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A hate crime in Harlem?
April 10, 2006 11:50 AM   Subscribe

A hate crime in Harlem? Some say it is, some say it isn't. Some are reminded of an incident at Howard Beach in 1986.
posted by anjamu (46 comments total)

 
More here from the NYU paper.

NOTE: I hope this post doesn't come across as biased; I don't intend to editorialize.
posted by anjamu at 11:51 AM on April 10, 2006


A terribly sad story. Broderick Hehman seems like he was a wonderful guy, and his killers should be put in jail -- for killing. You don't need any more of a crime than that to prosecute. I feel particularly sad for his father, who seems to have lost both his son and Broderick's mother in the same year.

I'm not sure where this overanxiety about "bias" is coming from, unless it's coming from the right-wing blogosphere. Michelle Malkin, for instance -- a big fan of the Japanese internment camps -- has been making a big noise about how the "p.c." New York Times wasn't covering this story. Malkin's post went up during the latest episode of Leak-O-Rama, and gave her a fine soapbox to trash the "MSM" just as a batch of bad news about her boy Bush was about to hit the newspapers.

I don't know if that's bias or not, but from what I've read about the poor kid who died, it doesn't seem like trashing the New York Times as an idea he would have wanted to die for.
posted by digaman at 12:04 PM on April 10, 2006


Not to be all "open and shut case" about it, but reading the synopsis of the incident, it sounds like the cops are mostly right:
"The purpose was to take his money, not to assault him because of his identity," he said, adding that although one of the attackers may have used racist language during the chase, that in itself did not make the incident a bias crime. "It was a gratuitous slur," he said.
I mean, I'm not saying there's no racial component... it's pretty difficult to get any interaction between strangers of different races without a racial component, it's just that this seems more like a simple mugging gone horribly wrong.

It's pretty sad, no matter which though.
posted by illovich at 12:14 PM on April 10, 2006


My statement about racial components and interactions etc above is obviusly meant in the context of the Uniter States... I realize it may be different somewhere else (please, let me know if it is... I'm looking for a better place to live =)
posted by illovich at 12:16 PM on April 10, 2006


Rodney Jenkins, a grandfather of one of the 15-year-olds, said he spoiled his grandson so he would never be lured into the thuggery that upends the lives of so many young black men. "He has a jacket for every day of the week and stack of jeans," Mr. Jenkins said. "We do that so he won't have to go to the street to sell drugs."

Yep. There you go.

While I'm sure that there were many factors contributing to his grandson becoming a mugger, it probably doesn't help when you make the kid expect (and attach a lot of importance to) that kind of stuff. Particularly if he lives in a household of limited means, where the cash for that kind of thing may be hard to come by.
posted by xthlc at 12:19 PM on April 10, 2006


Does anybody doubt that if the races of attackers and victim were reversed, a hate crime would have been charged?
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:23 PM on April 10, 2006


Here's the problem:

Were the attackers agreed about the race of the victim ahead of time?

Criminals who choose victims based on race should be considered as hate criminals first, and robbers second.

If five white guys jump a well dressed black man, beat him, and take his wallet, that doesn't make it a robbery any more than a hate crime, and the difference in race suggests a racial motive rather than an economic one.

They were out looking for a white guy... they are hate criminals. The story suggests that they picked their victim because 1) at least one of them didn't suffer from unusual poverty; and 2) it was an unspoken coordinated attack based upon an agreement about the kind of victim they were looking for.
posted by ewkpates at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2006


Criminals who choose victims based on race should be considered as hate criminals first, and robbers second.

Did they pick him because he was a man? That would also make them sexist hate criminals. The fact he was young also makes them ageist hate criminals. Hehman sounds like it might be a Jewish name - that's right, they're anti-semetic religious hate criminals too.

They were out looking for a white guy... they are hate criminals.


Maybe white people in that neighbourhood generally have more money on them? That would make it a respect crime instead of a hate crime, no?
posted by loquax at 12:33 PM on April 10, 2006


InfidelZombie : "Does anybody doubt that if the races of attackers and victim were reversed, a hate crime would have been charged?"

Given the definition of hate crime provided in the article, yeah, I doubt it.
posted by Bugbread at 12:36 PM on April 10, 2006


This incident is certainly troubling. As a resident of that neighborhood, it is always sad to read about homicides, but it is particularly so when they involve strangers. That is, most US violent crimes occur between people who know one another, usually arising out of some dispute. As I don't hang out with criminals, I tend not to worry too much. But I do worry about being the victim of what is basically a random mugging.

As for the racial component, the details seem way too thin for me to come to any conclusions. Although the neighborhood has changed dramatically in the last 5-10 years, whites are still relatively rare on 125th and Lexington, though I would say the majority there is Hispanic, not African American. So it would not surprise me if they chose J.B. because he was white; it would also not surprise me if they chose him because he looked like he had money. Of course, as Loquax points out, the overlap between white and money is strong enough that this distinction may be empty. Who knows. (This is not true in the other direction, so it is more immediately indicative of bias when a black guy gets attacked in a white neighborhood.)

Finally, the articles don't show very strong evidence linking these kids to the mugging, so it wouldn't surprise me either if these kids had nothing to do with it (no matter how many pairs of jeans their grandparents gave them). After all, even in Bush's second term, you are still innocent until proven guilty.
posted by huzzahhuzzah at 12:44 PM on April 10, 2006


As a resident of that neighborhood, it is always sad to read about homicides, but it is particularly so when they involve strangers. That is, most US violent crimes occur between people who know one another, usually arising out of some dispute.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it didn't seem to me as though the muggers had anything to do directly with the death. From my reading of the article, they mugged the guy, he escaped and ran, they chased him, and he ran out into traffic and got hit by a car. I honestly believe that the kids never intended to kill their target, or even hurt him-- they just wanted to threaten him and take his money. Even if his race was a factor in his selection as a victim, which it probably was, I can't see how this qualifies as a hate crime.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:50 PM on April 10, 2006


I didn't see a definition in the article, just that "New York State's hate-crime law, passed in 2000, metes out harsher penalties for those who single out victims based on race, religion or sexual orientation."

But I think that white guys yelling "Get the black guy" while chasing him would have been taken as proof of singling out the victim based on race, even if the attack had happened in a poor white neighborhood to a black man in a three piece suit.
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2006


He has a jacket for every day of the week and stack of jeans

Yep. There you go.

Weak.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:05 PM on April 10, 2006


But I think that white guys yelling "Get the black guy" while chasing him would have been taken as proof of singling out the victim based on race...

Indicative, yes...proof, no. Shouting at someone while you chase them is a means of keeping the victim fearful and the pursuers motivated (see "Get the nerd" or "Get the pansy", for instance, or even just "Get him!"); that the words chosen were racially oriented is possibly just a reflection of race being the most notable difference between the pursuers and the victim.

Here's something to think about, though; human beings have a remarkable ability to hunt and herd*. It would be interesting to know if the victim ran into the street because he was attempting to run directly away from his pursuers, or if he ran into the street because the pursuers had (intentionally or not) "herded" him into that direction, leaving him no other escape route.

No matter what the situation, though, it's tragic how it turned out.

*once upon a time, a group of about eight fellow teenagers and I were somewhat drunk, and saw a little rabbit sitting in the grass between the road and the forest preserve. We knew a friend had lost a pet rabbit, and someone decided we should go get in in case it was their pet. Without discussion or planning, all of us ran across the street. The rabbit bolted, and some kids started flushing it out, while the rest of us took up places around the perimeter.

As the rabbit headed out in our direction, it ran right into a circle of us, and one kid did a full-extension belly-flop dive to catch it -- and caught it by the hind legs, immobilizing it. From start to finish, nobody had actually spoken; we'd just hunted and herded it instinctively. The next day, when we returned the rabbit to the owner (it was indeed her domesticated pet, which is probably why it didn't do a good job of getting away from us) we were sober, and couldn't really believe we'd done it so effectively.

posted by davejay at 1:23 PM on April 10, 2006


A terribly sad story. Broderick Hehman seems like he was a wonderful guy, and his killers should be put in jail -- for killing. You don't need any more of a crime than that to prosecute.

Pretty much how I feel about ALL supposed "hate" crimes.
posted by tkchrist at 1:25 PM on April 10, 2006


I honestly believe that the kids never intended to kill their target, or even hurt him-- they just wanted to threaten him and take his money. Even if his race was a factor in his selection as a victim, which it probably was, I can't see how this qualifies as a hate crime.

They intended to commit a felony, and in doing so, they killed a man. Despite the fact that they didn't intend to kill him, that's still murder. If it would have been a hate crime had they intended to kill him, it's still a hate crime if his race was a factor, even without the intent to kill.
posted by oaf at 1:27 PM on April 10, 2006


As people are debating the definition of "hate crime" under New York law, we might as well get it on the table:

A person commits a hate crime when he or she commits a specified offense and either:

(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, or

(b) intentionally commits the act or acts constituting the offense 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.


N.Y. Penal Law § 485.05(1).

To second oaf's reply to Faint of Butt, whoever mugged Hehman committed a felony murder because Hehman died during the course of the assault/robbery. This is true even if the muggers did not intend to kill him (or even hurt him). In New York, felony murder is just as serious as intentional murder. See N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(3).
posted by huzzahhuzzah at 1:52 PM on April 10, 2006


I'm surprised by the language of the NY hate crime law. I would have expected something more like the ADL model legislation, which focuses on the phrase "bias-motivated crimes." The New York law seems to go beyond this definition - it includes both the motivation and the victim-selection.

Perhaps I'm assuming to much, but I would have thought the following:

Motive: "I want to rob someone of their property", How Best to Accomplish: "Find a lone white guy that appears to have valuable things." - The motive was monetary, so it's not a hate-crime. The victim selection was based on race, but that seems to be a characteristic of the crime's execution, not its motive. I would guess that an Asian guy, dressed similiarly, would have made just as convenient of a victim.

Motive: "I want to beat up a white guy", How Best to Accomplish: "Find a lone white guy, beat him up and take his stuff." - Racial hatred is the motivation and the robbery is a secondary thought, so it's not a hate crime.

I guess the NY law would make both situations a hate crime, but that doesn't seem right to me. What if these (black) guys wanted to rape someone and they figured that it would cause less of any outcry to rape a black women rather than a white women - would that also be a hate crime?
posted by mullacc at 1:56 PM on April 10, 2006


Does anybody doubt that if the races of attackers and victim were reversed, a hate crime would have been charged?

Does anyone doubt that if Africans had settled the US, wiped out the indigenous peoples, and developed a modern nation-state using European slaves, creating thereby after centuries of stuggle a permanent white underclass, that the definition of "hate crime" would be reversed?
posted by mondo dentro at 1:57 PM on April 10, 2006


mullacc writes "Racial hatred is the motivation and the robbery is a secondary thought, so it's not a hate crime."

I meant, of course, "...so it IS a hate crime".
posted by mullacc at 2:01 PM on April 10, 2006


Yes, I have no doubt that were the situation were reversed, it would be deemed a hate crime. But the situation is not reversed. The situation is what it is and the information we have is the information we have. What I glean from that information is a felony gone even worse.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:01 PM on April 10, 2006


This would likely be charged as manslaughter in the UK, that is, unlawful but unintentional killing. It may be known as murder in the third degree, or whatever, in some states.

And I agree - it doesn't, on the face of it, with the info we currently have in front of us, seem much of a hate crime. Looks like a property crime to me - and those are often prosecuted more harshly (at least, it seems to me that they are in the UK).
posted by dash_slot- at 2:02 PM on April 10, 2006


mondo dentro : "Does anyone doubt that if Africans had settled the US, wiped out the indigenous peoples, and developed a modern nation-state using European slaves, creating thereby after centuries of stuggle a permanent white underclass, that the definition of 'hate crime' would be reversed?"

You mean the definition would become:

"A person commits a hate crime when he or she commits a specified offense and either:

(a) intentionally does not select 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, or

(b) intentionally commits the act or acts constituting the offense in no 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."


If so, yeah, i doubt that.
posted by Bugbread at 2:13 PM on April 10, 2006


Does anyone doubt that if Africans had settled the US, wiped out the indigenous peoples, and developed a modern nation-state using European slaves, creating thereby after centuries of stuggle a permanent white underclass, that the definition of 'hate crime' would be reversed?

What? I have no fucking clue what you're getting at.
posted by voltairemodern at 2:29 PM on April 10, 2006


Like many people, Mondo Dentro seems to believe that the definition of a hate crime is "a crime committed by a white person against a minority." That is not the way these laws are written, just the way they are often applied.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:38 PM on April 10, 2006


loquax: wouldn't it make sense for "respect crimes" to have relatively lighter sentences and make indiscriminate targetting the baseline for sentencing?
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:49 PM on April 10, 2006


Did everyone notice why the muggers picked him?

It wasn't because he was a white guy walking down the street at the wrong time.

It was because he had stopped, and presumably taken out his wallet, to give a buck to a guy who was begging.

I think that his behavior -- stopping, showing money, apparently showing his iPod, too -- has to be the primary reason he was targeted.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:53 PM on April 10, 2006


"The purpose was to take his money, not to assault him because of his identity," he said, adding that although one of the attackers may have used racist language during the chase, that in itself did not make the incident a bias crime. "It was a gratuitous slur," he said.

I mean, I'm not saying there's no racial component... it's pretty difficult to get any interaction between strangers of different races without a racial component, it's just that this seems more like a simple mugging gone horribly wrong.


Agreed. Sometimes referring to "the white guy," or similar wording according to the circumstance, is nothing more than descriptive.

(Notice I didn't say "the honky.")
posted by scratch at 3:48 PM on April 10, 2006


I am against hate crimes, they don't help anything. This was clearly a robbery based on money. Whether the victim was white or was wearing a fur coat or had a gold chain, the crime is the same.
posted by cell divide at 3:50 PM on April 10, 2006


Trying to mug someone is a hate crime. I don't give a damn whether these fuckers were partially, wholly or not-at-all motivated by racism. They're nasty, robbing little toerags who caused a young man's death and they need to be locked away.
posted by Decani at 4:50 PM on April 10, 2006


Decani : "Trying to mug someone is a hate crime."

Well, by that token, trying to mug someone is also rape and libel. And loitering. And jaywalking.
posted by Bugbread at 5:04 PM on April 10, 2006


sonofsamiam, I was kidding. I think the concept of statutory "hate crimes", along with sentence differentiation based on some motivations but not others, is ludicrous.
posted by loquax at 5:15 PM on April 10, 2006


Well, by that token, trying to mug someone is also rape and libel. And loitering. And jaywalking

Well, by that token, eyorm paunch pelican.

I'm sorry, you make no sense. I'm also sorry you can't understand why robbing someone with menaces and violence is a hateful action.
posted by Decani at 5:26 PM on April 10, 2006


Decani : "I'm sorry, you make no sense."

Likewise. Hate crime = crime motivated by hate. Mugging = crime motivated by desire for money. Mugging != crime motivated by hate. So if you see mugging as a hate crime, you may as well see it as a beautiful painting of a dog playing frisbee.
posted by Bugbread at 5:31 PM on April 10, 2006


I think his point was that a "hate crime" is just that - a unquie crime defined by statute. Just like robbery is a form of "rape", but not legally defined as such. The hate crime designation is only significant because it carries penalities of its own, in addition to the primary crime.
posted by loquax at 5:36 PM on April 10, 2006


Or what he said himself....
posted by loquax at 5:37 PM on April 10, 2006


MetaFilter: Eyorm paunch pelican.
posted by oaf at 6:15 PM on April 10, 2006


Mugging = crime motivated by desire for money.

What a charmingly naive oversimplification.

Have you ever been mugged, dude? If so, did you feel that the fucker's attitude was entirely about desire for money, and that apart from that little issue he felt nothing but the utmost respect for you?

Mugging is a hate crime.
posted by Decani at 7:16 PM on April 10, 2006


Have you ever been mugged, dude? If so, did you feel that the fucker's attitude was entirely about desire for money, and that apart from that little issue he felt nothing but the utmost respect for you?

I was violently mugged and held a few weeks ago, and honestly, it was just about money. He wanted it, and wanted to minimize my resistance and discourage me from going to the police. Any actual or implied violence was used as judiciously as possible to those ends.

Now, he's a criminal, and can rot in jail for the rest of his worthless life as far as I'm concerned, but at no point did I think it was personal, or hate-filled in any way. It was primarily a property crime.

If he had beat the crap out of me for no reason, risking more serious jail time and taking my wallet as an afterthought, that's a different story, but in this case, it was a mugging, with no hate (criminal or otherwise) whatsoever.
posted by loquax at 7:38 PM on April 10, 2006


Decani writes "Have you ever been mugged, dude? If so, did you feel that the fucker's attitude was entirely about desire for money, and that apart from that little issue he felt nothing but the utmost respect for you?"

Nope. Friend of mine did. From his description, the muggers didn't hate him, but they sure didn't like him. They considered him with contempt. But even if they had hated him, it wouldn't automatically have been a hate crime.

A hate crime is not a crime where you hate your victim. If it were, most crime would be hate crime. Hate crime has a much more specific definition. First, it only includes specific categories of hate: "race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation". If you hate someone because they chew their gum to loud, and you kill them just because of that, with no other motivations than your hate, it still isn't a hate crime. And second, it is one where a person "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 above, or "commits the act or acts constituting the offense in whole or in substantial part" based on the above.

So if a Klansman hick says "I'm pissed off today. I'm going to kick the shit out of the next person who walks into this room", and the next person who walks into the room is black, it still isn't a hate crime, even though the Klansman hates the black guy for being black.

In the same way, a peeping tom may steal someone of their sense of security, but we don't prosecute peeping toms for robbery.
posted by Bugbread at 7:51 PM on April 10, 2006


steal someone -> rob someone
posted by Bugbread at 7:54 PM on April 10, 2006


I'm not really sure why we need to debate the hate crime question, but oh well. My contribution is that I've walked on 125th St. but never at 8:15 p.m. and never as far east as that (in the 80s it was reputed as a dicey turf border zone between black and Hispanic gangs). I walked plenty of places in NYC where I surely deserved to get mugged but managed not to (mainly because I'm a big guy, I suppose, despite my pasty Midwesterner appearance -- though I flatter myself that I mastered a little bit of the don't-fuck-with-me thirty-yard-stare).

I also have a story about Howard Beach. I met a guy who grew up there (in Chicago!). He said that a black family had moved in, some years after the infamous incident, and that he and his high school buddies had concocted during a drunken binge an effort to saw apart the pilings on which their house was built, and only their general state of drunkenness prevented success. A charming tale, thought I.
posted by dhartung at 7:58 PM on April 10, 2006


As I was riding home from work on my bike today in Manhattan a group of black teenagers in the street yelled "Get the white guy!" at me. It's the new catchphrase in NY, replacing "What are you going to do, shoot me?"
posted by supertremendus at 9:42 PM on April 10, 2006


We'll gentrify them yet, Broderick!!

iPods for all!!
posted by pwedza at 10:03 PM on April 10, 2006


intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed...

There's a better than 50/50 chance that this is what occured, making it a hate crime.
posted by ewkpates at 5:03 AM on April 11, 2006


I walked down 125th Street once. I came in on the Metro North, and had an appointment on the west side. The streets were lined with criminals shops intent on selling fancy-looking rubbish at inflated prices to ignorant poor people.

I suppose robbery could be motivated by race, making it a hate crime. But I would suppose that to be rare. More clear is the hate crime where they just beat you up (or try to) for what they perceive you are. Been the victim of that too many times.

Don't understand hate crime? Consider this: someone punches you a few times and runs away. A criminal act, but not a Big one. Now suppose they do it while telling you what a FAGGOT you are, and how you deserve worse. See the difference?
posted by Goofyy at 2:16 AM on April 12, 2006


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