OPINION: Justice for Hate Crimes Victims

eric gonzalez
Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez

As Brooklyn’s top prosecutor, I am committed to protecting all communities – including the Orthodox Jewish community – from hate-fueled violence and to holding those who commit hate crimes accountable.

Violent crime is always traumatic for the victim, and the victim’s family. But crimes of violence that target individuals because of their religion, race or other identity strike at the heart of an entire community. They instill fear and vulnerability far beyond the direct target, and for those who have lived through past horrors, trauma that is never far from the surface is made fresh once again.

As a son of Brooklyn, it outrages me to see any of my neighbors victimized, especially if the motive is who they are or how they worship.

But as the top law enforcement officer in Brooklyn, it is not enough for me to be outraged. My responsibility is to bring those who commit these heinous acts to justice. Justice requires us to be deliberate, methodical, and careful. If we react at the speed of Twitter, we will undermine our ultimate goal.

To ensure that justice is served in these critical cases, my office has a dedicated Hate Crimes Unit staffed by senior prosecutors. They work closely with the NYPD to ensure that we gather all the relevant evidence and assess each piece of evidence meticulously.

Our prosecutors do their jobs carefully to protect the due process rights of the accused—rights that are critically important to make sure that no one is falsely accused and that our justice system is – and is perceived as – fair to everyone.

They also take special care in building the strongest case possible to ensure justice for victims—those directly harmed, and those in the wider community who are made to feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods.

I’ve been a prosecutor for more than 20 years. I’ve seen cases fall apart and guilty individuals acquitted when police or prosecutors rushed to bring a case when emotions were running high. I do not intend to make that mistake. I would rather take the time to do the job correctly and achieve a verdict that will stand up to scrutiny than rush to bring a politically expedient case that will not achieve justice for the victims in the long run.

I am confident in the skill and professionalism of the hate crimes prosecutors in my office. Since I took over as DA two years ago, my office has filed hate crime charges in about 70 cases, 25% of those involving anti-Jewish bias, and we will continue to prosecute these cases vigorously.

I am also confident that these ugly acts, as unsettling as they are, do not reflect who we truly are as Brooklynites. In the face of rising intolerance across the country and around the world, leaders in every religious community and activists of every race and ethnic background in Brooklyn have spoken out, organized, marched, and voted to reject hatred.

Those of us who have united in defense of our brothers and sisters in every community far outnumber the bigots, and we will never back down in the face of their hate.

Eric Gonzalez is the Brooklyn District Attorney.