On Monday, August 14, Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation adding Community Centers to the definition of “public places”, allowing for identity-related attacks and threats to be treated as hate crimes under New York State’s criminal law.
The legislation, (A.7198A/S.5512) was introduced in April 2017 by Westchester Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and State Senator Patrick Gallivan. In March, Senator Latimer introduced similar legislation in the State Senate.
The legislation was prompted by bomb threats at Jewish community centers across the country, including threats made in Westchester County.
Under existing law, certain crimes, if perpetrated specifically because of beliefs regarding race, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation, can be prosecuted as “Hate Crimes”. Although many public places are currently covered by the law, community centers are not.
By prosecuting these charges as hate crimes, the punishment is made more severe. If a hate crime is alleged, the district attorney is able to increase the charge one level higher, so a low misdemeanor becomes a high one, and a high misdemeanor can be prosecuted as a hate crime felony.
Senator Latimer said, “I applaud my colleagues for moving this bill through the legislature so quickly, and I deeply appreciate Governor Cuomo signing it with such expediency. Our prosecutors need to have the appropriate tools to deal with these terrible crimes.”
The Latimer bill, S.5065-A, had a total of 28 Democratic co-sponsors in the State Senate.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin said, “The recent wave of hate and vitriol that has swept this state and this nation is intolerable and in New York, we stand strong with our values of tolerance, kindness and empathy. This new law will ensure that any individual who seeks to install fear into New Yorkers will be served justice-I commend Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation to protect everyone across New York State. “