Number of federal hate crime prosecutions in the District rose in 2019

The number of prosecutions for hate crimes in the District in 2019 outpaced the number from the previous two years combined.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. pursued hate crime charges in seven incidents as of December 25, compared to five incidents from both 2017 and 2018, The Washington Post reported last week. Some officials and activists said they view the increase as a positive sign, but others characterized the increase as unsurprising in light of record-high reports of hate crimes in the District this year, The Post reported in August.

“It’s underwhelming to try to celebrate an increase of a handful of cases being prosecuted as hate crimes when we are seeing this dramatic increase,” Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen said.

Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney for D.C., said at a community forum during the summer that she hired additional personnel to concentrate specifically on prosecuting hate crimes.

Five of the seven prosecutions were filed after The Post published an investigation in August highlighting the decrease in hate crime prosecutions in 2019, even as reported incidents of hate crimes rose. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office denied any connection between the filing increase and The Post’s reporting.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said the increase in prosecutions is “good news” but added that District residents should be allowed to elect its own prosecutor, instead of receiving one appointed by President Donald Trump. All U.S. attorneys are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

“The one thing people want when it comes to local crime is someone who is responsive to them,” she said.

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