Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes Trumped Up Hate Crime Charges
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has come under scrutiny for his alleged mishandling of sexual abuse cases in the Orthodox Jewish community. He should also be under scrutiny for stoking unnecessary racial tensions between blacks and Jews.
The Brooklyn DA office is charging former community patrol watchman Yitzchak Shuchat with various hate crimes, calling for his extradition from Israel, all arising out of a 2008 incident between Shuchat, then 24, and then 20-year-old, Andrew Charles, the son of a NYPD officer. After suspecting he was involved in criminal activity, Shuchat is accused of attacking Charles with a police baton. After the incident Charles stated to News12 that this issue has nothing to do with racial tensions.
After closely reviewing the indictment, grand jury testimony of the victim, and Inspector Michael J. Osgood's affidavit in support of extradition, it is abundantly clear that there is zero evidence that Shuchat's assault was racially motivated.
Civil rights activist City Councilwoman Letitia James said she had communicated her view as a lawyer to Hynes that the Charles incident was not a bias crime but an assault Jewishweek reported and African American State Senator Eric Adams agrees: The NY Daily News reported that Adams questioned why the fight was labeled a hate crime when based on the allegations he "didn't see it as a bias crime."
A person commits a hate crime when they intentionally select the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed in whole, or in substantial part, based on a belief or perception regarding the person's "race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation." (NY Penal Law § 485.05  [a])
Shuchat attacked Charles because he was responding to a call that two African-American males were pelting a young Jewish woman with rocks and mistakenly believed that Charles and his friend were the culprits -- not because Charles was black. Charles did not break any bones or suffer permanent injury. According to grand jury testimony, he was examined at the hospital, given pain relief medication and released the same day.
Phone records show that Shuchat had several conversations on his cell phone with the patrol groups dispatch both before and after the incident, indicating that he did not randomly attack Charles but was responding to what he mistakenly believed was a crime in progress.
Charles testified that before Shuchat arrived on the scene him and his friend Kevin Owens were pepper sprayed by someone on a bike who was staring at them. Afterward, Shuchat responded to the commotion in an SUV and asked Charles, "What did you do to him?," clearly referring to the man who was chasing them down the block. Shuchat then got out of his SUV and struck Charles with a baton in an effort to subdue him.
There certainly seems to be sufficient grounds for a charge of assault considering the unprovoked nature of the attack and the fact that Charles was not engaging in any criminal activity, but the incident lacks any indication of even the slightest racial motivation. There were no external signs, verbal or otherwise, of racially motivated hate. The victim was sought out because Shuchat mistakenly believed that a crime was in progress. After the incident the victim himself stated that this issue has nothing to do with racial tensions.
Yet the District Attorney still insists on labeling this a second degree assault as hate crime carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, attempted second degree assault as hate crime and third degree assault as hate crime.
The basis for labeling this a hate crime is a signed affidavit by Inspector Michael J. Osgood asserting that (a) there was no motive for the incident therefore we can assume the motive was racial and (b) the historical animosity between the victim's group and the suspect's group makes the incident likely motivated by race. Osgood elaborates that by "historical animosity" he is referring to the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
Shuchat's motive was responding to what he believed was a crime taking place. In fact, Osgood's affidavit concedes that the "Shmira Patrol wrongfully deemed him [Andrew Charles, the alleged victim] to be engaged in some type of criminal action." Race had nothing to do with his motivation. He mistakenly identified Charles as being involved in criminal activity and wrongly attacked him. Also since when does lack of motive prove racial motive? There isn't a shred of evidence that Shuchat intentionally selected Charles because of his race.
To indict someone on hate crime charges based on historical and theoretical claims about racial tensions dating back to the 1991 Crown Heights riots is downright disingenuous and ridiculous.
After the Crown Heights riots the Lubavitcher rebbe, in looking toward the future, told then Mayor David Dinkins that the black and Jewish communities are "one side, one people, living in one city." This unity vision has been the status quo. Despite occasional crime between blacks and Jews, there has been relative racial harmony since 1991.
There is absolutely no parallel between the Shuchat assault and racial tensions almost two decades before the incident. Besides, you can't use history to try to prove an individual's intent in a specific isolated case -- otherwise one could claim racial motive in any white-on-black crime.
The Israeli Supreme Court is scheduled to rule next month on Shuchat's appeal of his extradition. The court should recognize that the hate crime charges are baseless. They merely serve to stoke unnecessary racial tensions between blacks and Jews and trivialize real hate crimes.
Original article was published in the Jerusalem Post.
By Lawyer Eliyahu Federman