|Supreme Court to Mull New Jersey Hate Crime Law|
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it will decide the constitutionality of a New Jersey hate crime law that allows the judge to increase the sentence when the defendant acted with a biased purpose.
The high court will consider arguments by a New Jersey man that the stiffer sentencing provision -- increasing the maximum possible punishment by 10 years -- violated his constitutional right to due process under the law and should be decided by the jury at trial, not by the judge at sentencing.
Apprendi used as targets two black Santa Claus decorations hanging on the front door.
He later pleaded guilty to charges of possessing a firearm with an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a bomb. Apprendi admitted at the plea hearing that his purpose for shooting at the house was to frighten or harass the family.
Prosecutors told Apprendi they would seek an increased term of imprisonment on the firearm conviction, under the hate crime law.
Under the law criminal conduct may be more heavily punished if ``the defendant in committing the crime acted with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, gender, handicap, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity.''
Apprendi ordinarily would have faced between five and 10 years in prison. But under the extended sentencing law, he faced between 10 and 20 years.
The judge imposed a 12-year prison term, saying prosecutors had shown Apprendi's act was racially motivated.
In appealing to the Supreme Court, Apprendi's lawyers denied there was any racially prejudiced intent behind the shooting.
They said the New Jersey hate crime law should be declared unconstitutional and the case should be sent back for a jury trial on whether there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Apprendi committed the crime because of race.
New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer defended the law, saying it punished motive, not criminal intent, and that motive traditionally has been recognized as a factor at sentencing.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case in the spring, with a decision due by the end of June.
New Jersey's Indian Community Is Terrorized by Racial Violence
By Al Kamen
In the Middlesex County telephone book, there are nearly twice as many people named Patel as there are named Jones.
Patel is a common Indian name - and evidence of the fast-growing population that has made a striking difference in northern New Jersey. For years virtually unnoticed in the Asian immigrant stream to this country, Indians have become the fastest-growing immigrant group in the state, most concentrated in the counties of Hudson, Bergen and Middlesex.
With the growth - and the change in the kind of Indians who are coming to this country - has come increasing racial strife and violence.
The 1980 census found that of the 400,000 Indians in this country, an extraordinary 11 percent of the men were physicians and 17 percent were engineers, architects or surveyors. Eight percent of the women were physicians and 7 percent were nurses.
"When I first came here 30 years ago we were a glorified minority group," said Kanak Dutta, a former teacher and a Democratic activist in Somerset County. "When we were a very small community [with so many] doctors and engineers and other professionals, I never saw any kind of hatred."
"We ran the inner-city hospitals," said Lilith Masson, a soft-spoken gynecologist and community activist in Jersey City who came to this country 26 years ago. "Whites fled the hospitals in the inner cities" during the 1960s, she said, and it seemed "you never saw a white face around."
But the first wave of Indian professionals is now being supplanted by their siblings, who often are less educated and not as proficient in English, said Mahdulika Kandhalewal, a historian in the Asian-American Center at Queens College. The new, larger wave, which doubled the Indian population to 815,000 in the 1990 census, fits much more with the traditional immigrant profile of shopkeepers, restaurant owners, newsstand operators, cabdrivers, tradespeople and laborers, she said. Indians, long involved in the motel industry, also are moving into the diamond industry in Manhattan.
As the Indian community has grown, hostility has increased as well. The occasional insults have turned to violence like that which erupted five years ago in Hudson County, N.J., an immigrant way station since the Dutch colonized New York and home now to more than 11,000 Indians.
A Jersey City gang calling itself "The Dotbusters" - named for the dot, or bindi, that Indian women often wear on the forehead as a sign of marital fidelity - wrote a letter published in a local newspaper saying the group would "go to any extreme" to drive Indians from Jersey City. The next day a man was beaten in his home, apparently after his name had been picked out of a telephone book.
The following month a young Indian doctor was beaten unconscious and a month later a man was beaten to death by a group of teenagers. Other Indians reported being beaten.
These incidents terrorized the Indian community. There was "such a hysteria that parents would not send kids to school and women would not put bindis on and stopped wearing saris," Masson said. "People were putting up homes for sale."
Masson and other leaders organized a series of protests to demand attention and more police protection. Several youths were convicted for some of the beatings, and indictments were handed up in September against three men - one of whom has become a Hudson County police officer - in the doctor's beating. County officials say "The Dotbusters" gang no longer exists.
Even so, "the violence worked," said Himanshu Shukla, a business consultant and community activist. "People moved out, and others thinking of moving here from the city moved elsewhere." Since then the violence has diminished and the Indian population has begun to grow again.
The attacks had one positive result, Shukla said. "It energized the Indian community to understand the terms of living in America . . . and to understand that discrimination is a fact of life here." Indians occasionally note the irony of having swastikas painted on buildings and stop signs - a swastika is an ancient Hindu religious symbol denoting the eternality of God - "but we know what they meant," he said.
"Before, I used to enjoy wearing a sari," Masson said. "Now I don't wear one anymore," she said, because people insult you, they spit on you and call you names."
As the intensity of anti-Indian violence diminished in Jersey City, it increased about three years ago in Middlesex County -- mainly in the Edison-Iselin area, about 30 miles from New York City.
Pradip Khotari, a travel agent and leader of the Indian business community in Iselin, said that after the violence began, "people wouldn't come out at night. . . . They would bring someone downtown with them at night to take out the garbage" from their stores "because they were afraid to come alone."
Fear in Middlesex County rose last year when a multi-ethnic, middle-class gang called "The Lost Boys" brutally attacked a 20-year-old Indian man behind a convenience store, beating him with baseball bats and sticks.
Late the following night, a five-car caravan of gang members, all in their late teens or early twenties, drove through Hilltop Estates, a sprawling garden apartment complex where hundreds of Indian families live, calling on people to come out of their homes and screaming "dots die" and "we're going to kill you dotheads," according to Paul Goldenberg, head of the state attorney general's Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations.
Goldenberg, a former police officer and undercover detective, said that when he got to the apartment complex a short time later, "People were shaking. They did not believe this was 20th-century America."
The gang's heritage - judging from the 15 members eventually arrested on assault, theft, criminal mischief and insurance fraud charges -- was a cross section of America: one black; one Jew; several Greeks and Italians; three Filipinos; one half-Filipino and half-Indian and several Anglos, sources said. One of those arrested was an auxiliary police officer.
Nor were the gang members poor, like the gangs of "skinhead" youths who terrorize immigrants in Europe. They were a middle-class "yuppie gang," Goldenberg said, with some members driving Porsches and BMWs. There was substantial evidence of drug use as well, he said. "We retrieved hundreds of needles" during the arrests and searches, Goldenberg said, "not for heroin but for steroids. These kids were weight lifters."
Gang members told him they did it for "a thrill," Goldenberg said, calling it "one of the most bizarre hate crime cases I ever investigated."
Goldenberg said these and other incidents reflected the tensions arising from the quick entry of so many Indian businesses into Iselin's run-down commercial area. "Now these people come in, they are perceived to be different and they are doing well in hard economic times" in the last few years, when the state's unemployment rate was rising quickly.
For some of the remaining white businesses in Iselin, the transition has been difficult.
Ulla Reid, owner of one of the few white-run businesses left in Iselin's three-block shopping strip, said the Indians' arrival in significant numbers in the last three years "has been culture shock to them and to us."
Reid, a Danish immigrant who came as a young girl to this country with her family shortly after World War II, said her restaurant has suffered as Indian businesses have come to dominate the shopping area.
"Our business dropped 22 percent in the last nine months," Reid said. "Our customers won't come" to this area to shop now. "There isn't a day that goes by that someone says, 'I can't believe what's happened to our town.' I hear this five times a day."
Reid said, "Indians feel they can't trust any whites. I think that's sad. . . . They do not deal with white people, they only cater to their own people. . . . They still dress in Indian clothing and stick by themselves."
Echoing an incorrect allegation often made against other immigrant business owners, Reid said: "A lot of them get SBA [Small Business Administration] loans tax-free, and people want to know why."
But just down the street from Reid's restaurant, business is booming at the local Pizza Movers outlet -- home of "Indo-Pak Pizza," a potentially lucrative product developed by the pizzeria's young owner, Joseph Kisch, who has a different view of Indian customers.
"It's my contribution to the Indian community," said Kisch, who has a trademark pending on the recipe. Many Indians are vegetarians, Kisch explained, and of the standard pizza selections they could choose only a cheese topping on a thick dough.
Kisch consulted with Indian grocers and worked up a "vegetarian pie" on a thinner crust. "It's hot and spicy and uses cheese, Indian chile peppers, onions and a secret sauce," he noted. Now, about 80 percent of his clientele is Indian.
"On the other hand, Kisch said, some white customers "don't order from me anymore. . . . There is lots of racial tension. There is no mixing."
Masson said she often meets Indians who are reconsidering whether it is worth staying here, especially as the recession lingers and the economy in India booms.
But very few will leave, predicted Peter Parikh, a nuclear engineer who now runs a printing shop in Edison. "Isolated incidents happen, but this is still the best country to live in," said Parikh, who came to the United States 15 years ago.
"Everyone thinks they will come with this dream of working for 10 years and making a lot of money and going back," Parikh said. "But something happens and now the kids have grown up here and they enter into the web of this culture and it's over. They may talk about it sometimes, but they don't go back. They can't go back."Quote this article on your site