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Reno tells prosecutors nationwide to combat hate crimes

October 13, 1998
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EDT (0310 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General Janet Reno said Tuesday she has told federal prosecutors across the United States to take steps to combat hate crimes in the wake of the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.

Shepard, who was openly gay, was severely beaten last week and died Monday at a Colorado hospital.

Reno said she has asked each U.S. Attorney's office to create a Hate Crime Working Group, comprised of community leaders as well as state and local law enforcement officials.

The Justice Department is working with local prosecutors through the National District Attorney's Association to improve cooperation in identifying, investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, Reno said.

She plans to meet Wednesday with leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay coalition, to discuss the fight against hate crimes and President Clinton's proposed legislation on the issue.

"Current federal law does not permit us to prosecute hate crimes based on an individual's gender, disability or sexual orientation," Reno said. "I urge Congress to pass the Hate Crime Prevention Act this week, which would close the gap in the law."

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