Entries in Hate Crimes (5)


Louisiana Woman Roils Race Relations with Fake KKK Burn Story

Facebook(SHREVEPORT, La.) -- Race relations have been riled twice this week in a Louisiana town where police say a woman fabricated a violent KKK attack in which she "self-inflicted" burns on 60 percent of her body.

Sharmeka Moffitt, 20, called 911 around 8 p.m. on Sunday from a park in Winnsboro, La., to report that three men in white hoodies had doused her in liquid and set her on fire. A racial slur and "KKK" were written on her car. Police were at the scene within minutes of the call, but found no suspects.

The community rallied around Moffitt, who is in the hospital with severe burns, and several law enforcement agencies immediately joined together to pursue her alleged attackers.

But in a news conference on Tuesday, authorities said that Moffitt's fingerprints were found on a cigarette lighter and on a can of lighter fluid recovered nearby.

"I feel hurt for the victim because that could have been my child, my sister or my mother, so I'm frustrated about that," Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Martin said at the news conference.

Police did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday and have not said if Moffitt will be facing criminal charges.

Residents were angered by the fake and divisive attack.

"She had all these people believing that it was racial issues and everybody was hating everybody because of this," resident Ta'Nikqua Smith told ABC News' Shreveport affiliate KTBS. "Nobody felt safe anymore."

Alice Prescott, another resident, said that the news of the attack followed by the news of the attack's fraudulence has strained the community.

"I'm absolutely frustrated because of all of the tension that's been placed on everybody," she told KTBS.

Others expressed frustration with the cost of an investigation that involved numerous agencies.

"This has been a very disturbing case for everyone involved and it has involved multiple agencies and a lot of hard work," Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb said at the news conference.

Moffitt is in critical condition at a Shreveport hospital. Her family has asked for privacy, but released a statement saying they were "devastated to learn the circumstances surrounding our daughter's injuries."

"We are sincerely sorry for any problems this may have caused and wish to express our appreciation for the outpouring of love, prayers and support we have received from friends, acquaintances, church organizations and government officials," the family wrote.

The family said they would be focusing on Moffitt and her recovery over the coming weeks.

Authorities reminded the community of how they rallied for Moffitt and encouraged them to continue doing so.

"When we felt it was an attack situation, our community was coming together," Cobb said. "They were coming in to support her from all sides and we should continue to do that."

This is not the first time someone has faked an alleged hate crime.

Earlier this year, a Nebraska woman was arrested for faking an anti-gay hate crime in which she claimed three masked men bound her, cut words into her skin and spray-painted slurs on her wall before setting her house on fire.

Charlie Rogers, 33, had told police that the three assailants broke into her Lincoln, Neb., home on July 22.

Rogers, a lesbian and a former University of Nebraska women's basketball star, became a face for anti-gay hate crimes after the alleged attack. Reports of the alleged assault outraged the gay community, and hundreds of people participated in rallies outside the Nebraska capitol building, and at a park in Omaha.

Police charged Rogers with false reporting after disclosing evidence that contradicted her story and pointed to a faked attack.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, told ABC News Wednesday, "There's a real danger in the entire notion of hate crimes coming into question."

"These kinds of reports, for whatever reason they are made, are incredibly destructive," Potok said. "[They] cast into doubt the very real number of hate crimes that happen every day."

About 200,000 hate crimes occur in the United States every year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, with a "vastly smaller number that turn out to be bogus."

Potok added, "We spoke to people on the [Winnsboro] City Council yesterday and heard universally that this was a town that was at peace in terms of race relations."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Amish Hair-Cutting Hate Crime Trial Set to Begin

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND, Ohio) -- The trial of members of a breakaway Amish sect charged with hate crimes for cutting off the beards and hair of other Amish men and women is set to begin Monday in an Ohio court.

The government revealed Friday that horse mane shears, along with hair samples, recorded jailhouse phone calls, and a camera they say was used to photograph the victims have been entered as evidence in the case.

All 16 defendants have pleaded not guilty, many rejecting plea deals that would have sent them to prison for two to three years. They say the alleged attacks were a matter of internal discipline and not connected to any religious bias.

But at least one of the criminal complaints filed against bishop Samuel Mullet Sr. and members of his family claimed that the group was waging a violent campaign targeted at community members on the other side of a church feud.

They now face potentially lengthy federal prison sentences if they are convicted of conspiracy to violate the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The Amish believe the Bible instructs men to wear beards and stop shaving once they marry and for women grow their hair long.

"Victims will testify that the loss of their beards caused them great distress and embarrassment and altered their life activities to the point that they did not want to appear in public," prosecutors said, seeking to back their hate crimes charge.

Court documents trace the root of the conflict back to 2005, when members reportedly began leaving Mullet's sect because of his controlling behavior.

His former daughter- and son-in-law told investigators that Mullet exercised complete authority over the group, causing physical injury to those who would defy him. This included, they said, forcing members to sleep for days at a time in a chicken coop on his property and suffer public beatings.

He also allegedly "counseled" married women by having sex with them in his home.

Prosecutors say Mullet, accompanied by his sons, sons-in-law, and nephews, hired a driver -- the Amish cannot operate motor vehicles and often travel by horse-drawn buggie -- to take them to the home of one of the church bishops who had spoken out against him.

They then allegedly knocked on the door, pulled the man out of his house and assaulted him and his son, who tried to intervene. Prosecutors say the group pulled at and cut their beard hair, then took photographs of the victims before fleeing the scene en route to another attack.

An updated 10-count indictment tendered in March alleges that the men and women -- also members of the same extended family -- had tried to hide or destroy evidence, including a pair of shears and a bag of hair. Mullet was also charged with lying to federal agents when he denied knowing of an October assault. He faces life in prison.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nebraska Lesbian Mutilated in Anti-Gay Hate Crime

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- Nebraska cops are hunting three masked men who carved derogatory epithets into the body of an openly gay woman.

"Three men wearing masks, that's all the victim was able to provide," said Officer Katie Flood of the Lincoln Police Department.

"Derogatory terms associated with her sexual orientation were painted inside her home," the officer said.

Flood would not comment on what was carved into the victim's body.

The woman, who is 33, was bound, gagged and mutilated early Sunday and the three attackers splashed the victim's home with gasoline and tried to set it on fire, scorching a floor, police reports state. The attack is being classified as a hate crime.

"According to our policy any offense is classified as a hate crime when it appears biased regarding someone's sexual orientation," Flood said.

The officer refused to divulge additional details, telling ABC News, "We are not releasing any further details."

A neighbor of the woman was appalled by the attack.

"When someone takes the time to handcuff someone with a zip tie and carve derogatory comments or words into somebody else's body, that's sheer hate and at this point, this is a hate crime," a neighbor who declined to be identified told ABC affiliate KLKN.

The victim is openly homosexual, said her friend Erin Thompson who spoke with the Omaha World-Herald. She said that the attackers slashed the word "dyke" among two other epithets into the victim's stomach and arm.

Hundreds of Lincoln residents came out to show their support for the victim, holding a vigil in front of the State Capitol Building Sunday evening. "Hate crimes are despicable and appalling to me and to all Lincoln residents," the city's mayor said in a statement.

Among those present at the vigil were members of Lincoln's gay and lesbian community.

"Someone hurt someone in my family -- my LGBT family," one person told ABC's KLKN.

Some residents fear this may be a setback for the local gay and lesbian community, one that that only two months prior saw local officials approve a measure that would ensure fair treatment of gay and transgendered residents in housing and job applications.

"Another reason it's difficult to come out in Lincoln," wrote one commenter on Outlinc's Facebook page, a local non-profit organization that supports the city's LGBT community.

"Many in our community are understandably experiencing a great deal of sadness, anger, and confusion," said Tyler Richard, President of Outlinc, in a statement on the organization's homepage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Minority Births Enrage White Hate Groups

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of radical hate groups and militias has exploded in recent years in reaction to the changing makeup of America. And new census figures showing the majority of babies born in 2011 were non-white could fuel those simmering tensions, experts who track hate groups warned.

"White supremacist groups have been having a meltdown since the census bureau predicted that non-Hispanic whites would lose the majority by 2050," said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. "The demographic change in this country is the single most important driver in the growth of hate groups and extremist groups over the last few years."

The data released this week revealed a tipping point in the country's demographic shift. For the first time in the country's history, more minority children were born than white children, setting the stage for an eventual non-white majority in America's population.

The census found that 50.4 percent of births in 2011 were of Hispanic, black, Asian, and other minority children. White babies accounted for 49.5 percent of the country's newborns.

In addition, more than 49 percent of all children under 5 years old are minorities, the report said.

For white supremacist and radical right-wing groups, the data is especially troubling, and made all the more apparent by the fact that a black man was elected president, Potok said.

"This very real and very significant change is represented in the person of Barack Obama. We've of course seen the most remarkable growth in the radical right since 2008, precisely coinciding with Obama's first three years as president," he said.

According to the SPLC, the number of radical "anti-government" militia groups increased from 150 to 1,274 during the years of the Obama presidency. There have been more homegrown domestic terrorism attacks by right-wing groups than by international terrorists during his presidency as well, Potok noted.

Marilyn Mayo, co-director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, said white supremacist groups have increased their efforts to recruit and plot based on the changing racial makeup of America.

"I think that what we're seeing is that hate groups, particularly white supremacist groups, are talking a lot about the fact that whites will soon be a minority in this country, that their goal at all costs is to preserve the white race in civilization, which spurs them to recruit more, and have more incendiary rhetoric," Mayo said.

Potok pointed out that more young people than ever before, hovering around 95 percent of young voters, approve of interracial relationships and marriage. Though the country is going through a "backlash" against demographic changes, newer generations will come to accept the changes, he said.

"The thing I think to understand is that the radical right is not entirely composed of people who are insane. These are people reacting to real changes in the real world around them," Potok said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


7 Amish Men Charged with Hate Crimes for Beard Cutting Spree

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(MILLERSBURG, Ohio) -- Seven Amish men have been charged with hate crimes for cutting the beards and hair of Amish men in a different religious sect.

The men, all family members of Bishop Samuel Mullet, Sr., allegedly forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut their beards and hair with scissors and battery powered clippers, injuring the men and others who tried to stop the attacks, according to a statement by the Department of Justice.

The attacks grew out of a religious feud between Mullet and the wider church, according to the criminal complaint against the Mullet family.

Mullet, as the head of the Bergholz clan sect of the church, excommunicated eight families who chose to leave the sect under his rule. His decision was investigated by the 300-member bishops council of the Amish church, which determined that the excommunications were vindictive and unfair, and overruled them.

The members allegedly began leaving the sect in 2005 because of Mullet's controlling behavior, according to the complaint. Mullet's former daughter-in-law and son-in-law told investigators that Mullet exercised complete control over the group, causing physical injury to those who defy him, including forcing members to sleep for days at a time in a chicken coop on his property and allowing public beatings. He also allegedly "counseled" married women by having sex with them in his home.

Mullet, accompanied by his sons, sons-in-law, and nephews, hired a driver to take them and their horse-drawn buggy to the home of one of the bishops that ruled against him. They knocked on the door and told the man they wished to speak with him, according to the complaint, and then assaulted the man and his son, known as Victims 1 and 2. They then pulled and cut their beard hair. They took pictures of the results and took the pictures with them, the document says.

The group then went to another victim's house and assaulted him, caused him pain, and then pulled and cut his hair as well, court documents state.

The hired driver that took the men to commit the crimes testified as a witness against them in the complaint.

Mullet's son-in-law, Emanuel Shrock, sent three letters to a fourth victim, convincing him to come to Shrock's home in Bergholz, Ohio, and then with the aid of others cut that victim's beard as well.

Johnny Mullet, Lester Mullet, Eli Miller, Daniel Mullet, and Levi Miller all confessed their involvement in the crimes to the FBI.

The suspects are charged with conspiring to violate the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio