We Nearly Killed You; But We Don’t Hate You

The four men, including an off duty cop, used many racial slurs as they beat up the victim Darryl Jackson. What is a hate crime? Jackson, the victimized Black man from Long Island, asked: "What proof did they need? For me to be dead?"

[New York Report]

What is a hate crime?

Last Friday, a Nassau grand jury cleared four men of all charges in the savage beating of a Black man after he refused to leave from the front of a store.

It was a widely-publicized case–a Roosevelt deli owner and three others, including an off-duty New York City police officer, beat the man on Long Island, inflicting multiple injuries on him.

The grand jury said there was insufficient evidence against the four men clearing them of second-degree assault charges: Kevin Vargas, 23; Jose Miguel Vargas, 35; Juan Nunez, 32, and the 53-year-old deli owner, Persio Vargas. It was revealed that Nunez, an off-duty police officer, joined the attack. Jose Miguel Vargas was also charged with criminal possession of a weapon, a baseball bat.

The men used many racial slurs; their victim, Darryl Jackson, 32, suffered extensive facial, neck and back injuries from the disturbing March 8th racial brawl outside the Midway Delicatessen on Nassau Road in Long Island. The prosecutors say a battered Jackson initially told them that race had nothing to do with the assault.

However, witnesses say Jackson attempted to hit one of the deli workers when he was asked to leave the front of the store. Vargas, the owner, was recorded on videotape getting a baseball bat from the store while Nunez and the workers were already beating Jackson.

Eyewitnesses told conflicting stories about what happened after the brawl; but the Black man got the worst of it. As the punches rained down on Jackson, he was also bombarded with racial slurs. Imagine being called a “nigger,” “coon,” or a “jigaboo” while your butt is getting kicked.

Yet such an attack would not be labelled a hate crime. New York law requires “clear evidence of hatred” as a motivation for an incident to be labeled a hate crime. The use of racial slurs, accompanied with physical assault, will not qualify as a hate crime.

Even District Attorney Kathleen Rice was disturbed by the abundance of racial slurs used in the attack. One worker derisively told Jackson to “go back to Africa.” Yet, Rice also did not think the assault should be classified as a hate crime. Also remember: evidence presented to the grand jury was secret and not available to the public.

“It is correct to say while hate may not have been a motivator for the incident, I find the language that was used highly troubling,” Rice noted.

Separately, Jackson’s attorney, Fred Brewington, said he would request federal prosecutors to consider civil rights charges against the men. He felt the four men violated Jackson’s civil rights.

Prosecutors indicate Jackson came through the intense battering with just a small cut on his head. However his attorney revealed that his client was worse for wear and in rehabilitation with various symptoms such as neurological problems, numbness, muscle weakness, difficulty walking and vertigo.

Hate crimes have been recently on the rise. The FBI reported the incidents of hate crime rose nearly 10% last year. On Long Island, a recent poll indicated over 7% said they had been a victim of a hate crime; which is high for this area.

There were several incidents of more than a dozen cars being spray-painted with racist graffiti after the election of President Barack Obama last November. In one event in an area university, a gang of white male students punched a young Black woman and used racial slurs to describe the newly-elected president.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York are still investigating allegations of hate crimes on Long Island. A Justice Department spokesman announced the joint probe after the stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero by a gang of white teens.

What is interesting is that several civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the National Urban League supported the move by the federal government to curb the racial violence in the area, especially against Hispanics, but many of the Latino organizations refuse to see any hate crime link in the recent Jackson case.

The provisions of the hate crime statute can be extremely troubling, especially if you’re the victim of a race assault. According to Stephen Brill, noted New York defense attorney, race hate is very hard to prove even if it a marauding gang is involved: “As a defense attorney in New York, I always make sure that the District Attorney doesn’t automatically prosecute the case as a hate crime merely because a group had a fight and one member of the group felt emboldened to make racist comments. Other members of the group should not bear the same criminal responsibility as the instigator, or leader, of the group.”

Intent vs. action.

Several states, especially southern ones, have very tricky legal language involving civil rights violations and hate crimes. Across the country, it is extremely hard to prosecute violent acts of race hate and get positive results.

Several national organizations have petitioned this new administration and Congress to pass an omnibus Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act, providing stricter penalties and more jail time for tragic felonies.

What is a hate crime? In the case of Darryl Jackson, the victimized Black man from Long Island, his haunting words spell out the truth: “What proof did they need? For me to be dead?”

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