Making CT Hate Crime Law Strongest in U.S.

March 16, 2017

Rep. Fleischmann speaks out against hate crimes and the need for tougher legislation.

Rep. Andy Fleischmann joined his colleagues in the legislature Thursday to announce comprehensive legislation to strengthen Connecticut’s hate crime laws to make them the strongest in the nation.

“A lot of people have heard about the threats to JCCs (Jewish Community Centers) across the country and there’s one in my town. When the threat was called in to the West Hartford JCC everyone was shaken. Not just members of the Jewish community but the whole broader community that uses that place as a place of gathering, so I applaud everyone who is here today for the sentiments that have been expressed and I look forward to working with everyone to make this legislation a release a reality,” Fleischmann told the press conference.

In recent months, incidents of hate including murders, assaults, bomb threats and vandalism have been directed against African-Americans, Hindu-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, Sikh-Americans, transgender women and others in West Hartford, in Connecticut and across America.

The Jewish Community Center in West Hartford received a bomb threat, as well as the Hebrew High School of New England across the street. Gravestones have been destroyed at the Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford. ‘Make America White Again’ fliers have been scattered in Norwalk. All of this happened in the past 10 weeks.

Among other provisions, Connecticut’s proposal would:

• Increase penalties, making it a felony (instead of a misdemeanor) for committing a hate crime against a group of persons (instead of a specific individual).

• Increase the penalty to a Class C felony (from a Class D felony) for making a bomb threat or other threat of violence against a house of worship, religious community center or other religious institution—or any daycare facility—if the threat is made with the intent to terrorize another person or to cause the evacuation of the building or grounds. This puts the penalty for such bomb threats on par with threats made against schools.

• Increase the penalty for desecrating any house of worship or any religious cemetery from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony if there is more than $10,000 in damage, or a Class D felony if there is less than $10,000 in damage.

• Establish a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for individuals convicted of hate crimes, and require such fines to be deposited into a fund for anti-hate crime education initiatives.