Make no mistake about it: What these four young men did was disgusting. They lured a homosexual man to a remote location with the promise of sex, then tried to rob him. The victim ran into traffic to escape the attack, and now he’s in critical condition.
Police are now investigating whether this is a “bias crime,” though, and that’s where the trouble starts.
I usually don’t have that much of a problem with hate crime legislation. Burning a cross in a black family’s yard is something a little worse than “trespassing” or “harassment.” And the argument that hate crimes laws give extra protection to minorities is bogus; the laws only apply when minorities are attacked for being minorities. There is also a credible argument that hate crimes intimidate the entire racial/orientation/whatever community, where regular crimes hurt primarily the individuals victimized.
But when you get into serious crimes like murder, rape or physical attack resulting in critical-condition injuries, the punishment should be unrelentingly severe no matter what the motives of the attacker. “Hateful murder,” “hateful rape” and “hateful assault” are redundant terms.
These four men should be punished for aggravated assault (aggravated because they essentially forced him into traffic), attempted robbery, possibly battery (the injuries were presumably caused by a car, not by the attackers directly, not sure how that works) and any other charges that apply. Then, they should be forced to pay the victim for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering (either through victims compensation or a civil lawsuit).
None of this depends on a “hateful” motive. If the same thing happened to someone else for a different reason, the punishment should be no less severe. At this level of offense, it’s insulting to care whether personal bias or bigoted bias set off the unprovoked, life-threatening attack.
On a completely unrelated note, I think this situation shows the dangers of promiscuity, as the attack was only possible because someone made himself vulnerable to complete strangers. No one should go through what happened to this victim, but too often political correctness stops us from pointing out when victimization is avoidable. Saying that a person’s behavior can affect his or her chances of being hurt is not the same as saying victims deserve it.
Finally, some future details will be important. For one, if the four men only wanted the money — coming on to gay men online was just their way of setting up a robbery — I don’t think “hate crime” will apply.
Also, I’ll be interested to see how the issue of running into traffic pans out. The victim obviously fled because of the attack, but it’s not clear whether the robbers informed him they only wanted his money. One could then argue the attackers weren’t completely to blame for the victim putting his life at risk.
Robert VerBruggen blogs at http://robertsrationale.blogspot.com.