The AP reports that a Census worker was found hanged in Kentucky, with the word “Fed” written on his chest.
Should this be prosecutable as a hate crime?
I’ve written about them before, and as was pointed out to me, there are two components to a hate crime: the crime itself, and the effect on others. That is, killing some random guy because he’s black has the side effect of terrorizing the entire black community in the area. In that sense, a hate crime is an act of terrorism.
According to Wikipedia, hate-crime laws in the US currently
protect against crimes motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class. Although state and federal laws vary, typical protected characteristics are race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
(hat tip to astute commenter Fez, who also correctly points out that what matters is not what the law should be, but what it is, i.e., what a judge will accept.)
“Federal employee” is not a protected class. Ergo, this is not a hate crime. (Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this person was murdered because he worked for the federal government, which seems likely.)
But would things have been any different if the murderer had written “nigger” instead of “Fed”? I’m not sure. Yes, federal employees can leave their jobs, but the core of targeting a person for who they are or what they do remains the same.