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Lawmakers seek to remove West Virginia hate-crimes statute

Lawmakers seek to remove West Virginia hate-crimes statute

Five Republican lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would remove West Virginia's hate-crimes statute, saying the focus should be on the crime, not the motive. West Virginia's hate-crimes law adds punishments for criminals who target victims for their race, religion, nationality, political affiliation, or gender. "If you commit a crime, it's the actual act of committing the crime, not the motive behind the act," said the bill's lead sponsor, Republican delegate John Overington. "We should treat each crime equally rather than looking at motives behind it and making somebody more guilty because their motive was a little different. That's what our hate-crimes bill does. It makes the actual criminal activity fair for everybody." But Democratic house majority leader Rick Staton suggested that the bill's sponsors get a lesson in race-inspired crimes. "I think these people ought to be taken to Selma, Ala., and try to explain the legislation to them," Staton said, referring to the police beating of civil rights demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March 1965 that left 17 blacks hospitalized as that march was turned back. "I think it's an outrage to do this [bill] in any day or time," Staton said. A bill description says the measure's intent is that everyone has the right to be free from violence without regard to the motivation behind the violence. Violators of West Virginia's hate-crimes law could face a fine of up to $5,000 or a prison term of up to 10 years, or both. Past efforts to expand the law to add protections for gays and the disabled have been unsuccessful. (AP)

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