Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Hate-Crime/Gang Assault Involves Juveniles

Posted on: November 11, 2008 at 12:47 p.m.

Seven teenagers in New York are accused of committing a hate-crime in which all of them ganged up in order to attack a man of Hispanic ethnicity. Seven Patchogue-Medford High School students were arraigned for a fatal stabbing authorities are treating as a hate crime. The slaying shocked the community, thrusting issues of race and immigration to the forefront of the 3,000-student school.

Hate crimes (also known as bias motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation. Hate crime can take many forms. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters

All seven students are charged with first-degree gang assault. Jeffrey Conroy, 17, is also charged with first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime.

Family and friends of two other suspects said their backgrounds made the charges particularly perplexing. Jose Pacheco, 17, is of Puerto Rican descent, according to his attorney, Chris Kirby of Syosset.

"How can it be a hate crime? My son is half-Hispanic," said a woman outside Pacheco's home, who identified herself as his mother.

Anthony Hartford, 17, has a grandmother who is half Puerto Rican, neighbors said.

"His mom is devastated; he has a Hispanic background himself," said Laurence Silverman, Hartford's Huntington attorney. "So why would he be out targeting them?"

At least one suspect has been associated with a prior crime. Christopher Overton, 16, of East Patchogue, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to burglary for his involvement in a well-publicized home invasion that left a man dead.

The other defendants in the slaying of Marcello Lucero, of Patchogue, are Kevin Shea, 17, Nicholas Hausch, 17, and Jordan Dasch, 17, all of Medford.

Some students said racism is a problem at the school. A sophomore who said she knew some of the suspects said she just learned that some Patchogue-Medford students engage in the targeted harassment of Hispanics. Superintendent Michael Mostow said the district added six guards Monday, and county police bias task force members talked to students about race.

As defined in the 1999 National Crime Victim Survey, "A hate crime is a criminal offense committed against a person or property motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a racial group, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or disability. The offense is considered a hate crime whether or not the offender's perception of the victim as a member or supporter of a protected group is correct." According to the FBI Hate Crime Statistics report for 2006, hate crimes increased nearly 8 percent nationwide, with a total of 7,722 incidents and 9,080 offenses reported by participating law enforcement agencies. Of the 5,449 crimes against persons, 46 percent were classified as intimidation and 31.9 percent as simple assaults. 81 percent of the 3,593 crimes against property were acts of vandalism or destruction. 58.6 percent of the 7,330 known offenders were white and 20.6 black. More than half, 52 percent, of the 9,652 victims identified were targeted because of racial group.

Tagged as: california criminal laws, juvenile law


Tania Bakar on May 17, 2009 at 3:49 p.m. wrote:

This case is interesting, because of the mere fact that it involves juveniles. Hate crimes are definitely, in my opinion, one of the worst crimes that ca be perpetrated against somebody. I think this because the only reason someone had to suffer was because they were associated with a racial group that was hated by the perpetrators. These seven teenagers that are so young, and have committed a terrible crime, and justice should indeed be taken. This case is somewhat sickening because kids that are 17 year old are choosing to participate in activities such as these. It seem ironic that families of the kids who committed the hate crime are saying that the charges do not make sense because their kids are of hispanic decent. First of all, the parents should not be devastated that their children are being charged for a 'hate crime' but they should be devastated that their young children were even involved in inhumane acts against someone. I also believe that although these are juveniles because they are so close to being 18 years old, should be charged as an adult. Just because the families are trying to prove that it is not a hate crime by using race, it is obvious, according to the definition, that the victim could have been targeted by the kids because he was part of another group. If I were prosecuting those kids, I would make sure justice was served to the victim. Using the tactics Gerry Spence uses, such as getting into the heart zone. I think that these children should be imprisoned because what they did was wrong, and they need to be punished for it.

Tatiana Vardanyan on November 30, 2008 at 11:35 p.m. wrote:

This is such a tragic case! This makes me think about the recent hate crimes that surfaced as a result of the Yes on Prop8 success. Many innocent citizens had their property (homes, cars) vandalized motivated by political and sexual orientation bias and hate.

Stephen Kim (Comm.174) on November 25, 2008 at 4:37 p.m. wrote:

I agree that the hate crimes, which arise from a violent discrimination against any group, should be punished fully. The incident in New York resulted in a murder, and now the teens are facing criminal charges. However, I think that even the threat of using violence because of a bias should be criminally punished. I'm not sure about in New York, but in California the crime doesn't necessarily have to involve physical force. California law says that even though a crime isn't committed, the use of threatening to use violence can be a crime. Whether its threatening to hurt, injure, or kill somebody 'with the intent of intimidating or frightening another person', it is considered a criminal charge. I completely agree with this law because sometimes people take their freedom of speech and expression too far by harming others emotionally and verbally. If a person is threatened and scared for his life, I believe the verbal attacker should be charged with a hate crime.

Phillip Huynh on November 15, 2008 at 9:44 p.m. wrote:

I believe that Anthony Hartford and Jose should be charged to the full extent like the other suspects because they should not be charged differently as a result of them being hispanic. There family members are trying to use the race card in order to justify that it was not a hate crime because Jose and Anthony are hispanic like the victim so it should not be considered a hate crime? . However, I believed that it could still be a hate crime even if the suspects are of the same background as the victim because there are teenagers out there who hang out with a certain crowd and actually think that they are from the same ethnic background as there friends. They start adapting to there friends way of language and there culture so should not get a free pass in regards to a criminal act. The suspects all should receive prison time because what they did was not right and should not be tolerated in society.

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