Hate Crimes Accentuate a Divided Community

Beverly Irwin
El Vaquero Staff Writer

The more vocal residents of West Hollywood are up in arms.

On Sept. 1, three young men beat actor Trev Broudy into a coma, one wielding a baseball bat.

On Oct. 3 three men from South Central Los Angeles, ages 18, 19 and 29, were arrested and charged with one count of attempted robbery, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery during the attack on Broudy.

The residents of West Hollywood believe the men should have been charged with a hate crime and have recruited a number of “heavy” supporters for their side. Both Mayor Jim Hahn and Sheriff Lee Baca have called for hate crime charges.

But Los Angeles D.A. Steve Cooley stands behind the decision of his Beverly Hills office, citing lack of evidence to prove that the motive was anything other than robbery.

In an angry letter to Hahn, Cooley stated that “Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca’s detectives did not recommend the filing of a hate crime allegation. Moreover, Sgt. Kathy Voyer, the former head of Sheriff Baca’s recently disbanded hate crimes unit, specifically concluded that this case did not involve a hate crime.”

What, then, constitute a hate crime?

According to the FBI Web site, in this multicultural nation, crimes committed because of our differences, which show a bias against race, religion, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation, are classified as hate crimes.

But aren’t most, if not all, crimes of violence in effect hate crimes? Surely rape and domestic violence must be classified as such. Home invasion robberies, are they not motivated by jealousy and hate? Robbery with violence must contain an element of vindictiveness and hate as well.

A simple fact: a large proportion of the population of West Hollywood is gay. That is not a stereotype or judgment, but merely an observation, just as it is true to say that a large proportion of the population of Glendale is Armenian. A random attack in the streets of Glendale will most probably involve an Armenian victim. A random attack in the streets of West Hollywood will most probably involve a gay male victim.

There is no evidence that the attackers were motivated by anything other than robbery. They did not scream derogatory slurs at any time during the attack. Two of the accused men have prior convictions for robbery.

If the district attorney’s office proceeds with a charge of a hate crime, with evidence as it stands, there is a greater chance that the three accused will go free.

If, with the current evidence, these men are found guilty of the current charges against them, one man faces a maximum of 20 years, the second 16 years and the third six years in state prison.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has a Hate Crimes Unit, which is committed to the prosecution of such crimes, and holds an impressive record of cases filed: 27 in 2000, 33 in 2001, and 26 as of Oct. 7.

On Oct. 4, 20-year-old Sergio Verdugo was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the attack and murder of a Los Feliz man because he was gay. The attack occurred in June 2000, and when police caught Verdugo fleeing the victim’s house, he was screaming “There’s a fag in there, there’s a queer in there!”

On Oct. 15 two men were charged with assault with a deadly weapon after an attack on Oct. 13 in which the victim was hit over the head with a metal baseball bat. During the attack it is alleged that the accused men shouted slurs about the perceived sexual orientation of the victim. This is being prosecuted as a hate crime.

So why was I motivated to write this piece in the first place? I think because it annoys me when squeaky wheels of so-called minority groups get on a bandwagon about causes they often know little about (Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson do the same) and thereby perpetuate the segregation of society – in order to maintain a position for themselves.

Without thinking about it, I could probably immediately name three or four “minority” groups that I belong to whether I want to or not, just by virtue of the fact that I am female, alien, a student and unemployed, but I prefer to think of myself as part of a wider society, than segregate myself into one of these cliques.