According to Louisiana officials, an act of vandalism recently took place at Causeway Medical Clinic, a facility that provides abortion services to area residents. An unspecified quantity of metal lettering was removed from the exterior of the facility. When police went through surveillance footage at the site, they observed a man loading the lettering into a truck before leaving the scene. The man police believe is responsible for the incident has been charged with a crime and now faces a serious criminal case.
The initial charge that the 27-year-old man faced was vandalism. That is a misdemeanor under state law, and carries a penalty of up to $500 in fines and six months in prison. However, authorities have also accused the man of participating in a hate crime, which is a far more serious matter.
The Louisiana legislation that pertains to hate crimes was broadly phrased, with the intention of allowing inclusion of organizations that provoke a strong response among the citizenry. Examples of such institutions include animal-testing facilities and abortion service providers. This wording extends the umbrella of hate crimes to include non-religious and non-racial groups, which are specifically covered under most hate crime legislation.
The law allows for increased penalties for crimes that are committed based on bias against a particular group. Those who support such laws claim that they give the courts the tools needed to punish criminal acts, and not free speech. Those against such legislation feel that broadening the reach of what can be considered a hate crime is a heavy-handed approach, and that minor criminal offenses such as vandalism should be handled as such, and not escalated.
As this case moves forward, the Louisiana man accused of a hate crime may choose to challenge any representations by prosecutors that his actions were motivated by bias against the abortion clinic. If successful, he may avoid having a hate crime conviction on his record, which could prove to be an impediment to future employment options. As this case illustrates, being charged with a crime is a difficult set of circumstances, but adding an allegation of a hate crime can make it a far more serious matter.
Source: rawstory.com, “Louisiana man charged with hate crime in abortion clinic vandalism case“, Travis Gettys, Aug. 13, 2015