TORRANCE, Calif. - A victim of a nasty hate-crime encounter that took place in Torrance is raising questions against newly-elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon.
Gascón’s directive to end sentencing enhancement once against draws criticism, this time from a person targeted by hate crime. If a victim is attacked because of the color of his or her skin, LA County prosecutors will no longer be able to charge a defendant with a hate crime.
Attorney Adrian Roxas says, "If you drop that hate crime allegation and enhancement, what you’re saying is that hatred doesn’t exist. What the D.A. is saying is that racism doesn’t exist, that xenophobia doesn’t exist, anti-semitism doesn’t exist, when really it does."
Roxas and his wife Sandy, also an attorney, are representing a couple who was harassed by a nazi saluting man and his wife yelling, "Only white lives matter, [expletive]."
The incident, which was captured on a cell phone video, shows the man raising his arm in a nazi salute then grabbing a shovel to strike the victim’s truck.
"It was not your normal road rage incident, our lives were threatened," says Freddie Williams.
The suspects identified as Gregory Edward Howell and his wife Rachel Howell. Both were arrested by the Torrance Police Department. Gregory was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism and a special hate crime allegation which would have added more time to his sentence if found guilty.
But now, under George Gascon’s directives, prosecutors are filing a motion to drop the hate crime allegation.
Roxas says, "To abandon a hate crime allegation speaks volumes against people of color and against disenfranchised communities. The laws are in place because these particular communities need the protection that the laws are affording them."
His wife Sandy adds, "It’s shocking and it’s disappointing, especially when the platform that the District Attorney led us, the public, to believe was that he was going to be tough on hate crimes and he was going to protect the public and the victims."
While Gascón has expressed that special enhancements lead to mass incarceration and don’t provide public safety, the Anti Defamation League, which monitors hate crimes, is concerned with his directives.
The group sent a letter to Gascon that says in part, "We are concerned to hear about a new directive which apparently mandates that ‘sentence enhancements or other sentencing allegations…shall not be filed in any cases and shall be withdrawn in pending matters.’ We seek clarification as to whether your new directive includes hate crime penalty enhancements, a vital tool for both law enforcement and society to redress a unique type of wrongful conduct."
For Williams, who came face to face with a Nazi saluting, violent man, none of this makes sense.
He says, "I’m hoping for justice, I’m hoping that they don’t drop this hate crime, I’m hoping he does serve the time that he deserves."
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