Horror and criminalized thought

Like millions, I looked on with horror at the sight of four young black people in Chicago terrorizing and assaulting a mentally disabled eighteen-year-old man.  I don’t know what disgusted me more, the fact it was happening or the fact these thugs thought they should broadcast their inhumanity on the internet.  They might have “thought” they would become the latest internet sensation, but at least they provided the evidence to convict themselves to the entire world.

But other statements in the immediate hours after this video were more repulsive – the statements from the usual subjects in the media.  In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Chicago Police superintendent Eddie Johnson refused to say this assault was motived by politics or race.  Hey, Chief, did you hear what the four outstanding citizens of your city said as they were punching, cursing, and terrorizing this helpless young man?

F--- white people!  F--- Donald Trump!

You should know this, but in the police business, we call that a “clue.”  And even someone who hasn’t worked the streets in a while should be able to put together that these four wastes of humanity had kidnapped and molested a young disabled man because he was white and a perceived Trump supporter.

Well, not to be outdone, the Fourth Estate was filled with others who said it was not evil or a “hate crime.”

Don Lemon said it wasn’t evil, but from “bad home training.”  I presume he means they were not raised right.  More likely not raised at all.

CNN political commentator Symone Sanders actually said it wasn’t a hate crime: “[H]ate crimes are because of a person’s racial ethnicity, their religion, their gender, a disability, it isn’t your political leanings, because someone doesn’t like you’re political leanings and they do something bad to you, that is not a hate crime.”

Fortunately, the video evidence forced the Chicago justice system to start moving and the four have been charged with multiple felonies, such as aggravated kidnapping; aggravated battery; aggravated unlawful restraint; and, of course, hate crime.

While I will delight in the conviction of these forms of human debris and their being sent to prison for decades, this incident brings up something that should be discussed.  Why are we even debating the term “hate crime”?  I really don’t think the young man was worried whether their actions were motived by politics or race or if he just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I think he was worried whether or not he would live.

The four were charged with the crime they committed (i.e., aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery), and it should matter not what they thought, but what they did.  If a white woman is kidnapped by a black man, driven to a building, raped repeatedly, and told “f--- white women!,” is she really concerned about his comments?  No, she is also just hoping to live.  But I will bet good money the district attorney, while preparing this case, will not look at the defendants’ words on her race.

But reverse the scenario – a black woman being raped by a white man, with the suspect screaming, “F--- black women!”  The same crime has been committed (sexual assault), a woman is terrified and violated, yet in this case a district attorney may treat it differently.  In this case, the defendant may face stricter punishment because of thought and word, not deed and action.

We can thank a 1993 Supreme Court ruling, Wisconsin v. Mitchell (92-515), 508 U.S. 47, for allowing this abuse of justice.  We started down a slippery road of thoughtcrime that would make George Orwell remind us, “Did you read my book?  It was a warning, not a ‘how to’ manual.”

Michael A. Thiac is a police patrol sergeant and a retired Army intelligence officer.  When not patrolling the streets, he can be found on A Cop’s Watch.

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