D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has requested that the city’s Council give him power to effectively pursue hate crimes by enforcing anti-bias laws, arguing that the U.S. Attorney’s Office failed to do so.
A public hearing was held by the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on March 3 on a bill titled “The Hate Crime Civil Enforcement Clarification Amendment Act of 2019.”
If approved, the legislation that would grant the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) authorization to bring civil hate crimes charges or seek injunctions for bias-motivated crimes.
Toni Michelle Jackson, the Deputy Attorney General of the Public Interest Division of OAG represented Racine at the committee’s hearing to testify on the bill.
“This legislation ensures that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has the tools it needs to respond to discrimination and civil rights violations that harm the people of the District. It expressly authorizes OAG to bring civil hate crimes charges, and it expands the range of rights that OAG and individuals can protect,” Jackson said.
She explained that the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) prosecuted adults for most crimes in the District, and not OAG, adding that the USAO sometimes failed to pursue bias-related violence as the authority which decides whether to enforce the statute that enhances penalties for such acts.
Jackson gave the example of a lesbian construction worker who was shot in the chest last year for her masculine clothing, an incident covered by The Washington Post. The USAO refused to regard the case in question as a bias-motived crime, according to the deputy AG.
In addition, the USAO sought bias-related enhancements in very few incidents among over 50 bias-motivated ones referred by police for prosecution last year, Jackson said.
Following the testimonies, Charles Allen, head of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said that the language of the bill was “too vague” and it required more clarity.