Why Children Should Not Be Charged With Hate Crimes

Wow.  And I thought the bullies at my school were bad.

Actually, on second thought, they were bad.  In fact they were just as bad if not worst than Osman Daramy, the 11-year-old alleged juvenile delinquent in the story linked.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I went to some pretty tough public schools when I was a kid and let me tell you, the stuff Daramy is accused of pretty much when on everyday at my middle school.  It’s just that no one, not the parents, not the teachers, not the school administrators, or even the students, ever thought to report this sort of bullying to the cops.  I mean, who knew you could get your bullies arrested?  If I had known that, my entire school would have been in the slammer.

Daramy was arrested in Staten Island after he and a 13-year-old female accomplice allegedly attacked and taunted another 13-year-old Muslim girl.  The alleged assault was supposedly sparked because the victim was Muslim.  Daramy apparently tried to rip off the victim’s hijab, a traditional Muslim headdress, outside of their middle school.

Daramy was charged with the usual assortment of juvenile assault-related crimes, with the sole exception that he’s also being charge with a hate crime because the attack was motivated by his supposed hatred of Muslims.  Reports indicate that Daramy’s mother is Muslim and that the defense he and his family has put forward is that this somehow negates the hate crime charge.

It doesn’t by the way.  However, the little punk has been very classy about the whole affair.  Despite being in more trouble than I, and I’m sure anyone his age, could have ever imagine at only 11 years old, Daramy was still able to muster the strength to give the old one-finger salute to the press while appearing in the Staten Island Family Court.  Combined with his mile-long rap sheet of disciplinary issues, Daramy appears to be just aching to kill off any sympathy the court might’ve had on him.

Though getting bullies arrested nowadays isn’t as novel as it was when I was a lad, what sets Daramy’s story apart is the hate crime he being charged with, which is very unique considering Daramy’s age.

Without bogging you down with a lot of legalese, in criminal law, in order to be successfully convicted of a crime, prosecutors must show that a defendant possessed both a certain level of intent to commit a crime in addition to committing the actual action itself.  There are varying levels of intent, which is called mens rea in the legal world.  But for purposes of convicting someone for a hate crime, federal statutes on point clearly indicate that a defendant must have acted willfully because of their respective hate for the victim’s race, religion, etc.

So what’s the problem?  Well, Daramy’s only 11 years old!  There’s a long-held convention in criminal law that children generally can never commit any criminal act with a mens rea beyond reckless because they’re kids and kids aren’t yet sophisticated enough to understand right or wrong.

However, this tenet isn’t always held sacred because as any trashy 20/20 special report will tell you, the government doesn’t necessarily have too many qualms charging minors as adults.  But in this case, it’s different because Daramy isn’t being charged as an adult.  In fact, the prosecutors are going after him as a juvenile; they’re just also saying that Daramy is capable of understanding and accepting his own hatred for another race to the point that he’s was able to channel it into a full-blown hate crime.  This is a much a harder pill for me to swallow.

Now I’m not going to try to deny or argue against the notion that the victim’s religious beliefs in no way served as the impetus for Daramy’s assault.  Nor will I try to discount the little delinquent’s actions by saying that he couldn’t have hated Muslims because his mom is Muslim.  No, there’s no need to address any of these mitigating factors because for argument’s sake, let’s just assume Daramy did beat up his victim because she was Muslim.  It still doesn’t change the fact that he’s a child.  Last time I checked, children seemed to be ruled almost entirely by primal pack-like emotions.  They may be capable of hate, but the problem is that most don’t understand why that hate exists or indeed may hate something due to entirely different reasons.

As much as I hate defending the little nightmare, it seems inconceivable to state that any child can ever truly understand the extent of their emotions and actions.  That’s why they’re children.  To use an old cliche, children are like clay waiting to be molded.  Though they are capable of acting based on their feelings, they’re not yet capable of understanding why they possess these feelings.  Children are inspired to act and think the way they do because of their environment, as well as what they are taught and told.

Now I’m not saying that Daramy was taught to hate, but if he was, then would that be sufficient reason to condemn him for a hate crime?  A child born into the Ku Klux Klan may be taught to hate minorities, but that child’s hate only exists because that’s all he or she knows.  It’s not his or her own thoughts, but rather what was put into him or her and adhered to because of the positive reinforcement received, whether from family or friends.  Daramy could’ve very well attacked this poor Muslim girl because she was Muslim, but that doesn’t mean Daramy was worldly enough to comprehend this reason.  And for this, charging him with a hate crime is ludicrous.

However, locking him up in a juvenile facility for all the crap he did, that’s perfectly fine by me.  It will hopefully teach him to reflect on his actions.

1 Response to “Why Children Should Not Be Charged With Hate Crimes”


    When such hate turns to crime, no one should be permitted to hide behind the fact that the criminal belongs to the class of people he hated: http://www.lasisblog.com/2011/04/15/moslem-boy-accused-of-hate-crime%e2%80%a6against-moslem-girl/

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