Ahmaud Arbery Verdict Highlights Gaps In Local Hate Crime Enforcement

Police Accountability, Racial Justice


Jury Verdict Convicting Ahmaud Arbery’s Murderers of Hate Crimes Highlights Harmful Disparities In Local Hate Crime Enforcement

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) applauds the jury verdict that found Ahmaud Arbery’s killers – Travis and Gregory McMichael and William Bryan – guilty of hate crimes, subjecting the three men to life in prison. However, this successful hate crime prosecution at the national level highlights the harmful disparities in hate crime enforcement locally. Just last week, the Boston Municipal Court’s lenient sentencing of a white assailant who perpetrated a violent hate crime against a Latina mother and her teenage daughter in East Boston sent shockwaves through the community. In an incident that garnered national attention, the white assailant targeted the mother and daughter for speaking Spanish and physically attacked them while yelling: “Go back to your country” and “This is America, speak English.” These hate crimes are part-and-parcel of an alarming spike in racial violence across the Commonwealth and nationally

In this case, the victims requested that the assailant’s sentencing encompass a two-year period of probation along with 100 hours of community service to be fulfilled by volunteering with the immigrant community impacted by the hate crime. 

On Friday, February 18, the Boston Municipal Court heard heart-wrenching testimony concerning the physical and emotional trauma inflicted on the victims. Despite egregious facts and poignant victim statements, the court only sentenced the assailant to probation for 15 months. The court declined to impose community service noting that the hate crime perpetrator was an “adult” in an “adult court”. The court’s statements suggest an unfounded assumptions surrounding the maturity of the perpetrators. But the brutality of the attack evinces a lack of maturity, compassion, and empathy. The court met racism and bigotry with leniency and tolerance.  

“The court’s failure to impose meaningful community service underscores how far the judicial system still has to go in appropriately handling hate crimes at a time when racial tensions are at an all time high. Many victims of hate crimes never receive justice at all,” said Myraida Melendez, an attorney at LCR who is providing legal support to the victims.

“As an East Boston resident with a Spanish-speaking mother, I was heartbroken by the court’s sentencing. To be in the room when the court failed to denounce this level of violence and hatred made me fear for the security of my community. We all deserve to feel safe where we call home,” said Silvana Gómez, a paralegal at LCR. 

As the criminal phase of the case comes to a close, Lawyers for Civil Rights will explore civil legal remedies against the assailant. 

If you have been the victim of a hate crime, please contact Lawyers for Civil Rights at (617) 482-1145 or office@lawyersforcivilrights.org.

Click here to download the Daughter’s impact statement.

Click here to download the Mother’s impact statement.