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Reno calls for tougher hate crimes law

Janet Reno
Reno says crimes based on race, religion and sexual orientation are "the top three reported hate crimes" in the country  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno urged Congress to pass broader hate crime legislation in the final days of the session.

In her weekly news briefing Thursday, Reno said that Hate Crimes Prevention Act would give the federal government more authority to prosecute hate crimes and expand them to include sexual orientation, gender and disabilities.

"Hate crimes based on sexual orientation are among the three top reported hate crimes after race and religion," Reno said. "Our laws should not ignore that reality."

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Reno said that both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to attach the measure to the Department of Defense appropriations bill, but it was later dropped. She said lawmakers should pass the hate crime bill along with one of the remaining appropriations bills.

"Congress cannot outlaw hatred but it should do everything it can to combat hate motivated violence before it goes out of session," she said.

Reno said that under the new law, state and local authorities would continue to handle most hate crime investigations and prosecutions but federal authorities would have the jurisdiction to provide greater assistance.

"In some instances, local prosecutors and investigators do not have the resources to proceed and it is a difficult process trying to make sure there is funding. In other instances there's an unwillingness to proceed," Reno said.

"I don't think anybody should be able to escape justice for serious crimes because of an inability to afford a proper investigation and prosecution," she said.

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee also was at the meeting and said the White House supports a proposal to compensate local jurisdictions for the costs of holding long and expensive hate crime trials.

Reno rejected the argument that all crimes are hate crimes and that hate crime laws send a message that some victims are more important than others.

"Hate crimes are different than other crimes because they are not just crimes against individual victims: the victim is only selected because of a group to which they belong," she said.

Reno also answered questions about the FBI's role in the investigation of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.

She said that U.S. investigators have established a good working relationship with Yemen police and are doing everything possible to assist in the probe.

"I want to make sure we do everything we can to support the Yemeni police and that we have the people on the scene that are necessary to support all investigative efforts," Reno said.

She also described meeting the families of the 17 sailors killed in the bombing during Wednesday's memorial service in Norfolk, Virginia, and talking to the sailors who were wounded.

"The American people should be so proud of the U.S. Navy. These are fine young people and they were brave, and what those who were injured wanted to do was to get back and support their shipmates," Reno said.

Police suspect hate crimes in Chicago attacks
October 13, 2000
Reporting hate crimes presents dilemma for many officials
October 5, 2000
President Clinton urges Congress to pass hate crimes bill
September 13, 2000
Attorney Morris Dees pioneer in using 'damage litigation' to fight hate groups
September 8, 2000
Parents of slain gay African-American request federal investigation
July 20, 2000
Parents call murder of gay son a hate crime
July 9, 2000
Supreme Court takes on hate crimes, Miranda warnings
June 26, 2000
Supreme Court says only juries can decide motive in hate crimes
June 26, 2000
Report: Hate groups fewer in number, but larger in size
March 15, 2000

RELATED SITES: Conference on Hate Crimes
Letter From the Attorney General: Hate Crimes
U.S. Dept. of Justice: Hateful Acts Hurt Kids
Human Rights Campaign
FBI's Uniform Crime Reports - Hate Crime Statistics Hate crime legislation
Police Executive Research Forum

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