Man Charged With Hate Crime for Harassing Woman Wearing Puerto Rico Flag Shirt

joliet criminal defense attorneyAccording to Illinois law, a person can be charged with a hate crime when he or she commits certain offenses and is motivated by the actual or perceived characteristics of another person or a group of people. These characteristics include race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and disability status. The offenses that can be charged as hate crimes include assault, battery, intimidation, criminal trespass, theft, cyberstalking, and many others.

While it can be difficult to prove a person’s motivation for committing a particular crime in many cases, it is often much easier in others. Such seems to be the situation for a Chicago man whose interaction with a woman wearing a Puerto Rico flag shirt was caught on camera and resulted in hate crime charges against the man.

A Disturbing Account

The incident occurred in the Forest Preserves of Cook County and began making headlines when a video of the interaction went viral. In the video, a man can be seen approaching a young woman who was wearing a t-shirt that displayed the red, white, and blue Puerto Rican flag. The woman—who also filmed the encounter—was waiting for her family to help her celebrate her birthday.

The man told the woman that she should not wear a shirt that celebrates Puerto Rico if she is a U.S. citizen. “You should not be wearing that in the United States of America,” the man can be seen and heard saying. “Are you a citizen?” When the woman responded that she was a citizen, he said, “Then you should not be wearing that. You should be wearing a United States of America flag.” It seems that the man did not realize that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and its citizens are also American citizens.

A police officer arrived on the scene, but he did not take action or intervene in any way. The man continued to invade the woman’s personal space and to make comments about Puerto Rico.

Elevated Charges

In the wake of the video going public, the man was charged with disorderly conduct and misdemeanor assault. However, Cook County prosecutors formally announced two counts of hate crime charges. The lesser charges still stand for now, but they could be dropped in favor of the more serious counts. A hate crime committed at a public park such as the Forest Preserves is a Class 3 felony, and the man could face up to five years in prison for each count. Probation could also be an option, and prosecutors have not announced whether they would push for jail time.

The officer who did not take action on the scene has resigned. He had been placed on desk duty following the incident, but Forest Preserves announced last week that the officer is no longer with the department.

Facing Criminal Charges?

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is important to have a skilled Joliet criminal defense attorney on your side protecting your rights. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

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