Rampart senator introduces hate crimes bill

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Sen. Georgianna Lincoln introduced a hate crimes bill Friday that lets prosecutors file tougher charges against people who commit crimes motivated by prejudice.

Lincoln, D-Rampart, said existing state law doesn't do enough to punish those crimes.

She introduced the bill as both the Alaska Federation of Natives and the state House are calling for a federal civil rights investigation in the wake of recent paintball attacks against Alaska Natives in Anchorage.

Dean Guaneli, an assistant attorney general, said current Alaska law lets judges increase the sentence for a felony that is racially motivated. The law doesn't address misdemeanors such as the paintball attacks, though.

Guaneli said he assumes judges would consider that in misdemeanor sentencing, but it is a gap in the law.

Lincoln's bill would allow a separate charge to be filed if a crime is committed because of the victim's race, sex, color, creed, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, ancestry or national origin.

The bias charge would be tougher than the original charge. For instance, someone committing a class B misdemeanor could also face a class A misdemeanor charge, which allows for tougher penalties, if the crime was motivated by prejudice.

''That sends a strong message that we will not tolerate these acts of violence against certain people,'' Lincoln said.

The bill was introduced a day after the state House passed a resolution condemning the paintball attacks by three white teen-agers against Alaska Natives.

Lincoln is sponsoring a similar resolution in the Senate, but she said the law needs to be changed as well.

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