Nancy O’Malley, the Alameda County district attorney, has no problem charging Richard as an adult. She considers his crime “very, very, very serious,” and argues that hate crimes are another form of discrimination, “just like segregation was.” Richard is “a real threat” to society, she says, and his behavior “will never be tolerated.”
While the district attorney is quick to point out the discriminatory nature of Richard’s attack on Sasha, she ironically ignores the discrimination that Richard faces within the justice system because of his race. O’Malley’s reference to segregation suggests that because Richard is black, he should more easily recognize the discrimination of others.
Hate-crimes “offer a powerful narrative,” Slater says, about hate and prejudice, but most hate crimes are not committed by hate groups like neo-Nazis. A Boston-based study reflects that most are perpetrated by young men with their friends—and “often immediately after school.” Two-thirds of these crimes are “thrill-seeking” behavior, or young people “‘looking for some fun’ at the expense of someone they regard as lower status.”
Richard’s assault on Sasha is certainly in keeping with Slater’s description of the typical hate crime in America, yet Richard doesn’t truly hate Sasha or their lifestyle. Richard is not a neo-Nazi, and, Slater suggests, he shouldn’t be subjected to the same type of punishment.
One day in November, Nancy O’Malley is surprised to receive a letter from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center. Both organizations ask her in a joint letter to reconsider charging Richard as an adult. “We firmly believe that you can demonstrate your offices’ commitment to protecting the victims of hate crimes without imposing adult sanctions on juvenile offenders,” they say.
As part of the LGBTQ community, O’Malley expects the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center both to support Richard’s harsh punishment, and the fact that they don’t further underscores how unethical it is to hold a juvenile to adult standards of punishment.