Statement by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu on D.C. Council Hearing Regarding Hate Crimes in the District of Columbia

WASHINGTON – Jessie K. Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, issued the following statement regarding today’s hearing before the Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety, entitled “Hate Crimes in the District of Columbia and the Failure to Prosecute by the Office of the United States Attorney.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia believes that prosecuting bias-related crimes is critical to keeping our community safe.  When one member of a group is the victim of a bias-related crime, all members carry with them a fear that they, too, may be targeted because of who they are.  The Office, in partnership with law enforcement, uses all appropriate prosecutorial tools to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable.  We also work constructively with the community to understand their concerns and to find ways to address those concerns.

This morning, I sent the Committee a letter regarding the Office’s investigation and prosecution of potential bias-related crimes. Among other things, the letter explains that the Office brings criminal charges in the vast majority of cases presented to us by our law enforcement partners as potential bias-related crimes.  Of the 204 potentially bias-related incidents flagged by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in 2018, only 59 resulted in arrests that were presented to the Office for prosecution.  Similarly, of the 178 alleged bias-related incidents flagged by MPD in 2017, only 55 were presented for prosecution.  In 2018, the Office brought charges for the underlying criminal offense in 52 of the 59 incidents.  In 2017, the Office brought charges for the underlying criminal offense in 49 of the 55 incidents.  As of June 30, 2019, MPD flagged 23 incidents resulting in arrests as potential bias-related crimes.  The Office brought charges for the underlying criminal offense in 19 of the 23 incidents.

We also continue to engage energetically with the community on this issue, including hosting quarterly meetings of the Hate-Bias Task Force, a collaboration of agency and community partners in the District of Columbia who focus on addressing the needs of affinity groups in the city and combating bias-related crimes.  In response to feedback from the community, we also have made several changes to our procedures for reviewing potential bias-related crimes, such as appointing an additional hate-crimes coordinator within the Office to review potential bias-related crimes and assist in their investigation and prosecution.

We regularly participate in open dialogue about combating bias-related crimes, and we will continue to have those conversations.  But we will not testify in person at today’s hearing, as its title shows that the Committee has reached a conclusion – that the Office is failing to prosecute potential bias-related offenses – before a full and fair consideration of the facts.  This unjustly maligns the Office’s dedicated career prosecutors, who carefully review every arrest identified as a potential bias-related crime and make principled charging decisions based solely on the law and the facts.  We remain eager to work with all of our community partners to seek justice in potential bias-related crimes and to enhance public safety, and we look forward to doing so in a collaborative and open-minded fashion.

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