- - Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A recent article in The Washington Times noted that the Obama administration is federally prosecuting a white man in Texas for knocking out a black victim, “even though most other cases” have “involved black assailants,” none of whom has been federally prosecuted (“Feds charge white man with hate crime in first ‘knockout’ prosecution,” Web, Dec. 26). The Obama Justice Department launched the federal prosecution even though local police were already investigating the perpetrator.

This unnecessary federal hate-crimes prosecution reveals the falsity of claims made by supporters of the federal hate-crimes law to get it enacted in 2009. They claimed federal prosecutions would only occur in the rare circumstance when a state ignored or trivialized a hate crime, or denied the victim justice, citing the law’s requirement that the attorney general certify the circumstances justifying federal intervention.

No such circumstances justify this federal prosecution. Far from ignoring hate crimes, local police initiated the investigation that led to this arrest. Earlier, Texas executed a white supremacist who killed a black man.

The only reason given for the federal prosecution is that “Justice Department officials said” it would “make a point about hate crimes.” But making a public relations point is not sufficient reason for federalizing quintessentially local crimes. As the Supreme Court emphasized in United States v. Morrison in 2000, states — not the federal government — are responsible for prosecuting such crimes.

HANS BADER
Senior attorney
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington