WALSH: Jussie Smollett Should Be Charged With A Hate Crime


I don’t think the legal designation of “hate crime” should exist in the first place. Many different sorts of crimes are motivated by hatred. You could argue that hatred of some form or another probably plays a role in most crime. The courts have put themselves in the position of reading a criminal’s mind, peeking into his soul, and then arbitrarily distinguishing certain types of hate from certain others, and even more arbitrarily deciding that the one type is “worse” than the other. So a crime motivated by a hatred for humanity as a whole will not qualify as a hate crime. A crime motivated by hatred for a particular person will not qualify, either. It must be hatred toward the demographic features of a particular person or group. But why should that earn more legal condemnation than personal hatred or universal hatred?

Besides, the very worst crimes are often motivated not by hatred at all, but by total indifference to human life. A serial killer may not have anything against any particular racial group. He just kills for the sake of it. A guy who murders another guy for his shoes probably has little hatred in his heart. He is callous, not bigoted. But callous indifference is surely just as bad as, if not worse than, hatred. Surely, it’s just as dangerous to a community. If not more so.

And this is to say nothing of the political and ideological factors that too often help decide what will be called a hate crime. When a white man was beaten, robbed, and stripped naked by a group of black people in Baltimore a few years ago, the culprits were not prosecuted under hate crime statutes. Does anyone doubt that the results would have been different had the races been reversed?

But, all that said, as long as we have this category with its many inherent problems, we should endeavor to wield it as fairly and apolitically as possible. Equality under the law demands that all laws, even bad ones, must be applied to everyone. That’s why, if Jussie Smollett is guilty of fabricating a hate crime, he should be charged with committing one. To fake a hate crime is to perpetrate a hate crime. That’s the way it should work.

Jussie Smollett could technically face three years in prison for filing a false police report. He could be looking at another five years if he mailed a threatening letter to himself. I doubt he’ll spend even a day in jail. People aren’t generally given hard time for making up stories, despite whatever sentencing the law technically allows. But people are given hard time for hate crimes, and that should be the charge against Smollett. It isn’t just a false report, it’s a bias crime against white conservatives as a whole.

The FBI defines “hate crime” this way: “A criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.”

Smollett’s offense was indeed committed against a “society,” or a group, with the objective of engendering outrage and suspicion toward that group. In fact, his hatred of whites was so great that he was prepared to let two random white people take the fall for the hoax — until he found out that the persons of interest picked up by cops were his Nigerian buddies. This is a man whose bigotry constitutes a threat to civilized society. Let him face the consequences that he would have happily allowed innocent white men to face. Prosecute him and maybe the next hate crime hoaxer will think twice.