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Boulder,
Colo., group wants to crack down on hate crimes

Boulder,
Colo., group wants to crack down on hate crimes

A group concerned about several race-based incidents wants the Boulder, Colo., city council to pass an ordinance it says will prevent hate crimes from slipping through the cracks of the legal system. "We want the city of Boulder to demonstrate, not just with rhetoric but with action, that it takes these kinds of crimes seriously and take some ownership over the situation," said Bill Cohen, spokesman for Community United Against Hate. Civil libertarians say the idea may go too far because it does not require an assault but could even be used to prosecute someone for speech. 'We should prosecute the action, not the thought, not the intent, not the speech," said Carla Selby, former chairwoman of the Boulder American Civil Liberties Union chapter. A Boulder man, Philliip Martinez, is facing prosecution under the state's hate-crime law for allegedly assaulting a University of Colorado student, Andrew Sterling, because of his race, breaking his jaw. Colorado law bans ethnic intimidation, which can be used in cases in which assault likely was driven by racial, religious, or other prejudice. Cohen said the law needs to be broadened so that less-violent incidents are punished with longer sentences, perhaps by prosecution in municipal court. For example, a suspect accused of writing graffiti could be given a longer sentence if the writing appeared to be the result of racial or ethnic prejudice. It also would cover physical or mental impairment or sexual orientation. Selby said graffiti is a good example of why this would be a bad law. "You can't enhance the penalty because someone wrote something you don't like." The proposed ordinance will be discussed by the city's Human Relations Commission on Monday night. (AP)

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