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Boston Hate Crime? Attackers’ Lawyer Says ’No’

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday February 28, 2012

Three lesbians were recently charged for a hate crime because they allegedly physically and verbally assaulted a gay man at a Boston subway station.

But civil liberties lawyer, Harvey Silverglate, says that the women cannot be convicted of a hate crime, the Boston Herald reported.

"My guess is that no sane jury would convict them under those circumstances, but what this really demonstrates is the idiocy of the hate-crime legislation," Silverglate said. "If you beat someone up, you're guilty of assault and battery of a human being. Period. The idea of trying to break down human beings into categories is doomed to failure."

Prosecutors argued that the defendant's sexual orientation does not matter and they can still face up to 10 years in prison for assault and battery with intent to intimidate.

"Someone who is Jewish can be anti-Semitic," ACLU staff attorney Sarah Wunsch, said. "The mere fact that someone is a member of the same class doesn't mean they could not be motivated by hatred for their very own group."

Prosecutors claim that the two sisters and one of their girlfriends, Lydia Sanford, punched and kicked a gay man after he bumped them with his backpack on a stairwell at the Forest Hills subway station, located in Dorchester -- a neighborhood of Boston.

The mother of two of the alleged attackers, Erika and Felecia Stroud, said the incident cannot be labeled as a hate crime because both her daughters are lesbians.

Lindsey Weinstein, the plaintiff's lawyer, said that the victim has a broken nose and that he told local authorities that he was attacked because he is gay as the attackers "called him insulting homophobic slurs."

Sanford's attorney Helene Tomlinson told the judge, however, that she "openly identified as a lesbian...so any homophobic (conduct) is unwarranted." Tomlinson also said that the victim was aggressor because he provoked the girls by using racial slurs.

"They don't know what his sexual orientation is, just like he doesn't know what theirs is," Felecia's attorney, C. Harold Krasnow said.

"The defendants' particular orientation or alleged orientations have no bearing on our ability to prosecute for allegedly targeting a person who they believe to be different from them," Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.