Senate backs narrowly crafted hate crimes bill

Posted: Monday, May 07, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- State senators approved a bill Sunday that would waive juveniles to adult status for committing certain hate crimes, but refused to add sexual orientation to the list of factors that could trigger the provision.

Senate Bill 169, sponsored by Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, would waive to adult status minors who are at least 16 years old who are charged with violent felonies committed because of the victim's race, sex, color, creed, physical or mental disability, ancestry or national origin..

The bill is a reaction to a drive-by paintball shootings that targeted Alaska Natives in January. The attack was videotaped by one of the participants.

Three white youths were taken into custody in the incident. The only adult in the group, Charles Wiseman, who was 19 at the time, has been charged with seven counts of misdemeanor assault. Two 17-year-old boys faced possible proceedings in juvenile court. Neither their names nor any consequences were made public.

''Even though it was a heinous offense, their names could not be published,'' said Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell.

Democrats criticized Donley's bill for being incomplete.

Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, said the bill addresses only a tiny portion of the population. She said hate crime legislation she introduced, as well as that authored by Gov. Tony Knowles, has not received a hearing this session.

''We have to look at it in a comprehensive mode, not piecemeal,'' she said.

Democrats noted that Donley's bill have had no effect on the juveniles in the January incident since not even the adult in the case was charged with a felony.

Donley replied that prosecutors continue to look for victims in the case and that felony charges still could be filed.

Lincoln began debate by trying to amend Donley's bill to include people who could be targeted for their sexual orientation.

''We have to recognize if we are targeting hate crimes, then sexual orientation is one of those that must be addressed,'' Lincoln said.

Donley said the language matched what is already in state law for aggravating factors judges can consider in sentencing.

''We just wanted a parallel to that law instead of creating a whole new issue,'' Donley said.

Lincoln's amendment failed 12-7. Sens. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, and Randy Phillips, R-Eagle River, voted with five Democrats to include sexual orientation as a factor.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

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