Leaders of D.C.’s LGBTQ community are concerned about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia’s record of prosecuting hate crimes.
A record of more than 200 hate crimes were investigated by D.C. police in 2018 — about half of them against the LGBTQ community — but only a handful were prosecuted as such.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mike Silverstein said he was outraged to learn that while the number of hate- and bias-motivated crime reports are soaring in the District — including a gang attack on a young couple on U Street NW in June — prosecution numbers are the lowest in a decade.
“There are some cases there that were so serious or so traumatic to the people involved that bargaining away the hate crime enhancement is sort of like bargaining away their soul,” he said.
Silverstein is part of a bloc of LGBTQ commissioners who’ve been asking U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to take action to improve hate crime prosecution rates.
“If the U.S. Attorney’s Office needs additional help in order to prosecute for the hate crimes enhancement, would they accept that help from the District of Columbia?” he asked.
In written statements, Liu has defended her office’s prosecution of hate crimes. She recently added another hate crimes coordinator to her staff.
The hate crime designation allows penalties to be enhanced if the crime shows the culprit’s bias or prejudice toward the victim.