In response to an alarming surge in hate crimes in New York and nationwide, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) recommends empowering the state Attorney General to dissolve domestic or foreign entities that are proven to provide material or financial support to terrorists and bar any remaining funds from being disbursed to individuals or organizations associated with those entities.
NYSBA also suggests that the offenses that qualify for eavesdropping and video surveillance warrants to be expanded to include hate crimes. State law now allows such warrants to be issued on terrorism and domestic terrorism offenses under the Neumann Act but not under the Hate Crimes Statute. NYSBA further supports mandating counseling and training as part of any sentence imposed on individuals convicted of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
These recommendations were included in a report of the Task Force on Domestic Terrorism and Hate Crimes approved by the association’s House of Delegates today.
“The recommendations outlined in this substantial and comprehensive report will help rid our state of the scourge of hate crimes,” NYSBA President Scott M. Karson said. “The work done by the members of this task force in a few short months is remarkable, and we will work to make their suggestions a reality.”
The task force, chaired by Carrie H. Cohen, a partner at Morrison & Foerster and former Assistant United State Attorney for the Southern District of New York, examined the factors that led to the surge in hate crimes seen over the past year. The task force included leaders of the bench and bar as well as experts on civil rights and criminal justice.
“Pervasive and insidious racism and race-based intolerance are grave injustices that cannot be tolerated. Hopefully, this report can contribute to ensuring that people of every skin color, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation in New York are safe and adequately protected from hate crimes and violence,” Cohen said. “Concrete action is needed now more than ever given the recent hate-based rhetoric related to COVID-19 and the demand for systemic change to combat racial injustice.”
The report also recommends further study of the Neumann Act, passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo this past April. Rabbi Josef Neumann was severely injured and four others were wounded in a knife attack during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey on Dec. 28, 2019. Neumann remained in a coma until his death on March 29.
The report recommends further study of the following areas:
- Possible amendment of New York’s definition of material support to bring it in conformance with federal law, thereby enhancing the state’s ability to prosecute terrorism.
- Reviewing New York’s civil rights and human rights laws for possible civil causes of action for hate crimes and domestic terrorism, including a cause of action for discrimination or hate-based violence.
The report also recommends:
- Amending New York’s not-for-profit, business corporation and limited liability laws to allow the New York State Attorney General to dissolve domestic or foreign entities that are used to provide material or financial support to terrorists or terrorist organizations and prevent recovery of property from entities that support terrorism.
- Allocating state resources to train prosecutors and law enforcement officers on how to best investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
- Updating the New York State Attorney General’s hate crimes manuals as an aid to prosecutors across the state.
- Increasing attention to COVID-based hate crimes.