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FBI Hosts Conference to Educate About Hate Crimes

FBI New York June 28, 2010

Today, the New York office of the FBI, in coordination with the Department of Justice, hosted a community conference to educate law enforcement, prosecutors, and community organizations about enhanced federal statutory authority on civil rights. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was the focus of this meeting. Over 100 participants came together to learn about investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes and were treated to a special presentation by Dennis Shepard, father of Matthew Shepard.

Hate crimes remain all too prevalent in our nation and investigating hate crimes is a high priority for the FBI. The FBI’s jurisdiction to investigate hate crimes was primarily predicated on four federal statutes. When the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 became effective as of October 28, 2009, it created a fifth statute. This legislation was signed into law by President Obama and was landmark because it is the first time in the history of this nation the federal government now has the authority to prosecute violent hate crimes, including violence directed at the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. This is the first expansion of federal criminal civil rights laws since the mid-1990s. This new law has a broader reach than preexisting hate crime statues, and effectively criminalizes violent acts when they occur because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person. The statute also protects a wider class of victims of hate violence motivated by the victim’s gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Previous law required the government prove that a hate-motivated crime be committed to prevent a victim’s participation in federally protected activities, such as voting or attending school.

Dennis Shepard addresses attendees at the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 Community Conference” at the FBI’s New York office
Dennis Shepard addresses attendees at the “Matthew Shepard
and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 Community
Conference” at the FBI’s New York office
Photo Credit: FBI

FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the New York office George C. Venizelos stated: “We’re fortunate to live in a free and open society; a more racially, ethnically, and demographically diverse society each year. In fact, the diversity of each and every individual is what makes us such a strong, resilient, and vibrant society. Our own diversity here at the FBI is a source of our organization’s strength. We recognize that liberty and justice may only be achieved through the preservation of our civil liberties, and the realization of true equality for all.”

United States Attorney (USA) Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York co-hosted this event. Inspector Michael Osgood of the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit was also a participant speaker.