You’ve seen those yard signs — “Hate has no home here” — all over liberal D.C., right?
But it looks like hate is actually a pretty stubborn tenant in the nation’s capital, where hate crimes are up (like the rest of the nation) but are not being punished (unlike the rest of the nation.)
And this means that hate’s anything-goes landlord is our own U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which handles most criminal cases in the District and has yet to convict a single shooter, beater, screamer or bully for hate in 2018’s record year of hatred. How can that be acceptable? And how can we hold U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu — appointed by hater in chief Donald Trump — accountable for her miserable record?
The District had its highest number of reported hate crimes last year: 204. That’s a year of gay men being beaten, black girls being threatened, transgender women being hurt, synagogues being harassed, Muslims being taunted and a Trump supporter smacked in a restaurant.
The upward trend tracks with the coarseness and growing divisions we see across the rest of the nation. But the big departure, reported this week by my colleagues Michael E. Miller and Steven Rich, is that they aren’t being held accountable for the hate.
The Post found that 59 cases led to arrests of adults in the more than 200 bias-motivated incidents investigated by police last year. Only three of those were prosecuted as hate crimes, and one of those cases was dropped. Not a single person has been convicted.
The bigots and bullies, in other words, are getting away with it.
It’s no surprise to Ruby Corado, who runs a shelter for LGBTQ folks in Washington. She has lived here for decades and says these past two years are among the worst she’s seen.
“They’re just getting so blunt,” Corado told me earlier this summer, when one of the transgender women she’d helped was gunned down. “It’s just out there. It used to be more isolated.”
That same week, a man came to their shelter with a gun, and two gay men she knew were beaten on busy U Street. All the aggressors were shouting homophobic slurs during the attacks.
“A lot of this is systemic,” she said. “While [the Metropolitan Police Department] has done a better job, when they go to the U.S. Attorney’s office, nothing happens,” she said.
Hate crimes may be difficult to prosecute, sure. You have to prove the crime occurred because of bigotry. But that doesn’t explain what’s going on in Washington.
In other cities where hate crime reports have gone up — Seattle, Brooklyn, Los Angeles — prosecutions have increased, too.
Liu, speaking at a forum at the Justice Department last month on combating anti-Semitism, said that sometimes, the odds of conviction are better when they don’t press a hate-crime charge.
“We take an all-tools approach,” she said. “If we can charge a hate crime, we certainly will. If for some reason we can’t, maybe not all the elements aren’t met, we look for other ways that we can address criminal conduct.”
She gave the example of a man arrested on firearms and controlled-substance charges — presumably alleged white nationalist Jeffrey Clark — who came to the attention of law enforcement because of his statements about sparking a race war.
But that ignores what hate crimes do to the people who experience them. And it doesn’t make vulnerable people feel like anyone’s got their backs.
This was especially the case for those friends of Corado’s attacked in June by at least a dozen people who began taunting them with homophobic slurs outside a U Street bar, then robbed and beat them.
Police arrested three of the alleged attackers — an adult and two younger teens. But the U.S. attorney’s office later dropped the charges against the adult, to the dismay of D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine.
“The alleged hate crime and robbery against the gay couple on U Street this past Sunday is deeply troubling and heartbreaking,” Racine wrote in a statement in June, after the attack. “Some members of the community were disheartened to learn that charges against the 19-year-old adult arrested in this case were dismissed.”
His office handles juvenile cases, but he isn’t allowed to say whether they’re prosecuting the two other teens.
D.C. officials held some community meetings after that case and got an earful from folks frustrated about the lack of punishment on hate crimes.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) wrote a letter to Liu after this.
“As you may know, the number of reported hate crimes in the District of Columbia almost doubled between 2016 and 2018. Many of these crimes were targeted at the LGBTQ community, especially transgender individuals. At a recent well-attended community forum, I learned that this community feels it is under siege. I agree,” she wrote. “As you are well aware, it takes only a few prosecutions to create a deterrent effect.”
Liu has declined all our requests for interviews on this. But Norton, in her letter, gave Liu 30 days to answer a list of questions explaining the lack of prosecutions. That was 33 days ago.
The U.S. attorney in the District doesn’t have to explain her actions to the voters of this city. She only has to answer to the Justice Department and to Trump. But Congress, which doesn’t hesitate to meddle in the District’s affairs on gun restrictions, marijuana laws and other policies, could start demanding some answers here.
It’s time for the Democrats who control the House of Representatives to bring Liu in for a hearing, so we can finally begin to serve hate its eviction notice.