Can a criminal act that inflicts extreme and emotional anguish on a person or persons based on their race or ethnicity, be considered a hate crime? Should it?
Apparently the Manhattan DA's office, charged with adjudicating the case of former New York weatherperson, Heidi Jones, for filing a false police report does not believe so. It has recently been reported that her attorney and the District Attorney's office is working out a "no jail" resolution for her crime.
Ms. Jones' creation of a fictitious "Hispanic" assailant was a conscious, deliberate choice which has serious implications that should not be ignored. We may not know how many NYPD man-hours were spent investigating her false accusation. And we may not know how many innocent Latino males were stopped, frisked, harassed or interrogated by the police before Ms. Jones' story began to fall apart. But we do know those numbers should have been zero. According to statistics, we also know that tens of thousands of innocent black and Latino males, young and old, are routinely stopped and frisked because they allegedly "fit the description," or is a "person of interest" in an ongoing police investigation. And this fictional attack against Ms. Jones in Central Park by this phantom "Hispanic male" feeds an ugly, neverending, convenient stereotype.
Hopefully we are over the days of white mobs burning down black communities and killing innocent black families over false allegations of white women accusing black men of rape. However, when white South Carolina mother, Susan Smith, murdered her two children and white Massachusetts husband, Charles Stuart murdered his wife, they both reported being carjacked - Smith claiming a black man drove off with her two children, Stuart claiming he and his wife were shot by a black man. When the news media inundated the airwaves with these stories, lost in their coverage was the havoc rained down upon innocent black men, as law enforcement searched for non-existent suspects, before the claims of the murderers began to unravel.
In New York, black Hip-Hop artists have been jailed, or are awaiting jail terms for illegal gun possession. Former NY Giant Wide Receiver, Plaxico Burress, currently in jail for gun possession drew high profile calls for his incarceration - one by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to show that celebrities do not get special treatment. However, the wife of television anchorman, Lou Dobbs, and entertainer Harry Connick Jr. did not receive similar public disdain, or jail time, for their New York gun possession charge. Apparently, it is black celebrities that do not get special treatment in New York.
Now the New York justice system is poised to continue its very long tradition of race-based special treatment. Heidi Jones' crime has a long and storied American history. It has spawned hatred and violence against innocent victims. It has cost lives and reputations - and it is a crime that needs to be more appropriately and severely punished. This heralded young woman was a news personality for a major market television affiliate of a major American communications corporation. This Heidi is not some curly-topped, orphaned Shirley Temple that should be sent home to live with her grandfather. She should be sent to jail.