There was a simple thread among the speakers during a 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office online forum on hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders on April 7.
“You should never be afraid to report hate crimes,” said Harry Budisidharta, executive director of the Asian Pacific Development Center in Aurora. “We want to share the resources we have. We encourage you to stand with us and take a stand against these hate crimes.”
There are snags in prosecuting hate crimes, according to Deputy District Attorney Kim Hinton. She cited two examples. One of those was a pending case, so she couldn’t talk about specifics.
“The defendant broke into a church. On the sidewalk out front, he spray-painted `F’ the church,” she said. “We were able to prove a hate crime because it was against a protected religion.”
The other involved a suspect already in custody.
“He directed the “n” word at a black officer and a racial slur against a Hispanic officer,” Hunter said. “Because the officers weren’t likely to respond in a disorderly fashion – they are police officers – we were not able to prosecute for a hate crime for that part of the offense.”
Another issue for some is the reluctance to report because of immigration status. Broomfield Police Chief Gary Creager said his officers’ main goal concerning hate crimes is to get to the matter of intent.
“You should never be afraid to report crime,” he said. “We want to hear from you. We want to do everything we can to protect you.”
Brian Mason, the district attorney for the 17th Judicial District, which takes in Adams and Broomfield counties, said his office isn’t interested in someone’s immigration status.
“My job is to keep you safe,” he said. “We want everyone in the community to feel safe. My office doesn’t do immigration. The FBI doesn’t do immigration either. If we get information, we don’t turn it over. Our job is to remedy federal civil rights issues.”
Matt Kirsch, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, said victims of hate crimes should not be worried about “wasting someone’s time.”
“We have relationships with each other,” he said. “Don’t be concerned about reporting to the wrong place. Focus on reporting the crime so we can address this conduct.”
“If it doesn’t get investigated by the officers, we can’t follow up to see if it does turn out to be a hate crime,” Hunter said. “If law enforcement doesn’t know, our office can’t pursue a charge as a hate crime.”