The state of Idaho seems an
unlikely place for totalitarian government to pop up,
but in recent months that`s exactly what has begun to
emerge there. Under the state`s "hate crime" statute,
a perfectly law-abiding citizen is being prosecuted for
using a racial slur—and faces a ruinous five-year term
in the state prison.
"Hate crimes" have
always consisted of acts that are already
criminal—acts of assault, murder, robbery, etc.
— but are supposedly aggravated by the use of racial
or other kinds of slurs or expressions held to indicate
"bias" or "hate" as motivating the
crime. Critics of the concept of "hate
crimes"—most especially yours
truly—have always argued that it was only a matter
of time before authorities sought to separate the
expression of thought from the criminal act and try to
expression and the thought themselves. That`s
exactly what`s happening in Idaho.
The case concerns a man named
Lonny Rae, whose wife, Kimberly, worked as a staff
reporter and photographer for their local newspaper
in Council, Idaho. Last October, after a particularly
heated high school football game, Mrs. Rae took a few
photographs of the referees as they left the field.
An official ordered her not to
take the pictures, so she didn`t, and turned to leave
with her husband. Then, Mrs. Rae found herself grabbed
from behind and dragged backward by a black official who
also grabbed for her camera. Mrs. Rae was pulled by the
strap on the camera around her neck, and she screamed
for her husband to help her.
Mr. Rae ran to her aid as her
attacker, more than six feet in height and 250 pounds in
weight, was still trying to grab the camera. Mr. Rae
pushed him back and in a rage yelled to the other
officials, "Tell that nigger to get out of here,
`cause I`m gonna kick his butt."
Mrs. Rae had to be treated for her
injuries in a local hospital, and two days later the
couple went to the city prosecutor to bring charges
against the man who had injured her. As it turned out,
it wasn`t her assailant who had to face legal charges.
It`s Mr. Rae himself who now faces
charges, because, by uttering the N-word, he supposedly
violated a "hate crime" statute outlawing
harassment." Originally brought by the city
prosecutor, the charge was turned over to the state and
increased to a full felony offense carrying a sentence
of five years in the state penitentiary. To date, no
charges have been brought against his wife`s black
assailant. After the usual crusade by the local media to
expose the "bigot" and "hate
criminal," Mr. Rae and his wife were banned from
the grounds of the high school where the attack took
place, even though they had children who were students
there. Mrs. Rae also lost her job with the local paper
because, she was told, local advertisers threatened to
pull their ads. When their money ran out, the couple was
evicted from their trailer home, and they`ve lost the
equity they`d built up in it. In short, even before Mr.
Rae has even been tried, he and his family have been
Their one supporter is their
lawyer, a man named Edgar Steele, who agreed to take
their case for no payment. Nobody defends the slur that
Mr. Rae yelled in anger when he saw his wife assaulted,
but Mr. Steele sees there`s more involved in the case
than that. His defense is precisely that the state
"hate crimes" statute is slyly being converted
into a law for the criminalization of speech itself.
Under "hate crime" laws,
Mr. Steele says, "some actual criminal act in
conjunction with the hate speech is required before one
can be charged. We haven`t yet reached the point of
criminalizing mere speech or thought." However, the
Adams County Thought Police have applied Idaho`s
little-used Malicious Harassment statute in such a way
as to achieve that very result in Lonny Rae`s case.
Thus, while the statute may be constitutional, its usage
today by the Adams County Thought Police is clearly
unconstitutional and an affront to all who value the
right to speak their mind without fear of government
Mr. Rae may win his case—if he and his lawyer are willing to fight it for the next several years—and Mr. Steele might even be technically right that in this country, "we haven`t yet reached the point of criminalizing mere speech or thought." But the mere fact that local and state prosecutors even brought their case against Mr. Rae and that even before he went to trial the defendant had effectively been ruined should tell us something: The tyranny that hate crimes statutes have already planted in this country`s laws is blossoming.
COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
August 13, 2001