People gather and hold signs at a Vigil for Peace organized by Asian American Federation in Union Square in New York City on Friday, March 19, 2021. The Justice Department on Thursday released a report that said it only prosecuted 17% of hate crime cases between 2005 and 2019. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
July 8 (UPI) -- The Justice Department declined to prosecute 82% of suspects accused of committing hate crimes, according to a report released Thursday.
The Justice Department's report states that of the 1,864 suspects accused of committing a hate crime between 2005 and 2019, state lawyers only prosecuted 17% of them with 1% having been disposed of by U.S. magistrates.
The report states "insufficient evidence" as the most common reason for deciding against prosecution.
Of the 310 who were adjudicated, more than 90%, or 284 defendants, were convicted, the report states, adding that more than 85% of those convicted of a hate crime received an average prison sentence of 7.5 years with about 14% sentence to probation and 1% receiving suspended sentences.
The report by the Justice Department was published as the United States has experienced a seemingly increasing number of high-profile violent crimes that appear to be motived by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity -- the grounds for which one can be charged with a hate crime under the U.S. Criminal Code.
During the pandemic, hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have specifically seen an increase, according to statistics from Stop AAPI Hate, which showed in a May report that there were 3,795 self-reported incidents of discrimination and hate directed at Asian Americans between March 19, 2020, and February but that number almost doubled in March alone to 6,603.
That same month, eight people were killed, including six Asian women, during a shooting at three Atlanta spas. Robert Aaron Long has been charged with their deaths but not as a hate crime.
In response to the attacks, President Joe Biden in May signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to stop hate crimes against Asian Americans expediting the prosecution of hate crimes and reports of hate crimes.
Days later, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a six-step plan to combat acts of hate crime.
"All of these steps share common objectives: deterring hate crimes and bias-related incidents, addressing them when they occur, supporting those victimized by them and reducing the pernicious effects these incidents have on our society," he said in a department memorandum.