The Seattle Times reported three unrelated hate crimes over the weekend, targeting gay men and a transgender victim. On the same day thousands of people were celebrating the Pride parade in downtown Seattle and celebrating Friday’s Supreme Court victory in marriage equality, victims were being targeted, harassed, and attacked for their sexual orientation and gender identity.

There is still a long road ahead both politically and socially, and certainly in eliminating this type of crime. Discrimination and hate crimes are still alive and well, occurring far too often. The Seattle Times article highlights three incidents, which are representative of many more of similar nature. In the first attack, a group of three men allegedly viciously and brutally beat a gay couple, taunting them and using gay slurs. The second attack involved a victim being allegedly threatened with what the victim thought was a gun, amid gay slurs. The third incident was an attack against a transgender identified person. A man and woman allegedly punched, slapped, and taunted the victim, using a gay slur. Two of the alleged perpetrators were arrested and booked on investigation of malicious harassment.

Malicious harassment is Washington State’s hate-crime statute, under RCW 9a.36.080:

A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because of his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap:

  • Causes physical injury to the victim or another person;
  • Causes physical damage to or destruction of the property of the victim or another person; or
  • Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property. The fear must be a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances.

If the suspect is mistaken about the victim’s status, but selected them because of the suspect’s belief about the victim’s status, it is still considered malicious harassment.

Please review the statute for additional detail and circumstances which may constitute malicious harassment.

Malicious harassment is a class C felony, punishable under RCW 9a.20.021 by a prison sentence of up to 5 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Of note:

  • If derogatory words or slurs are used, but the victim is not placed in reasonable fear of harm to their person or property, it does not constitute malicious harassment.
  • If the suspect uses a derogatory slur while committing another crime, it does not automatically constitute malicious harassment. The individual case must be considered.

Reporting & Seeking Legal Representation:

To report an immediate incident or one that has just occurred, and/or if you feel that you are in any danger, please call 9-1-1. If the incident has subsided, there are no injuries, and you are out of harm’s way, contact the local police department.

If you have been the victim of any type of hate crime and are in need of legal representation, please contact an attorney as soon as possible. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.