Friday, December 14, 2007

FBI Investigating To Determine If Beatdown Of White Middle School Student Evelyn Higgins In Hawaii Is A Hate Crime

It looks like we're seeing an increasing trend of crimes by nonwhites against whites being considered hate crimes. Of course, the entire notion of hate crimes is bogus; these are already crimes to start with. But if they insist on imposing hate crime accountability, at least do it equitably.

And the FBI is reviewing police reports and other records to determine whether a violent incident involving two 12-year-old girls at Waiakea Intermediate School may qualify as a federal hate crime after one or more girls at the school allegedly called the victim a "fucking haole." Full story published December 14th, 2007 in the Honolulu Advertiser. Previous post HERE.

Evelyn Higgins (pictured above left), 12, suffered a four-inch gash to her head in the November 15th incident, and has alleged her attacker grabbed her hair from behind and slammed her head repeatedly against a concrete wall.

During a November 29th radio interview about the incident, Higgins described a series of escalating exchanges at the school involving a group of "popular" girls who repeatedly asked Higgins about her light-colored eyebrows in a mocking way. In one angry exchange the day before the assault, Higgins said one or more of the girls used the racial epithet to describe Higgins.

When radio interviewer Tiffany Edwards Hunt asked Higgins if she believes she was targeted because of her skin color, Higgins replied: "Totally, because all of the girls who were, like, mocking me about my eyebrows and were all mad at me were Hawaiian, and none of them were haole." But it is not clear from the radio interview if the girl who used the racial remark is the same girl who attacked Higgins, and Higgins was unavailable for comment.

Another Waiakea Intermediate School student disputed Higgins' account, alleging Higgins and the other girl were exchanging blows when Higgins tripped and hit her head on a wall.

Anastasia Fontes, a longtime friend of the other girl involved in the incident, also said Higgins was part of a group of Caucasian girls who had been calling other girls names such as "lesbian," "ho" and "slut." Higgins has acknowledged she called the other girl a "slut" during one of the exchanges, and the school imposed a one-day suspension for that remark.

Fontes and her mother Arlette Fontes said the girl accused of attacking Higgins was suspended for 64 days, a penalty they believe is too severe. Anastasia Fontes was also suspended for three days for a confrontation with Higgins.

Arlette Fontes said the girls involved in the confrontations with Higgins were mixed race themselves. "They make it sound like it was a hate crime against the haole girl just because it was a local girl against a Caucasian girl," Arlette Fontes said.

Higgins said in her radio interview that she believes her attacker should be expelled. School officials have not said publicly what punishments were imposed on the girls.

Big Island police Lt. Randall Medeiros said the school resource officer on campus was summoned to the scene of a reported fight between two girls on November 15th and found one of the girls with an obvious head wound and bleeding profusely.

The case was initially classified as a misdemeanor assault, but as police learned more about the incident it was re-classified as a felony second-degree assault case, Medeiros said. The investigation has been completed, and the case was referred to county prosecutors on December 5th, he said.

Higgins' father Jeff Higgins has said publicly he planned to ask the FBI to investigate the case as a hate crime, but Anthony Lang, chief division counsel for the FBI in Honolulu, declined to say what prompted the federal agency to review the case.

Lang said the FBI is at the early stages of reviewing the incident, and "we really look hard and closely at the facts before we initiate any hate crime investigation." It is up to the U.S. Attorney's office to decide when to pursue a case as a hate crime, Lang said, adding that simply making a racist comment during an assault does not necessarily amount to a hate crime. Under federal law, there needs to be intimidation, threat or actual violence, and prosecutors have to prove that intimidation, threat or violence was motivated by bias because of race, gender or sexual orientation. And for federal prosecution, investigators must also show the incident involved a federally protected activity, such as commerce or school attendance, he said.

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