New Indiana Hate Crime Bill Shows Progress

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Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana businesses have made it clear they want Indiana to make changes regarding how they treat hate crimes. As one of five states to not have biased or hate crime legislation, lawmakers are working to fix that.

On Jan. 3, 2019, Avon Republican Rep. Greg Steuerwald filed House Bill 1093, effective on July 1, 2019. This bill will allow judges to consider a crime an aggravating circumstance (thus allowing the judge to impose a harsher sentence) if the crime committed was because of bias and an intent to harm or intimidate a party based on, “the individual's or the group's real or perceived characteristic, trait, belief, practice, association, or other attribute the court chooses to consider.”.

The bill has drawn some criticism for the vague way it is written, as people want the bill to give judges clear language on how to treat hate crimes.  

Steuerwald defended the bill’s non-specific language, saying that he wrote it in a way that would leave nobody out. He also stated that it was written in such a way that lawmakers will not have to go back and keep adding protected groups as they pop up. The language of the bill will also help it be passed easier.

This bill comes after a string of recent hate crimes that have been reported in central Indiana over the last few years.  

On the morning of July 28, 2018 Nolan Brewer, 20, of Cloverdale vandalized Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, a Jewish synagogue, at 3085 W. 116th St. by spray painting Nazi flags and iron crosses on the walls outside. Working without a larger group or agenda, his reasoning to authorities was to intimidate the “influential Jews” and wanted them to “back down”. Brewer has since been indicted on federal charges and will serve a minimum of 10 months and up to 10 years in prison. He worked alongside an unnamed 17-year-old female who was not indicted.  

On Nov. 2, 2018, Vietnam veteran Phil Rossman went golfing at Smock Golf Course in Indianapolis at 3910 E County Line Rd when he stumbled upon a swastika and a racial slur carved into the eighth hole. No suspects have been identified or arrested for this incident.  

Recent hate crimes are also present on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus and affecting students.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 a still unidentified person or group of people went around campus and hung white supremacy flyers, making students feel unsafe.

Another similar incident, this time targeting undocumented immigrants and the LGBT community, happened during the week of Jan. 22, 2017. Here another unidentified person or group of people hung flyers around the School of Business, the School of Public Policy and the engineering building. These flyers, titled ‘Hate Facts’, listed hateful and wrong statistics targeting these groups.  

Students around campus are happy that Indiana is moving forward and starting to address this issue. When asked about the bill, sophomore Bobby Trezzo had this to say,

“I think it is great that Indiana is finally deciding to pass legislation that punishes hate crimes. It seems like our state is very much stuck in the old times, and I think steps like this move us closer to a more modern mindset.”.

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