Memorial Day is a holiday in the United States when citizens remember the men and women who died while serving in the military, often visiting cemeteries and memorials to honor the fallen soldiers. Unfortunately, this past Memorial Day weekend, a southern Illinois cemetery was vandalized with images of swastikas painted on gravestones just days before Memorial Day. Those facing criminal charges related to vandalism should understand the potential consequences, especially if their activity could be considered a hate crime.
Man Charged With Vandalism and Hate Crimes, Among Other Things
A 34-year-old Glen Carbon man was arrested less than 24 hours after hundreds of swastikas were found to have been painted on multiple graves in Sunset Hill Cemetery and on homes and vehicles in nearby Edwardsville. The man, who lives near the cemetery, is being charged with 14 counts of criminal damage to property, four counts of hate crimes, three counts of institutional vandalism, and one count of violating the Cemetery Protection Act. The man is currently in police custody on two separate bonds of $100,000 each–one for the crimes committed in Glen Carbon and the other for the vandalism in the Edwardsville neighborhood.
Act of Vandalism Is Being Charged As a Hate Crime
Because the crime occurred days before Memorial Day services took place at the cemetery, many were keen to call this act of vandalism a hate crime. Most notably, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed their support of going forward with prosecution of the act as a hate crime, citing that the swastika is well known for being a universal symbol for hate.
Illinois Hate Crime Laws and Consequences
According to Article 12 of the Illinois Criminal Code, a hate crime takes place when a person commits any of the following crimes for a biased reason:
- Aggravated assault;
- Misdemeanor theft;
- Criminal trespass to residence or vehicle;
- Misdemeanor criminal damage to property;
- Mob action;
- Disorderly conduct;
- Harassment by telephone or through electronic communications; or
- Transmission of obscene messages.
- If a person commits a crime due any of the following reasons, it is a hate crime:
- Sexual orientation;
- Physical or mental disability; or
- National origin of a person or group of people.
The criminal code also states that a hate crime is a Class 4 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense. A first offense is classified as a Class 3 felony if the crime is committed in a:
- Church, synagogue, mosque, or other place for religious worship;
- Cemetery, mortuary, or other place used for burying or memorializing the dead;
- School or other educational facility; or
- Public park or an ethnic or religious community center.
A hate crime can also be charged as a Class 3 felony for a first-time offense if the crime was committed on public property within 1,000 feet of any of the aforementioned locations.
Man Faces Multiple Felony Charges
In the case of the Glen Carbon man, he is being charged with multiple felony charges for his crimes. His criminal damage to property charges are classified as Class 4 felonies, which carry a possible sentence of one to three years in jail. The hate crimes, institutional vandalism, and violation of the Cemetery Protection Act are all classified as Class 2 felonies, and each carry a possible sentence of three to seven years in jail.
Contact a Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney
Hate crimes are serious offenses, so if you are facing these charges, it is in your best interest to immediately contact a skilled Will County criminal defense lawyer. To schedule a free consultation, contact our office at 815-740-4025.