Ga. High Court Strikes Down State's Hate Crimes Law
ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's hate crimes law Monday, saying the measure is so broadly worded that it could be used to prosecute a sports fan for picking on somebody wearing a rival team's cap.
The 7 to 0 ruling came in the case of a white man and a white woman convicted of beating two black men in Atlanta.
It was the first application of the 2000 law, which called for as many as five extra years in prison for crimes in which the victim is chosen because of "bias or prejudice."
Forty-eight states have hate crimes laws; Georgia's was the only one not specifying which groups qualified for protection.
Angela Pisciotta and Christopher Botts were accused of severely beating brothers Che and Idris Golden in 2002 while screaming racial epithets. They pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and the judge sentenced them to six years in prison, plus two years under the hate crimes law. Their lawyers argued on appeal that the hate crimes statute should be struck down because almost any crime involving prejudice falls under its scope.
The high court said that it "by no means" condones the "savage attack . . . or any conduct motivated by a bigoted or hate-filled point of view." But it said the law was "unconstitutionally vague" and so broad that it could be applied to every possible prejudice.
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-- From News Services