News and Commentary

Anti-Defamation League Pens Letter To New L.A. County D.A. Over Ending Hate Crime Enhancements

“We believe, in this context, a blanket approach is not the wisest.”
SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 11: New San Francisco police Chief George Gascon speaks during his first news conference August 11, 2009 at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League of Los Angeles posted to its website a letter the organization sent to L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón expressing concern over his new set of special directives.

The letter is dated Dec. 9, two days after L.A.’s top prosecutor took the oath of office and immediately put his plan to “transform the largest criminal justice jurisdiction in America” into action. He announced an end to cash bail, said he would stop trying juveniles as adults, and eliminate sentencing enhancements, including those for hate crimes.

Jeffrey I. Abrams, the regional director for ADL of L.A., wrote that the organization was “concerned to hear about the new directive.” He explained, “hate violence has a uniquely serious impact” on Jewish people.

“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,” he wrote.

Gascón has been under fire since issuing the special directives last week, and on Wednesday, condemned what he called “fear-mongering” from critics, old and new. He insisted that people who commit a crime “are going to face accountability” if there is admissible evidence to move forward with a case.

“And that accountability will be proportionate to the crime, and enhancements do not have anything to do with accountability,” D.A. Gascón said.

In the ADL’s letter to Gascón, Abrams wrote, “it is entirely appropriate to acknowledge that this form of criminal conduct merits more substantial punishment,” and [emphasis in original]:

As you will no doubt agree, every American has a stake in effective responses to violent bigotry. These crimes demand priority attention because of their special impact. Bias crimes are intended to intimidate the victim and member of the victim’s community, leaving them feeling fearful, isolated, and vulnerable. Failure to address this unique type of crime often causes an isolated incident to explode into widespread community tension. The damage done by hate crimes, therefore, cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. By making members of targeted communities fearful, angry and suspicious of other groups – and of the power structure that is supposed to protect them – these incidents can damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities.

We recognize that for some hate crimes, it may make sense to consider alternative sentencing, particularly for first-time non-violent offenders. The problem of mass incarceration is serious, particularly in its disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, and we understand why you feel compelled to address it. At the same time, we are concerned that eliminating hate crime enhancements in all cases could send the wrong message, causing further fractures in our community. We believe, in this context, a blanket approach is not the wisest.

The letter ends with a request to meet “as soon as possible” to “open dialogue” with Gascón’s office.

Mr. Abrams told The Daily Wire on Wednesday evening that he had received confirmation of receipt of the letter, but no further response has been received.

“We are eager to meet with District Attorney Gascon and share with him our views as the oldest anti-hate organization in the U.S.,” he said.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Anti-Defamation League Pens Letter To New L.A. County D.A. Over Ending Hate Crime Enhancements