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Press ReleaseHate Crimes
ADL Calls For Action By The House Of Representatives To Close Federal Hate Crime Gap

Washington, D.C. July 22, 1998... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on Congress to enact legislation to eliminate gaps in Federal authority to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes. The League submitted testimony at hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on the proposed legislation, the Hate Crime Prevention Act (HCPA).

"The senseless, brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas last month, allegedly by individuals associated with a white supremacist group, has horrified the nation," said Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Local law enforcement officials have responded effectively to this crime, but crimes of this magnitude transcend local communities and have national impact. To underscore the nation's determination to confront bias-motivated crimes, the federal government must have the opportunity to act in partnership with state and local officials. Where appropriate, the federal government should have the authority to take the lead in prosecuting these cases."

Under current Federal law, the government must prove that the crime occurred because of a person's membership in a protected group, such as race or religion, and because he/she was engaging in a federally-protected activity (such as voting, going to school, or working). The HCPA would eliminate these overly-restrictive limitations and provide authority for federal investigations and prosecutions in cases in which the bias violence occurs because of the victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability.

"Almost every state has now enacted a hate crime statute -- many based on an ADL model law," said Mr. Berkowitz and Mr. Foxman. "But less than half the state laws cover crimes directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Federal authorities must have jurisdiction to address those cases in which local authorities are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute."

The HCPA is sponsored by Reps. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Bill McCollum (R-FL) in the House and by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the Senate. The HCPA is strongly supported by President Clinton, the Department of Justice, twenty-two state Attorneys General, and a broad range of national civil rights groups, state and local government associations, and law enforcement organizations.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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1998 Anti-Defamation League