DA and Others Discuss the Rising Problem of Hate Crimes Locally and Beyond


By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – There has been a rise in hate crimes recently across the country, and that has extended into Yolo County.  Last week, the Yolo County DA’s office held their monthly townhall meeting on the subject featuring, among others, a representative from the ADL as well as former Mayor Gloria Partida, who founded the Phoenix Coalition after her son was a victim of a hate crime.

Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven in defining hate crime, noted, “It’s a very fine line often between what is a hate crime and what is a hate incident.”

From the DA’s standpoint, “A hate crime is a crime.  You have to have a crime. And then on top of that, you have a biased motivation behind the crime.”

Raven added, “One of the things about hate crimes is, um, they’re much different than other crimes. They’re message crimes. Hate crimes are not only meant to harm the individual that’s been physically or emotionally, uh, victimized, but also to send a message to the whole community.”

From the DA’s perspective, one of the challenges is that they have to prove the cases beyond a reasonable doubt.

He showed a couple of images as example.

For example, the word “f—t” was spray painted on a car.

“If we could prove it was hate-motivated, which we probably could,” he said, “that would be a hate crime.”  He noted, “we have a similar situation with some vandalism on what looks like it could be city property, or it could be private property too, about Adolf Hitler.”

Raven also clarified the law with respect to protected classes—disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

Raven explained, “I’ve had some people say that white males are not a protected class. Yes, they are. They are white and they are male. Doesn’t matter if some, if a certain class makes up the majority of that community. Everyone, every gender, every race, religion, they’re all protected classes.”

Nancy Appel from the ADL

Nancy Appel from ADL further explained the distinction between a hate incident and a hate crime.

“The term hate incident is a term of art with a distinct meaning…  it is distinct from a hate crime in that it is behavior or expression that is motivated by hate or bias by any of the characteristics that we reviewed. But the underlying activity itself does not constitute a crime. So it does not violate the penal code and therefore no law enforcement… can make an arrest or press any charges.”

She added that “this most often takes the form of speech, which is very broadly protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.”

“There is no law per se, against hate,” Appel explained.  “So you can be a bigot, you can be a hateful person, you can harbor these thoughts, and in many ways you can express these thoughts.”

Appel noted the rise of distributing flyers with bigoted content or “as we saw at UC Davis in August, it’s becoming more popular to do these banner dots over highways, for individuals who tend to be very very small in number in number, but to try to garner as much publicity as they possibly can.”

“So as the saying goes, it’s lawful but awful,” she said.  “It’s terrible speech, but it is nonetheless not punishable by our laws.”

Appel explained that the hate crime laws operate as “penalty enhancements for an underlying crime with a bias motivation, or there are several standalone statutes. One of those statutes is Penal Code section 1411, which is a very detailed statute that generally covers displaying what we colloquially call terrorist symbols, either on the private property of another person with the intent to terrorize or certain types of other of enumerated properties like school property or a workplace, or a public park, and a few others.”

Two examples of “terrorist symbols” would be if it specifies a Nazi swastika or a hangman’s noose.

Raven explained that “we’re fortunate in California as, as Nancy mentioned, we have a plethora of laws on the books regarding hate crimes. So what you’ll see in California is the vast majority of these crimes are prosecuted by local district attorney’s offices, whereas in some states, they have very few, if any, hate crimes statutes on the books. And so what you’ll see the federal government or the US Attorney’s Office prosecuting these cases.”

Raven added that “because many of these actions, crimes, on their face seem clearly to be hate crimes. They are emotional and they are painful, and they are terrorist acts. However, in order for the DA to prosecute and to have a path towards successful prosecution and to ethically charge the case, as I mentioned, we have to be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to charge it.”

Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven

Hate crimes are on the rise and in fact at record numbers.

Nancy Appel cited stats to show that there was a low of 758 hate crime incidents in 2014.  This year, there have been 1763, which is a 30 percent rise over 2020’s 1330.

“Crimes targeting the Asian community just skyrocketed by almost 200 percent,” she said.  “They had doubled from 2019 to 2020. This was all a result of the ugly bigotry and scapegoating during the pandemic, which is why we constantly emphasize words have real world consequences, you know, because this is what the ugly rhetoric can lead to.”

She noted, “Although interestingly, they (Black and Latino) also had a huge spike in the first couple of years of the Trump administration.”

In the religious category, anti-Jewish reported crimes “are always the majority” and we have a 30 percent increase in California.

This trend has occurred at UC Davis as well.

Danisha Nichols from UC Davis explained, “We definitely have seen an increase in hate and bias incidents that have been reported to our office. They’ve increased actually year over year. We are at record numbers of complaints in general, but particularly in regard to kind of hate and bias incidents.”

They range in terms of the targeted office, she described them, “to be fairly evenly distributed, frankly, among the groups that you see here as the primary targets of, of the behavior.”

These are primarily speech concerns.

She said “obviously with speech concerns, those are complicated to address because of a lot of the broad protection that folks have in terms of their First Amendment rights. And yet our community is being impacted, by this ongoing kind of hateful mean-spirited speech.”

Gloria Partida noted the same trend in Davis.

“There seemed to be more than usual, which is what prompted the statements from the city council, the chancellor to get together and work on some actions through the Hate Free Together initiative that was put forward.”

She noted the incident of the banner hung over 113 and reports of a Swastika on a whiteboard.

The banner in particular on Highway 113, Partida said, “was really very disturbing to the community.  We had a number of folks that reached out to the city council, reached out to my organization, and it was important for us as a council to condemn it.”

Nichols noted even though this did not occur on campus, “our community was deeply impacted by this incident. Obviously, the location, the proximity to campus, we have community members that traverse that particular walkway on a regular and daily basis. And so it was just highly, highly, um, impactful to the community.”

Gloria Partida shared about her son’s incident.

Her son is gay and was celebrating his birthday with his cousins.

She explained that “my son realized that he had forgotten his keys. They were walking to his apartment, and so he told his cousin to wait, and that he was going to go back to his other cousin’s house and get his keys. And when he went back that person attacked him and beat him so badly that, um, he needed rehabilitation.”

She said, “I think he was worried that he had killed him, because he ended up knocking on the door and said, your faggot cousin was talking smack.  I had to f— him up.”

Partida added, “We went through the justice system.”  She talked about how important to her son it was that they “not just prosecute the crime, but to prosecute for the hate crime enhancement.”


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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