U.S. Attorney’s office works tirelessly to investigate hate crimes

48 views 1:10 pm 0 Comments September 17, 2023

In response to the racially motivated killings recently committed in Jacksonville, my office has been working jointly with local, state and federal law enforcement partners on a federal hate crimes and domestic terrorism investigation. The work has been nonstop, with a commitment from everyone on the investigative team to conduct a comprehensive investigation, following up on each and every lead, wherever it takes us.

The investigation and prosecution of hate crimes is a top priority for my office and the U.S. Department of Justice. When the Justice Department was founded in 1870, one of its first priorities was bringing to justice white supremacists who used violence to terrorize Black Americans.

Even though we have made progress, our work continues to this day. During my tenure, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division have successfully prosecuted several hate crime cases, including two brothers who physically assaulted a Black man while he was shopping at a store (one defendant used an axe handle in the attack). Another defendant in a separate case attempted to injure and intimidate a Black man by trying to force his car off the road (the defendant told officers that Black people need to be kept “in their areas”).

In both cases, the defendants were convicted of federal hate crimes and were sentenced to federal prison terms for their racially motivated attacks.

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In July, another defendant pleaded guilty to two federal hate crimes for attacking two Black women with a gun in Jacksonville in two separate instances. In the first attack, the defendant pointed a shotgun at the victim — a Black woman working at a gas station — and cocked it. The victim, fortunately, was able to run away.

In the second attack, the defendant directed racial slurs at a Black woman while she was sitting on her walker on a sidewalk. The defendant left, returned with a shotgun and fired. The victim, fortunately, was not hit. The defendant has pleaded guilty and is pending sentencing in federal court.

But the work of my office is not limited to hate crime investigations and prosecutions. In addition, we provide support for victims of hate crimes and partner with members of the community to conduct programs designed to improve hate crime reporting.

We also coordinate with various components of the Justice Department and other agencies that provide grants and other assistance to prevent hate crimes by promoting community awareness and preparedness.

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One of our programs is called United Against Hate. Launched in 2022, it is being implemented in every U.S. Attorney’s office in the country. The goals of the program are to teach the community how to identify, report and help prevent hate crimes while building trust between law enforcement and citizens.

My office has partnered with organizations to implement this program and we are looking to expand those efforts to other organizations across the district. We have also set up a dedicated website at Justice.gov/usao-mdfl/unitedagainsthate with information about federal resources and programs available in preventing hate crimes. The website includes information for:

  • Victims of the Jacksonville shooting on where to find resources and services;
  • Nonprofits, institutions and anyone else who is interested in information about grants and assistance to protect against hate crimes; and
  • Any organization that is interested in partnering with my office to hold a United Against Hate program.

The Justice Department has resources and expertise that can assist victims of hate crimes and that can help prevent hate crimes from occurring in the first place. I hope that anyone who is interested in learning more will visit our website, which also will include contact information for members of my office who can further assist.

My office is committed to using our resources to assist victims of hate crimes, to help members of the community in preventing such crimes, to encourage reporting and to hold accountable anyone who commits a federal hate crime.

We are united against hate.

Handberg

Roger B. Handberg, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida 

This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.  

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: U.S. Attorney’s office has resources to identify, prevent hate crimes

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