"One of the best decisions I had ever made"
- Joseph Lugo
Hate crimes are not a joke.
In Ohio, a number of teens participated in a disturbing “prank” targeting a 15-year-old with autism. The teenage Ohio boy thought he was doing the popular Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS Awareness, but the other teens put human waste and cigarette butts inside the bucket instead. The group of teens used the boy’s own phone to tape the horrendous act and then they put it up on Instagram, reported the New York Daily News (9.9.14).
In the video, the boy with autism is seen standing in the driveway of a home. He’s wearing only underwear as the bucket of fluid is poured from the roof of a garage.
The incident occurred in Bay Village, Ohio. Bay Village Police Chief Mark Spaetzel said five people involved in the fake Ice Bucket Challenge had been identified.
Since the video was released some advocacy groups across the country, such as the National Autism Association have begun a Twitter Trend with #justiceforautism to remind the public this is more than bullying, this is a hate crime.
The FBI defines a hate crime as ““criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”
The response to this act was strong across the Internet. “These kids need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. If they are made an example of what not to do to another human being and one with special needs is even more of a reason,” said Examiner.com (9.6.14). A commentator on Cleveland.com wrote: “”I hope these heartless punks get the book thrown at them. In my opinion, they should be charged with a hate crime.”
Potential punishment won’t be known until the police investigation is complete.
The act may not qualify as a hate crime under current Ohio state law which includes hate crimes based on race, religion, or national origin, but not disability. It is believed that the action of these five teens may ignite new Ohio law to protect other individuals in the future. However, although state laws vary, current statutes permit federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person’s protected characteristics of disability, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In New York, hate crimes are defined because their victims were targeted due to their real or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.
According to the Hate Crime Statistics Program of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, in 2012 were 102 reported hate crime offenses committed based on disability bias. Of these offenses, 82 were classified as anti-mental disability and 20 were reported as anti-physical disability.
ALS is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The New York Daily News article is “Cops identify bullies who poured urine, feces on autistic teen in sick Ice Bucket Challenge.”
The Examiner.com article is “Bullying Autism Turns into Hate Crimes.”