Man Charged with Hate Crime After Allegedly Hanging Noose at Santa Ana Gay Rights Building

July 18, 2011

A transient was arrested recently in Santa Ana for allegedly hanging a noose in the doorway of a Southern California gay rights organization last October, The Orange County Register reports.

Hate crimes have gained national attention since 1998, when Matthew Shepard was killed in Wyoming because he was gay. California lawmakers, like many other states, have dedicated punishment for crimes based on the victim's characteristics. But it's possible that police and prosecutors may not be able to prove these felony charges in Orange County. That's why hiring an experienced Santa Ana Criminal Defense Attorney is important.

According to news reports, the 45-year-old man was on parole for assaulting a police officer and narcotics violations. he apparently was homeless. Last October, a noose was found hung in the doorway of Equality California, an advocacy group that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The organization worked out of an unmarked office in Santa Ana in a strip mall at the time.

Police said that DNA linked the suspect to the noose, police told the newspaper. The suspect allegedly admitted to putting the noose there, but didn't say why.

California Penal Code 422.6 makes it a crime to "by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise of enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of the United States in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim."

And "hate crime" is defined as discrimination based on disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with a person or group of those characteristics.

But while many may consider this case open and shut based on the DNA, prosecutors must prove that a crime was committed based on hatred or to intimidate the workers. Simply placing a symbol on a doorstep could be considered trespassing. And if the building wasn't marked as the newspaper article suggests, it may be difficult to prove hatred was involved.

And in many types of cases involving people charged with tough-to-comprehend crimes and sometimes with people who are homeless, the mental state of the person can be challenged. If an attorney can prove the person doesn't understand the court system, what the penalties are and how everything works, they may be deemed incompetent for trial. That would halt the trial and lead to mental health treatment and possibly working out a sentence based on mental health treatment rather than prison time.

This is speculative, but it does happen in cases like this. While DNA may have linked the man to a piece of rope that was fashioned into a noose, according to police, his statement may have done him in.

Santa Ana Criminal Defense Lawyers advise clients not to make a statement to police. They are legally allowed to lie to suspects during interrogations and it is their sole job to get a confession. Ask to speak with an attorney before making any statements and don't waive your rights.

If you are facing hate crimes charges or other felony charges in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. to discuss your options. Through three decades of experienced, Attorney LaBarbera has argued over 200 criminal trials and appeals. Call (714) 541-9668 for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Police: Parolee hung noose at gay-rights office, by Lou Ponsi, The Orange County Register