Should the law treat cyber-hate and/or hate crimes any differently when committed online rather than offline?

Review the two case summaries below and then write a 1 -2 page analysis in response to these questions.

  1. Should the law treat cyber-hate and/or hate crimes any differently when committed online rather than offline?
  2. If you were the judge presiding on these cases would you have ruled differently? Why or why not?
  3. If Richard Machado wasn’t caught when he was, do you think his hatred would have escalated to violence and death similar to the  Matthew Shepard tragedy?

CASE 1.
MATTHEW SHEPARD CASE

Mathew Shepard was a 21-year-old college student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. On October 12, 1998, he died, in part, because he was a homosexual. On October 6, 1998, two men in their early twenties entered a local bar, where Shepard was already drinking. The men, pretending to be gay, approached Shepard who eventually left with them. The men then drove him to a deserted area, where they tied him to a fence and pistol-whipped him until his skull collapsed. They took his wallet and shoes and obtained his address so that they could rob his apartment. Shepard was discovered 18 hours later, still tied to the fence. He never regained consciousness. The pair were charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery. Both men plead guilty to the charges and were sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences, escaping a possible death sentence. See supplemental reading material link on the home page for more information relating to the Matthew Shepard case.

CASE 2.
RICHARD MACHADO CASE

Richard Machado, at age 19, was the first individual to be convicted of a federal electronic mail (email) hate crime. On September 20th, 1996, Machado sent a threatening hate message to 59 students of a particular race at UCI (University of California at Irvine), via email. The “To:” field in the following email has been omitted in order to protect the privacy of individual recipients. You can see the email message with all its SMTP headers (but not recipients) in the case section. Due to the offensive language in the original email, some of the words have been modified.

Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 10:58:55 -0700
From: “Mother F***** (specific race)” <mf*****@uci.edu>
To: {recipient list omitted to protect privacy of individuals}

Subject: F*** Y** You (specific race) S**t

Hey Stupid F***er

As you can see in the name, I hate (specific race), including you. If it weren’t for all of you at UCI, it would be a much more popular campus. You are responsible for ALL the crimes that occur on campus. YOU are why I want you and your stupid ass comrades to get the f*** out of UCI. IF you don’t I will hunt you down and kill your stupid asses. Do you hear me? I personally will make it my life career to find and kill everyone one of you personally. OK?????? That’s how determined I am.

Get the f*** out,
MOther F***** (specific race)

Machado’s trial was set for November 25th, 1996. Machado then agreed to participate in several public forums in which he apologized for his action. He attended these forums and did, in fact, apologize at them.

A few days later, Richard Machado received a call from his brother, asking about an article in the local paper in which Machado was identified as being responsible for an email hate crime. Machado denied his involvement, claiming that the perpetrator must have been someone else with a similar name. Shortly thereafter, Machado disappeared. On November 14th, 1996, a stolen vehicle report was filed at the Police Department for the City of Irvine. The report described Machado as having taken his roommate’s car without asking.

On November 18th, 1996, the FBI joined in aiding the investigation of the stolen car and it was revealed that Machado had also been suspected of other incidents: 1) $80 was missing from a third roommate’s coin jar; 2) $154 Visa charges had been made to the roommate’s card, of which $54 were unauthorized phone calls on November 10th, 11th and 12th, 1996.

Finally, on February 6th, 1997, Richard Machado was arrested. A United States Immigrations Inspector caught Machado attempting to cross the border at Nogalas, Arizona back into the U.S. from Mexico, where Machado had allegedly been looking for construction work. Machado was charged with 10 counts of violating the Federally Protected Activities Act of 1968 that makes it a crime to use race, ethnicity or nationality to interfere with a federally protected activity (in this case, students attending a public university).

Throughout the trial, various pieces of information concerning Machado’s background emerged as useful evidence. His eldest brother was killed in an armed robbery. His grades were failing as a result of his difficulty dealing with the death, and Machado was dismissed from school. He continued to tell his parents that he was still a student for three months, though, because he was the first child in his family to attend college and felt pressure to do well.

The defense in the trial portrayed Machado as a troubled and bored student who was simply trying to gain attention by his behavior. The prosecution pointed out the direct threats of death; the fact that the email was not sent to a mailing list, but to a group of individuals with this specific races’ names, individually identified; to Machado’s history of sending email death threats; and to the impact of the threats on the lives of some of the recipients.

On February 13th, 1998 Machado was found guilty on 2 counts of civil rights violations. Following his conviction, Machado was released on a $10,000 bond from custody, but was soon turned over to Irvine police on pending auto theft charges. Machado’s sentencing was postponed until April 10th, 1998. He was sentenced to serve1 year in prison. Machado had already spent 1 year in jail awaiting his trials, and so was free to go. Machado was placed on probation, fined $1,000, required to attend anger and racial tolerance counseling, was not allowed on the UCI campus, was to have no contact with the victims, and was banned from computer usage on the UCI campus. He later violated his probation, and was sentenced to spend four months in a federal halfway house. At last report, Machado was living in Long Beach CA (a neighboring community) with his mother and working for a temporary employment agency.

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