In a disturbingly Orwellian display of double speak, 36-year-old Rosella Best was arrested by the police and charged by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office with a hate crime for equating the NYPD to Nazis.
Ms. Best vandalized a police car with “NAZIS=NYPD” along with a 卐, and other messages. When police arrested Ms. Best, she loudly complained that “Hitler” was their boss. So basically, the woman called the police fascists. Her intent was clear. She was not calling the police “Jews” or trying to intimidate the police with anti-semitic rhetoric — she was associating the police with the swastika, a symbol of oppression.
Under Article 485.05 of the NY Penal Law, a person commits a hate crime when she:
…intentionally commits the act or acts constituting the offense in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.
She must have been charged with Criminal Mischief in the 4th Degree as a hate crime, just as former NYPD officer Michael Setiawan was, because graffiti is not one of the enumerated crimes that can be charged as a hate crime in New York.
Although I am seldom surprised these days by my prosecuting counterparts, I have to wonder about their reasoning as to Ms. Best’s intent to target the NYPD because of its “religion” or “race.” Anti-semitism is certainly a form of racism. A swastika spray painted on a building—regardless if the occupant is actually Jewish—evinces a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination.
Is Brooklyn reasoning that the word “Nazi” is a hate crime. Am I committing a hate crime if I scream “I hate homophobes” or “racist bastard”? Can we not hate the haters?
Or perhaps the argument is “a swastika is a swastika.” The problem with that line of reasoning is the language of the statute requires the prosecution to prove intent and the specific context of associating the NYPD with Nazism cannot be ignored.
By categorizing criticism of the NYPD as a hate crime, you are effectively curtailing free speech. Who hasn’t called the cops fascist pigs when they were arrested? C’mon, I can’t be the only one.
The Law works within the New York City legal system.