies of the Torah since, after all, by choosing the Jewish holy book he’s pretty much guaranteeing that the people who let him in and end up being victimized will be Jewish. Which is to say, these are all really crimes of opportunity based on the perp’s use of stereotypes to predict how people will behave; the only thing that makes them hate crimes and other offenses not hate crimes is whether the stereotype he’s playing off of just so happens to touch a protected classification. Without evidence that he chose one stereotype over another because of some animus towards a group or its behavior, it’s completely arbitrary.
So for instance, if the purse snatcher’s next target is a fat woman because she, like grandma, probably won’t be able to catch him, it’s no hate crime. Why? Because the statute doesn’t cover weight, just age. If the con man gets himself a list of VFW donors and shows up at their homes pretending to sell flags instead of Korans, it’s no hate crime. Why? Because the statute doesn’t cover military service, just religion. One could argue that senior citizens and Jews are “vulnerable communities” who need the statute’s protection whereas overweight people and vets don’t, but in that case the statute is ridiculously overbroad in not naming those “vulnerable” groups specifically. It’s not “sexual orientation” that needs special protection, it’s gays; but under this moronic law, in theory, the suspects in this case would also be guilty of a hate crime if they had gone in to the straight chat room and lured some guy to a meeting with a photo of a hot blonde. Constitutionally the statute probably can’t name specific groups, though, so we’re left with an idiotic legal fiction in which a law that’s meant to protect only certain groups has to pretend it’s protecting all of them and ends up punishing people who aren’t even prejudiced against the groups it’s trying to protect.