A New Orleans man has been arrested for using racial slurs against police, the first such arrest under Louisiana’s so-called “Blue Lives Matter” law, the New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting.
Raul Delatoba, 28, has been arrested and charged with a variety of offenses, including a hate crime for his use of racial slurs against police, for an incident that happened in the French Quarter on September 5.
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Police say that an intoxicated Delatoba was banging on a window and otherwise causing a ruckus at a Bourbon Street hotel. When police showed up to arrest him at about 5:15 a.m. Monday, he allegedly let loose with a stream of obscenities against hotel staff, witnesses, and the police.
The words “N****r” and “c**t,” among others, were used at police and witnesses. Specifically, Delatoba allegedly called an African American male officer a “dumb n****r” and called a female police officer a “dumb c**t.” Under Louisiana law, that makes his words hate crimes.
Louisiana is among 45 states (and the District of Columbia) to have laws against so-called “hate crimes.” Although specifics vary from state to state, hate crimes are regular crimes — such as assault or vandalism — with the added element of bias against a minority group, as defined by the FBI.
“A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a ‘criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.’ Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”
Louisiana has taken things a step further by adding police to the list of protected classes that can be victimized by hate crimes; the Louisiana statute is referred to as the “Blue Lives Matter” Law — a take on the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Delatoba’s arrest appears to be the first time the “Blue Lives Matter” law has been used to charge a person for hate crimes against police officers.
Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, tells the Times-Picayune that she’s not sure Delatoba’s hate crime charges will stick, saying she believes that his words are protected free speech under the First Amendment.
“While it’s horrible that the law enforcement officers had to encounter this behavior and hear these epithets, it’s not illegal.”
She’s also not convinced that prosecutors will be able to convince a jury that the New Orleans man’s actions were motivated by hate. “Proving a hate crime is tough,” she says.
To Louisiana State Representative Lance Harris, who sponsored the Blue Lives Matter legislation (which received wide, bi-partisan support in both chambers of the Louisiana legislature), the law is “an extra tool in their toolbox” when it comes to protecting police. It comes at a time when police have often been at odds with protesters – sometimes violent – in response to high-profile killings by police.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman, the spokesman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s Office, hasn’t yet decided if prosecutors will pursue the hate crime charges against Delatoba.
“Based up on that review, the office will make a determination whether or not to initiate formal charges, and which charges to initiate.”
Delatoba was scheduled to appear in court this week, but missed his appearance due to ongoing detox treatment. It is not clear when he will next appear in court.
Do you think using racist and sexist slurs against a police officer should be treated as a hate crime?
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