Do We Really Need New Anti-Asian Hate Crime Laws?

A holistic look at the data shatters the narrative about bias-based violence.

In March, a man opened fire at Young’s Asian Massage, just north of Atlanta. Later, he shot up two more Atlanta-area Asian spas. All told, eight people were killed. Six of them were Asian women. Was this a hate crime? Clearly, it targeted a certain sort of business.

….

Yet if Long was motivated by anti-Asian or anti-female bias, this would be considered, under Georgia and federal law, a hate crime. If he was motivated by hatred of sex workers, it would not. This ambiguity perfectly encapsulates the tangled logic behind U.S. hate crime laws.

….

The first half of 2021 was awash in stories about an alleged spike in bias-based actions against Asians in the United States. From TV ads to newspaper articles to the halls of Congress, stopping “Asian hate” became a major rallying cry. A New York Times headline from April 3 conjured “swelling anti-Asian violence” in America. “Covid ‘hate crimes’ against Asian Americans on rise,” warned the BBC, while Voice of America reported that “Hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans Spiked by 150% in Major US Cities.”

The narrative was based on a grain of truth: In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asians do seem to have faced an increase in verbal harassment—and occasionally worse—in some U.S. cities. But increases were far from consistent, and overall incident numbers remained quite small.

For instance, New York City saw an 833 percent rise in anti-Asian incidents between 2019 and 2020, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). That certainly sounds dire. Yet the leap represents a rise from three incidents in 2019 to 28 incidents in 2020—in a city with an Asian population of 1.2 million overall.

Many reports of a supposed surge in anti-Asian animosity relied on data from CSUSB, which culled police records to assess bias-based incidents in 16 big U.S. cities. It found only one (Washington, D.C.) with a decline in anti-Asian incidents and one (Chicago) with no change. Data from the other cities looked grim: Anti-Asian incidents were up 150 percent in San Jose, 133 percent in Boston, and 114 percent in Los Angeles.

Yet expressing the data in terms of the percentage increase can be misleading. The raw numbers went from four to 10 in San Jose, six to 14 in Boston, and seven to 15 in Los Angeles. Cleveland, Dallas, and Philadelphia each saw six incidents in 2020, up from zero to two in 2019. Cincinnati and San Diego went from zero to one; Phoenix from two to three; San Francisco from six to nine; and Seattle from nine to 12.

Another much-cited figure came from a group called Stop AAPI Hate, which reported a staggering 3,795 hate incidents against Asians and Pacific Islanders between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021. But unlike the CSUSB study, this figure came from self-reports to the group’s hotline, not police records. And its reporting went far beyond potentially criminal incidents.

The Stop AAPI Hate tally lumps together physical attacks and serious crimes with verbal insults, discrimination, and “shunning.” If someone crossed the street or moved aside when an Asian person walked by, and the Asian person perceived it as deliberate avoidance based on race, that would be counted among the group’s statistics. (Notably, the period in question was during a pandemic, when many were going out of their way to avoid crossing paths with others, regardless of race.) Overall, 68.1 percent of reported incidents were verbal harassment, an additional 6.8 percent were online harassment, and 20.5 percent were shunning. Only around 11 percent of incidents reported to AAPI—or 421—alleged physical contact.

None of this is to diminish the emotional pain or fear that taunts or avoidance can cause. But it does add important context. Talk of hate crimes and bias incidents tends to conjure images of vandalism and violence. This makes the idea of even a small increase appear extremely dangerous to the targeted group and drives up trepidation among members of the community. As an example, several Asian teen girls told NPR in April that they were afraid to leave home or partake in ordinary activities.

Source: Do We Really Need New Anti-Asian Hate Crime Laws?

The Ashli Babbitt Standard

By deeming the shooting justified despite the facts of the case and the law, the federal government sets a standard that appears to rest on the victim’s politics and race rather than an objective judgment about a legal question.

….

Babbitt was no martyr. She was a believer in QAnon conspiracy theories and had no right to break into the Capitol on Jan. 6th. In doing so, she broke the law and, had she survived, would be charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

Many of the Capitol Hill protesters engaged in fisticuffs with cops, but reports of them murdering a police officer turned out to be false, as did others about rioters arriving with equipment for taking hostages. Like those who got into fights with police, committed acts of destruction, invaded police stations and private businesses or otherwise engaged in public misconduct during the hundreds of Black Lives Matter riots the previous summer, the Capitol Hill rioters deserve punishment.

But merely being someplace where one had no right to be does not justify a fatal police shooting. As legal scholar Jonathan Turley has pointed out, quoting the Supreme Court, “Lethal force must be used only against someone who is ‘an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and…is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” He further states, “police officers should not shoot unarmed suspects or rioters without a clear threat to themselves or fellow officers. That even applies to armed suspects who fail to obey orders.”

While the situation facing Lt. Byrd was chaotic and frightening, video of the incident shows that Babbitt was merely breaking and entering. She was not presenting an imminent threat to anyone at the moment she was shot. Moreover, in his interview, Byrd admitted that, “I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are.”

That gives the lie to Byrd’s claim that he was convinced Babbitt posed a lethal threat. Babbitt was the only person who died as a result of the violence on Jan. 6—two other demonstrators died of natural causes and a policeman (who was erroneously reported to have been fatally beaten during the riot) died of natural causes the next day. Though other Capitol police had actually been attacked by the mob, none fired their weapons even in self-defense.

We may understand Byrd’s fears and not know exactly what was in his mind at the moment he fired. But if police had applied to the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots the same standard that was applied to Byrd’s shooting of Babbitt, then hundreds—if not thousands—of rioters around the country, including those who broke into government buildings, could have been legally gunned down, even if they were unarmed. Does anyone think that such shootings would have been justified by those who now laud Byrd, or that the cops involved would not have been dismissed and put on trial?

The point here isn’t so much the hypocrisy of those applauding Babbitt’s death. It’s that, by deeming the shooting justified despite the facts of the case and the law, the federal government sets a standard that appears to rest on the victim’s politics and race rather than an objective judgment about a legal question. Treating rioters, even those who break the law, as undeserving of civil rights and legal protection is unsupportable no matter their cause. Such treatment is a greater threat to democracy and communal peace than even the actions of the Capitol rioters.

Source: The Ashli Babbitt Standard

Courts unraveling cases against Jan. 6 defendants

The DOJ and FBI have been overcharging defendants and also been holding them in pretrial detention for what amounts to relatively minor offenses.  I suspect they are doing it for political reasons and not for the ends of justice.  Both the FBI and DOJ appear to have had an animosity toward President Trump and his supporters starting with his election and continuing it after the 2020 election.

 Andreas Widburg:

Prosecutors in the cases against the January 6 demonstrators are starting to run into some judicial pushback: Questions about exculpatory evidence in their possession not turned over as the law demands, lower courts assessing the defendant as more dangerous than the evidence warranted, and most significantly, whether the prosecution is overcharging defendants with the federal crime of obstruction.

 

Source: Courts unraveling cases against Jan. 6 defendants

Trump Organization, CFO Allen Weisselberg Plead Not Guilty to Tax, Fraud Charges

The Manhattan District Attorney Office indicted the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg with 15 felony counts of fraud and tax evasion:

Carey Dunne, the general counsel of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, told state court Justice Juan Merchan that the charges encompassed a 15-year-long tax-fraud scheme [2005 to 2021] involving off-the-books payments at the Trump Organization. He said Mr. Weisselberg had illegally avoided paying taxes on $1.7 million in income.

“There’s no clearer example of a company that should be held to account,” Mr. Dunne said. “It’s not about politics.”

“The scheme was intended to allow certain employees to substantially understate their compensation from the Trump Organization, so that they could and did pay federal, state, and local taxes in amounts that were significantly less than the amounts that should have been paid,” states the indictment. “The scheme also enabled Weisselberg to obtain tax refunds of amounts previously withheld and remitted to federal and state tax authorities.”

It’s not about politics, but the investigation did not start until Donald Trump became president. Okay, bro. Whatever you say. The case details do not help Dunne’s declaration either:

A case solely focused on fringe benefits is unusual, former prosecutors said. Charging an individual or company for failure to pay taxes on employee benefits alone is rare, though such charges are used as part of larger cases.

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty.

Image

Source: Trump Organization, CFO Allen Weisselberg Plead Not Guilty to Tax, Fraud Charges

EUGENE VOLOKH: Race and Violent Crime….

An article by a criminal law professor Thursday in the Columbus Dispatch included this assertion:

The reality is that Black-on-Black crime is a myth, and that Black and white people routinely commit crimes at similar rates, but Black people are overwhelmingly targeted for arrest.

Yet I think this is not the reality, at least as to violent crimes of the sort that are usually labeled “black-on-black” when committed by black criminals against black victims. (Blacks and whites do seem to commit drug possession and drug distribution crimes at relatively similar rates, but in this post I focus on violent crimes.) As best we can tell,

  • blacks appear to commit violent crimes at a substantially higher rate per capita than do whites;
  • there seems to be little aggregate disparity between the rate at which blacks commit violent crimes (especially when one focuses on crimes where the victims say they reported the crimes to the police) and the rate at which blacks are arrested for crimes; and
  • the black-on-black crime rate is especially high.

Of course, it’s always hard to measure what the actual crime rate is for any group (whether for purposes of claiming that the rates are similar or that they are different). Still, the most reliable data, to my knowledge, is generally the National Crime Victimization Survey, and the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that are based on that survey. Indeed, the link in the quoted sentence from the article goes to a source that relies on such data.

Because the NCVS surveys a large group of people about their experiences with crime victimization, it is not based on what is reported to the police and what the police do with it. (The Uniform Crime Reports is based on data from police departments, and is thus generally a less reliable measure of actual crime.) Naturally, there are possible sources of bias in victim reports. But the NCVS seems to be the best data we have, and I know of no better source that yields other results. (If you do know, please let me know.)

Here, then, is the data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Race and Ethnicity of Violent Crime Offenders and Arrestees, 2018, with regard to “rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault“:

….

Blacks, which here means non-Hispanic blacks, were 12.5% of the U.S. population, and non-Hispanic whites were 60.4%. It thus appears from this data that the black per capita violent crime rate is roughly 2.3 to 2.8 times the rate for the country as a whole, while the white per capita violent crime rate is roughly 0.7 to 0.9 times the rate for the country as a whole.

It also appears that the arrest rates for violent crime are roughly comparable to the rates of offending, especially if one takes into account those offenses reported to the police (which is a choice of the victims, not of police departments). And the great bulk of such violent crime is intraracial.

The disparity is even more striking for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, which the NCVS doesn’t measure (since the crime victim can’t respond to the survey), and which thus relies on the police department reports in the UCR…

Source: EUGENE VOLOKH: Race and Violent Crime….

JULIE KELLY: The Feds’ Nonexistent Case Against Alleged Sicknick Assailants

JULIE KELLY: The Feds’ Nonexistent Case Against Alleged Sicknick Assailants:

The cause of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick’s untimely death on January 7 is finally settled, but the prosecution of his alleged attackers rages on.

After months of dishonest accounts about what happened to Sicknick—first that he was bludgeoned to death by “insurrectionists” with a fire extinguisher and then that he died of an allergic reaction to bear spray—the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the 42-year-old died of a stroke; the chemical sprayed in his direction during the chaos outside the Capitol on January 6 did not contribute to his death.

….

The sketchy photographic evidence against Tanios and Khater included in charging documents isn’t the government’s only problem. Law enforcement doesn’t know for certain if they used the spray at all. Under questioning by Tanios’ lawyer last month, FBI Special Agent Riley Palmertree could not confirm that either man pulled the trigger on the bear spray can:

Attorney: Did Khater use the bear spray that day?

Agent: Not that I know of, but that’s for further investigation—the investigation is still going on regarding the bear sprays.

Attorney: OK. So it’s your understanding that Khater used the smaller canister of OC spray with the black handle that was sort of like on a keychain or could be a keychain?

Agent: That’s according to my investigation, which is still going on.

Attorney: You don’t have any reason to believe that the bear spray was deployed that day at all, do you?

Agent: I have the bear spray cans myself and I haven’t submitted them for analysis, so that’s what I would need to do. That’s a very serious thing that I have to be sure on in a scientific way the best I can.

In a separate filing, Julian Khater’s lawyers argued their client and Tanios were sprayed by others in the crowd, perhaps police officers, and never used the bear spray. The government even admitted in its affidavit that Khater at one point yelled out, “they just sprayed me.” Therefore, it’s a strong possibility the officers, including Sicknick who reportedly told family members he was hit by pepper spray during the protest, were sprayed by something other than the bear repellent.

Source: JULIE KELLY: The Feds’ Nonexistent Case Against Alleged Sicknick Assailants….

[Eugene Volokh] Race and Violent Crime

[Do “Black and white people routinely commit crimes at similar rates,” if we focus on violent crime? Is “Black-on-Black crime … a myth”?]

An article by a criminal law professor Thursday in the Columbus Dispatch included this assertion:

The reality is that Black-on-Black crime is a myth, and that Black and white people routinely commit crimes at similar rates, but Black people are overwhelmingly targeted for arrest.

Yet I think this is not the reality, at least as to violent crimes of the sort that are usually labeled “black-on-black” when committed by black criminals against black victims. (Blacks and whites do seem to commit drug possession and drug distribution crimes at relatively similar rates, but in this post I focus on violent crimes.)

….

Here, then, is the data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Race and Ethnicity of Violent Crime Offenders and Arrestees, 2018, with regard to “rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault“:

….

Still, the best data that I know of suggests that

  • black-on-black violent crime is not a myth;

  • blacks and whites generally commit violent crimes at substantially disparate rates (and, for homicides, sharply disparate rates); and

  • as best we can tell, the disparity in arrest rates for violent crimes is pretty close to the disparity in crimes that are committed, and especially crimes that the victims report to the police.

Source: [Eugene Volokh] Race and Violent Crime