Why are hate crimes on the rise? Keith Ellison could answer in a five letter word

Ellison is pushing for changes in the way state laws deal with hate crimes.

The Chad Hartman Show
June 18, 2019 - 3:23 pm

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As he works to assemble a working group with the aim of  improving the Minnesota’s efforts to combat hate crimes, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is clear about what—or who—he thinks is behind the uptick in such crimes nationwide.

“I don't want to take agency away from these people who are making these decisions to promote hatred. They are to blame for their own behavior. But the climate I think has received a green light from much of the rhetoric of the president,” Ellison said during an interview Tuesday with Chad Hartman on News Talk 830 WCCO.

Listen to the full segment here: 

Ellison hopes the working group will develop recommendations for how law enforcement and the criminal justice system can better record, deter, and prevent hate- or bias-motivated crimes in Minnesota. One area he thinks needs a fix: the designation of hate crimes as a separate crime, rather than as an aggravating factor that could increase the sentence warranted for already existing charges.

“We need to rewrite the law to say, well, if you find that there is bias as a motivation, then the judge can sentence more rather than just a separate standalone offense,” he said.

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As Ellison explained, the fact that hate crimes are considered separate crimes can cause prosecutors to not seek those charges. He cited two recent notorious cases: the man who was convicted of shooting five men who were protesting the police killing of Jamar Clack in 2015, and the woman who plead guilty to assaulting a Somali woman with a beer mug at a Coon Rapids Applebees (because the Somali woman had spoken Swahili).

Despite the abundance of evidence, and in the case of the woman, open admission, that the acts were motivated by hate, neither case was ultimately charged as a hate crime because “the prosecutors concluded that their chances of holding the defendant accountable was lessened by adding the bias motivated crimes,” Ellison said.

He said that Minnesota should not let its reputation for tolerance lead to complacency.  

“We've had this tradition of tolerance in Minnesota. We really have, and to a certain extent that has kept communities safe, but we're not immune. We are part of the 50 states. Right? And so we cannot just rely on our assumptions of Minnesota exceptionalism. If we're exceptional, where exceptional because we take things seriously and get ahead of them,” he said.




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