Friday, March 19, 2004

Republican family values

The next time some blowhard Republican tries to tell you that conservatives are all about moral values and that today's decadent teenagers are the product of liberalism, direct them to this story, out of Georgia:
Another attack on Hispanic reported

Seems a claque of well-to-do white kids from Cherokee County decided earlier this year to prey on Guatemalan immigrant laborers because they typically carried cash and were unlikely to report the robberies. They'd pick them up at the usual day-laborer hangouts, take them out to the sticks, beat the crap out of them and threaten them with death.

Five youths, all of whom attended Cherokee High School in Canton, were charged in the Feb. 2-3 attacks on two day laborers, in which they robbed the men of paltry sums. These kids weren't white trash who needed the money in any event.

No, as an earlier story makes clear, these kids were from well-known and well-off local families -- so much so that two judges and the local prosecutor had to recuse themselves in the case:
In 2003, Scott Cagle, an uncle of Ben Cagle's, made a $400 campaign contribution to Mills, according to campaign disclosure reports.

When District Attorney Garry Moss removed his office as prosecutor three weeks ago, he said it was because of his acquaintance with members of Ben Cagle's extended family. Ben Cagle's grandparents are founding members of Cherokee's Republican Party and remain active in civic and cultural affairs.

These kids did it not for money but seemingly for "kicks". In the South, though, such claims of mere frolicry have a history of covering for acts of racial terrorism -- otherwise known as hate crimes.

Indeed, that concern was raised locally:
Hispanic community advocates want prosecutors to add hate-crime charges because of the way the boys characterized their actions. A hate-crime conviction can add up to five years to any sentence. The next grand jury announcement of indictments will be in April.

Wheeler told police he and the other boys targeted the Guatemalans because they knew Hispanics usually carried cash, the chief of detectives testified.

"It was easy money," Trifilo said, summarizing Wheeling's explanation.

It's worth noting that there are real problems with the prosecutor's rationale in not pursuing such charges.

Blaming these attacks on an economic motive is not very credible, considering the tiny sums obtained (the entire spree netted about $570) as well as the economic backgrounds of the perpetrators. In fact, there is a distinct lack of a serious economic motive in this case -- which is, in fact, one of the earmarks of a bias-motivated crime.

Another indicator -- in some states, it constitutes the very definition of a bias crime -- is the intentional selection of the victims by their race. That this occurred was unquestionable, and in fact at one point the kids apparently bragged about "robbing Mexicans."

Moreover, an economic motive doesn't in itself rule out a bias motivation as well. The question is whether investigators knew what to look for and how to get it, or whether it even crossed their radar.

In an event, regardless of any hate-crime element, it's always nice to see good Republican moral values being instilled in today's youths.

[Thanks to Rick in my comments.]

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