Matthew Owens, a 40-year-old Caucasian man, lies badly beaten and in critical condition in a Mobile, Alabama hospital bed. The official account, from Ashley Rains, the public information officer of the Mobile Police Department, was that Owens was “assaulted with baseball bats, paint cans and other weapons at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday after telling a group of children to stop playing basketball in the middle of Delmar Drive.”
Witnesses then say that the children left and in their place came a group of as many as 20 adults who proceeded to assault Owens in his front yard. One witness, Owens’ sister Ashley, claims to have overheard one of the assailants say, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon.”
Here’s the video:
Here’s what we know so far:
Owens was beaten.
There was an ongoing dispute over children playing basketball in the middle of the street.
There were witnesses, mostly neighbors and relatives of Owen’s, who say it was a group of African-Americans, one of whom allegedly made reference to Trayvon Martin.
In all likelihood, a serious crime has been committed, but the facts so far do not justify a hate crimes investigation. According to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, if Ashley Owens’ statement is true and the attackers invoked the name of Trayvon Martin, it could be a hate crime, but maybe not. Hate crimes are about motive. If race is brought up at the beginning, it could be a hate crime, but if a racial slur is brought up after, as this apparently was, it could just be from the heat of the moment. Either way, hate crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Sometimes prosecutors go for the low-hanging fruit, which in this case, would be simple assault.
What are the similarities between this case and the Trayvon Martin case? Very few. We knew that George Zimmerman was Martin’s assailant immediately after the shooting. Police have identified some of the attackers and are likely to start making arrests in the Owens’ case today. Zimmerman was investigated for no crime at all until the story hit the media, then, 44 days later, Zimmerman was charged. The police in the Owens assault are already treating it as a crime. Zimmerman has not been charged under hate crime statutes, so even if Owens’ assailants were, it would still not be equal treatment. The moment the story made national headlines, the right went on overdrive to blame the victim, Martin, by impugning his character. No such effort is coming from the left toward Owens.
The fact that a man lies in bed with potentially life threatening injuries is horrid. The people responsible should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. If there is sufficient evidence of a hate crime, it should be prosecuted as such. But, the odds of it happening in Alabama are pretty slim.
Nationally, according to FBI statistics, about 6,600 hate crimes were prosecuted in 2010. Approximately 47% were racially motivated. 18% of the defendants were black. That number might seem small until you recognize the fact that only about 12% of the population is black, leading one to believe that black people are prosecuted for hate crimes more often than are white people, not less often, as the right would have you believe.
Alabama is among the three states least likely to prosecute for hate crimes. The only states less likely to charge for a hate crime (based on population) are Mississippi and Georgia.
Another Trayvon Martin related crime is being treated as a hate crime. In the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, an African-American is being charged with a hate crime in the beating of a white man. The assailant, Alton L. Hayes III, 18 of Oak Park and a 15-year-old companion were reportedly upset at the shooting of Martin and they beat the man simply because he was white.
Alton L. Hayes III, 18, of Oak Park, and a 15-year-old Chicagoan — both black — walked up behind the 19-year-old victim and pinned his arms to his side early Tuesday, police said. Hayes then picked up a large tree branch, pointed it at the man and said, “Empty your pockets, white boy.”
They rifled through his pockets, threw him to the ground and punched him in the head and back “numerous times,” police said.
Hayes is being charged with three felonies, attempted robbery, aggravated battery and a hate crime. The 15-year-old is being prosecuted in the juvenile system.
I have searched the internet to find anyone at all who is outraged that Hayes is being charged with a hate crime. All I found, even from African-American blogs, was the opinion that Hayes should be prosecuted. Again, if Owens’ assailants committed a hate crime, then by all means, they should be charged with a hate crime.
There is no double standard, at least not in the way that the right likes to believe. White on black crime is not treated more seriously than black on white crime. In fact, like all crime, it seems to be the other way around. No matter the crime, black people are arrested more often than white people, they are convicted more often than white people, they are left out of juries more often than white people and they receive longer sentences. Despite the facts, you can bet that the right is going to keep looking for ways to make it sound like they are the victims.