DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- State Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R - East Fishkill) recently announced that he's introducing legislation that would make the reporting of a fake bias crime a felony.
His legislation was prompted by several high-profile bias crime claims that proved to be hoaxes, according to a release statement.
"These hoaxes waste police resources, rip at the fabric of society and unnecessarily instill fear in communities," said Lalor in the statement. "Because of their particularly destructive nature they should be punished differently than garden-variety false police reports, which are misdemeanor offenses."
"I grew up in Wappingers Falls and saw the most notorious bias crime hoax of all time perpetrated by Tawana Brawley and Al Sharpton. These hoaxes can not only destroy lives, but tear communities apart. In fact, they are often designed to do just that. Those who commit these criminal hoaxes need to face appropriately severe punishments. Would-be perpetrators of these kinds of hoaxes need to be put on notice that there will be real consequences if they report a fake bias crime, so they think twice before they act."
Lalor referred to two hoaxes in New York in 2016 as examples. In December, a Muslim woman in New York City claimed three men attacked her, yelling "Donald Trump," calling her a terrorist and attempting to tear off her traditional headscarf.
She later recanted her story, admitting that she lied because she broke her curfew and her father was increasingly mad that she was dating a Catholic and becoming more Western. The New York Police Department rightly committed significant resources to find the perpetrators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo rightly ordered an investigation by the MTA, State Police and Division of Human Rights into what turned out to be hoax, the release said.
In May, three SUNY Albany students were indicted for falsely reporting that they had been attacked by several white men who were yelling racial slurs, according to the release.
One of the students has admitted to the hoax and was allowed to plead guilty to a civil offense with just a $120 fine and 100 hours of community service. The slap on the wrist comes after the false accusations drew national attention, commentary by a presidential candidate and rallies in support of the "victims" of a bias crime that didn't happen, the release said.
A list of some of the recent hoaxes from around the country can be found here.
Lalor continued, "We need to send a message that we will not tolerate these attempts to divide, waste police resources and unnecessarily frighten communities. These are serious crimes, with serious impacts and they deserve to be classified as felonies."
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