by Claire Bernish, The Free Thought Project:
Exactly as many suspected, the overly judicious first use of Louisiana’s new Blue Lives Matter law proves the measure will be abused to give police the status of protected class — as a man who verbally insulted officers has now been charged with a hate crime.
Per the ridiculously unnecessary Blue Lives Matter legislation, the voluntarily undertaken occupations of police officer, emergency responder, and firefighter are protected against hate crimes the way historically persecuted categories like race, gender, creed, religion, and sexual orientation have been — making crimes specifically targeting cops hate crimes with enhanced penalties in the eyes of the law.
Raul Delatoba, however, did not specifically target police because they’re police — in fact, the 34-year-old homeless man committed only a minor act of non-law enforcement-owned property destruction.
Around 5:15 a.m. Monday morning, an inebriated Delatoba pounded on the window of Bourbon Street’s Royal Sonesta Hotel, catching the attention of a security guard who worked nearby. Leston Smith, the guard, approached Delatoba and told him to stop banging the window — to which the drunken man, according to the arrest report cited by the Times-Picayune, responded by “calling him a n____r.”
Smith and a security supervisor for the Sonesta then flagged down two Louisiana State Troopers, who brought the ornery man to the New Orleans Police Department’s 8th District station — where he called a female officer “a dumb c__t” and another officer “a dumb n____r.”
Police charged Delatoba with “simple criminal damage to property, disturbing the peace, and a felony-level hate crime” — by ineptly and incorrectly invoking the new law to grossly enhance his otherwise minor charges.
Simply put, police charged Delatoba with committing an act of hate speech — which the legislation’s sponsors never intended and the law doesn’t allow, but which critics warned overzealous police would attempt.
“The hate crime charge stems from Delatoba’s attack on individuals based on their race, sex, and occupation,” the arrest warrant contends.
Realizing the absurdity with which Blue Lives Matter had been administered in this case, NOPD backtracked on Thursday, with spokesman Tyler Gamble stating the law was applied incorrectly.
After an initial review of the case, Gamble said “it is clear that the responding officer incorrectly applied the law relative to a hate crime in this incident.”
Delatoba certainly yelled bad words in the commission of a minor crime, but the offense he committed was against a window — not police, and not their official property.
Astonishingly, what amounts to bureaucratic red tape has prevented the felony charge from being abandoned thus far. That decision, despite the patently obvious misapplication admitted by police, ultimately falls on the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, which — equally as astonishingly — plans to conduct a review of the police report and interview witnesses before determining whether the charges under the ludicrous law are warranted.
“Based up on [sic] that review,” said spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizarro’s Office, Christopher Bowman, on Wednesday, per the Times-Picayune, “the office will make a determination whether or not to initiate formal charges, and which charges to initiate.”
As the New Orleans Advocate noted, “Hate-crimes laws may be invoked only when a more serious criminal offense accompanies verbal slurs.”
Offensive speech, unaccompanied by additional crimes to back it up, thankfully remains thus far protected by the Constitution — but because Delatoba’s charges are still being considered at all shows a troubling portent for how the law could be abused, if not now, in the future.
Indeed, the man’s $10,000 release bond for the (nonexistent) “hate crime” of “yelling bad words,” as Reason aptly put it, is twice that for the actual crime of vandalism.
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