U.S. v. Flaherty – Part 4 of 10: The Phony Civil Rights Case

2015 08 21_3000The Department of Justice has a guide  about prosecuting hate crimes under 18 U.S. C. sec. 249. It notes it has “three significant subsections.” The first “Subsection (a)(1) criminalizes violent acts (and attempts to commit violent acts undertaken with a dangerous weapon) when those acts occur because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person.”; the next: “Subsection (a)(2) criminalizes acts of violence (and attempts to commit violent acts undertaken with a dangerous weapon) when motivated by the actual or perceived gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity of any person”; and the final one relates to the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the U.S. (my emphasis)

The final paragraph reads: “The statute criminalizes only violent acts resulting in bodily injury or attempts to inflict bodily injury, through the use of fire, firearms, explosive and incendiary devices, or other dangerous weapons. The statute does not criminalize threats of violence. Threats to inflict physical injury may be prosecutable under other hate crimes statutes, such as 42 U.S.C. § 3631 or 18 U.S.C. § 245.”    (my emphasis)

The name given to the law is: “The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, 18 U.S.C. § 249.” Matthew Shepard was the young man who was brutally beaten and murdered by two other men because he was gay; James Byrd, Jr.  was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck by three white men because he was black. Both involved murders that were sickening and which should have resulted in the perpetrators receiving the most severe punishment.

When I hear there was a civil rights violation I think of cases like that where there was a serious planned attack on a person who was perceived to be different from the attacker which resulted in serious injury. A plan is made by another or others prior to the encounter to cause him or her harm. In those cases the victim is usually blameless and is suddenly set upon by the assailants.

Before I go on, having read the above tell me if you think this is a hate crime. I walk over to my buddy Tex who is sitting with his friend Candy at the table opposite the bar. I grab a few bucks off the table. He responds by grabbing my wrist, calling me a dumb mick, and forcefully taking back the money. Do you think Tex should worry that the full force of the federal government will come down on him?.

If I called up Fred Wyshak who calls himself the chief of the Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit (PCU) (Is it politically correct to call oneself a chief?) in the Boston U.S. attorney’s office that “handles all civil rights prosecutions” and told him what happened to me and what Tex said to me I assume he’d tell me to get lost. You have to figure his unit had better things to do with itself than going after such cases.

If you agree with me you couldn’t be more wrong. We are supposed to believe that when one of the prosecutors in the PCU unit heard of a case with similar facts he immediately launched an investigation.

Or is it there’s a difference in the ethnic background of the victim. Suppose it was not me who grabbed the money but our friend Moe (Mohammed bin Mussad) who is a Muslim. Would the situation be different if Tex called him a “Muslim terrorist?”

The commentary on the statute noted above says there must be violent acts. It also suggests that there must be bodily injury or attempts to inflict these injuries. Is the grabbing of the wrist such an situation that the federal government would immediately want to hop upon the case.

I’ve set out the facts that the federal prosecutors said they heard in a call from the state police that made them immediately start a civil rights case in part 1 of this series. Attorney Weinberg in court noted that it was a “fender bender” that preceded the incident.

When it took place, the victim jumped out of his car, went up to the 65-year-old guy and started to jaw with him. The old guy never got out of his car. The victim said he was grabbed by the wrist and called a little Muslim and a terrorist. The incident was over almost before it began.

The old guy drove away. The victim yelled: “hate crime, hate crime.” The old guy as expected has a different story. There are no independent witnesses to what occurred between the two men when the victim was leaning on or into the old guy’s car.

We are supposed to believe a sergeant on the state police called the U.S. attorney’s office about this on the 23rd of December. That the AUSA who heard the story about this brief encounter without any injury decided to open a civil rights investigation.

Do you believe it? If so, you do have to agree Tex was lucky Moe didn’t grab his dough. For me, I have great trouble with it because in my experience it doesn’t pass the gut check. I’ll explain later why.