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Pair pleads guilty to hate crimes

As the nation observes the 50th anniversary of several seminal moments in the civil-rights movement, local focus has also shifted toward this topic. Two defendants accused of perpetuating hate crimes against an African-American family in Independence, Missouri, have pleaded guilty to the charges they faced. Authorities report the pair, a 25-year-old and 34-year-old woman, was accused of lighting the family's home on fire and intimidating the family with Nazi symbols.

The actions happened five years ago, in June 2008. They admitted that they displayed swastikas in various formats and also verbally harassed the family. Not only did the pair draw a swastika on the family's driveway, but they also threw a firebomb at the house. The homemade apparatus caused only minor damage and no one was hurt because of that alleged bombing, according to news reports.

The younger male defendant reportedly had suffered some brain injury in 2001 that may have affected his cognitive abilities. Still, a judge in the case persisted through the plea hearing, with the young man admitting that he was guilty and confirming that he understood the implications of that plea. The woman in the case also readily admitted her involvement in the incidents; she was visibly pregnant at the hearing. News reports have not listed potential sentences for the hate crimes, nor is there evidence that the pair reached plea bargains with prosecutors in the case. Both of the defendants are currently in custody. It is not clear whether they will be permitted to make bail.

Even though some individuals' alleged crimes seem difficult to accept, it is critical that we maintain a fair and unbiased justice system in our nation. Individuals who are accused of hate crimes deserve the same due process provided to any other defendant, including those arraigned on white-collar crimes, assault or burglary.

Source:, "Two plead guilty in Independence hate crime" Mark Morris, Aug. 28, 2013

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