Monday, August 13, 2001
City of Los Angeles, Orange County ‘Disappointing’ on Hate Crime Prosecutions, Lockyer Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Attorney General Bill Lockyer Friday urged the city of Los Angeles and Orange County to look into their procedures in prosecuting hate crimes.
Lockyer called the agencies’ performance “disappointing.” He made the comment during a Los Angeles press conference, where he released his office’s annual report on hate crimes in the state.
The report, based on the findings of Lockyer’s Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes, found the number of reported hate crimes in the state hovered around 1,960 for the second year in a row.
While there was a decrease of just five reported incidents in 2000 from 1999, the 48-member panel found that reported incidents last year were down 4.7 percent from four years earlier, when the state experienced its highest number of reported hate crimes ever.
Lockyer applauded the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for its “excellent” hate crime prosecution record, but said the city of Los Angeles and Orange County had the lowest rates of hate crime prosecution in California.
Last year 65 hate crime cases were referred to the Los Angeles city attorney with only nine of them ultimately filed as hate crimes, compared with 214 hate crimes referred to the District Attorney’s office resulting in 158 cases being filed as hate crimes, the attorney general said.
“That’s only one out of seven,” Lockyer said of the city’s numbers. “That’s a really low ratio compared to the rest of the state.”
But Lockyer said Orange County’s performance was even worse with just three of 11 referrals prosecuted as hate crimes.
“Orange County has a lot to do to catch up with the rest of the world in handling reporting and prosecuting of these crimes,” Lockyer said. “ I would recommend to the City Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and the district attorney in Orange County that, perhaps, they review their own processes and protocols to see if they can strengthen the enforcement of hate crimes in those communities.”
Tori Richards, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, disputed the attorney general’s characterization, saying, “we respectfully have to disagree with him.”
“We think we’re really aggressive in prosecuting those cases,” she said, adding that the office has a prosecutor who trains police officers about hate crimes. “We’re very proactive.”
She said that of the 11 cases referred to the District Attorney’s Office last year, the other eight not prosecuted as hate crimes were filed as non-hate-related crimes.
The sister and mother of Chino letter carrier Joseph Ileto, who was gunned down by Buford Furrow about an hour after Furrow tried to kill five people at the North Valley Jewish Community Center’s day care area in Granada Hills two years ago, joined Lockyer in urging people to work together to stop hate crimes from happening and increase incident reporting.
Furrow admitted he killed Ileto because he was non-white and was a federal employee, according to a plea agreement. He was sentenced on March 26 to life in prison, and repudiated his white supremacist past at that hearing.
“Every time we hear of another hate crime, everything about our brother comes back,” Deena Ileto said. “A lot of hate crimes aren’t being reported because people are afraid of retaliation or causing problems. We need everyone’s involvement in this.”
Lockyer and the Iletos were joined in the report release by members of the commission, the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, American Jewish Committee, Asian Pacific Legal Center, Mexican American Bar Association, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The panel found that nearly two-thirds of hate crime attacks were racially or ethnically motivated and that violent crimes accounted for nearly two-thirds of hate crime incidents.
The report also found that hate crimes are not reported for many reasons, including shame for being a victim of a hate crime and lack of knowledge of hate crime laws.
Lockyer said one encouraging sign was the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate crimes.
Last year 252 law enforcement agencies reported hate crimes compared to 244 in 1999 and 239 in 1998.
“Before there would be no reports of hate crimes and people would say ‘it’s not happening here,’” Lockyer said. “Now people are starting to report what’s happening.”
The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission will release its own report on county hate crime statistics August 23.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office could not be reached immediately for comment
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company