Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans Escalating in Seattle
by Lewis & Laws
According to the Seattle Times, a fifty-one-year-old man, Christopher Hamner, was recently charged with a hate crime. Hamner was accused of screaming profanities and throwing items at cars in two separate incidents. The driver and passengers in both cars were Asian women and children. Hamner remains in jail until his $75,000 bond is paid. The allegations against Hamner seem to coincide with a rise over the past year in Asian hate crimes both locally and nationally, largely due to the prior administration’s characterization of Covid as the “China flu.”
The Seattle Times reported that Anti-Asian hate crimes rose an alarming 33 percent between 2019 and 2020 in the city of Seattle, rising 149 percent during the same timeframe in the country’s largest cities. The first incident involved an Asian woman driving with her two children in a Hillman City neighborhood in Seattle. The woman was waiting at a red light on South Graham Street when she saw a man aggressively walking toward her, screaming expletives regarding her Asian heritage.
The man was yelling for the woman to “Get out,” as he threw items from his pockets at her vehicle. The woman had her 10-year-old daughter shoot a video of the man on her phone, then as soon as the light changed, the woman turned left on MLK Jr. Way South, pulling into a business to dial 911 and report the incident.
Hamner works at the Veterans Affairs hospital; the woman uploaded the photos and video to social media and Hamner was quickly identified as the suspect as police compared the photos to Hamner’s DMV photo. Three days later, two women driving on Beacon Avenue South saw a driver to their right watching them in a suspicious manner. That driver then stopped in front of her in the middle of the street, opening his car door and yelling expletives and the word “Asian.”
The woman pulled into a parking space and looked into her rearview mirror to see the man charging her vehicle. She immediately locked all the car doors and rolled up her windows. The man threw another item at the car before it drove away. In this case, the woman’s dashboard camera captured the license place of Hamner.
Hate Crimes in Seattle
In the state of Washington, a condition sets some criminal offenses apart from others—i.e., the person’s inclination against the other person (the one that is the victim of the offense). If national origin, gender, sexual orientation, ancestry, religion, color, race, a physical disability, a mental disability, or a sensory disability motivates the criminal offense, it becomes a hate crime, or, under Washington law, Malicious Harassment.
Hate crimes are aggressively prosecuted in the state of Washington—more so than many other criminal offenses. So, any crime that uses threats motivated by bias and bigotry is deemed a hate crime. This means that hate crime charges can be added to any other charged criminal offense. Hate crimes in the Seattle area can include malicious harassment if sufficient cause exists to believe the actions were motivated by bigotry or personal bias.
A person or group of people must have a reasonable fear of harm to their person or property. Words in and of themselves are not sufficient for charges of Malicious Harassment to be filed against a defendant. To make the charges stick, a reasonable person must believe the words used were a direct threat with a high probability that the defendant was going to carry through with his or her threats.
There is no valid defense by the defendant when they say they were mistaken about the victim belonging to a protected group. As a Class C felony in the state of Washington, Malicious Harassment is a very serious criminal offense. Punishments can range from up to five years in state prison, and a fine as large as $10,000—or both. It is extremely important that you immediately speak to a knowledgeable Seattle criminal defense attorney if you are facing this type of charge.
Contact Our Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you have been arrested and charged with a hate crime in Washington, it is important to understand the severity of the crime. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers know that things are volatile right now and prosecutors are quick to charge individuals with hate crimes. That is why you need a lawyer on your side from the very moment you are arrested.
At Lewis & Laws, PLLC, we have defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Kirkland, and throughout the state of Washington. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our confidential contact form. Call us today!