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CAIR Bulletin – December 20, 2007

CAIR-NY ‘disappointed' by DA's handling of bias attack

NEW YORK, NY, December 20, 2007 - The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today expressed deep disappointment at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s (DA) office for its failure to secure a hate crimes plea and jail time in a bias motivated gang assault perpetrated against a Muslim man in Brooklyn last October.

Four of the five assailants, one of whom used brass knuckles to beat 24-year-old Shahid Amber, pled guilty to either first degree assault or second degree assault charges with probation and no jail time.

In a letter to Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, CAIR-NY Civil Rights Director Aliya Latif referenced the Hate Crimes Act 2000, which states: “Crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups not only harm individual victims but send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs. Hate crimes can and do intimidate and disrupt entire communities and vitiate the civility that is essential to healthy democratic processes.”

Latif’s letter stated in part: "[B]ias motivated crimes harm both the victim and the entire targeted group.

“Here, the violent, heinous and public nature of Mr. Amber’s beating outside a Dunkin Donuts in broad daylight not only harmed his physical and mental wellbeing but also infringed upon the rights and safety of the entire New York Muslim community and religious and ethnic minorities in general.

“Despite these broader implications, the assailants were placed on probation and received youthful offender status, thereby sealing their criminal records from public access and scrutiny.

“Notwithstanding our appreciation for educational alternatives to juvenile imprisonment, we strongly question this decision in such a high-profile attack on Mr. Amber on account of his religion and national origins, especially since two of the assailants were 18 and one was 17 years old. Indeed, a felony charge without incarceration and public accountability flouts the rule of law and sets ill-founded precedent for future bias crimes. 

“Furthermore, we are deeply concerned by your office’s failure to communicate with Mr. Amber as the victim of this crime. In “Hynes vs. Justice,” the New York Post reported that you stated a no jail time sentence was a “fair” outcome because Mr. Amber was “ok” with it. However, Mr. Amber maintains that he received news of the plea agreements from a news reporter and not from your office. In fact, your office never consulted with Mr. Amber let alone confirmed that he was “ok” with the plea agreement. To that end, we find that your office failed to uphold the responsibilities and ethics of a legal advocate for the people and the victim.

“As such, CAIR-NY requests a meeting with your office to further detail our concerns, specifically the alarming number of bias incidents that are not appropriately treated or prosecuted as hate crimes, and to assure proper resolution in future bias motivated cases.”

New York Post editorial - December 5, 2007

Hynes vs. Justice

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes thinks a conviction for first- degree assault should carry no jail time - if the victim's OK with that.

That's just weird.

One year ago, a group of brass-knuckle-armed Orthodox Jews attacked Shahid Amber, a Pakistani, shouting, "Go back to your country!"

This week, David Brach, 17, and Yitzi Horowitz, 16, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault - that is, to a crime that involves inflicting serious injury. Yossi Friedman, 18, and Benjamin Wasserman, 17, pleaded to attempted second-degree assault as a hate crime.

All got conditional discharges; because Amber didn't want jail time for them, they got none. Hynes, citing the assailants' ages and their admissions that "personal hatred" was the motive for their crime, called it a "fair" outcome.

But fair for whom? How was justice served?

Crimes are more than transgressions against their victims - they are grave affronts to the rule of law, to society.

Moreover, supporters of hate-crime statutes (Hynes is; we're not) claim such offenses injure more than just the victim - they are intended to intimidate the entire targeted group.

But DA Hynes - respected for his handling of some of New York's highest-profile racially motivated incidents - undermines both principles in this case.


"I consider myself the advocate for the victim," said Hynes.

Sorry, a DA represents the people - not just the victim.

This time, a victim's input resulted in remarkable leniency. What happens if the next victim wants enhanced punishment - warranted or not?

When the judicial system starts letting victims direct outcomes, society inches closer to lynch-mob justice.

Pleading out a first-degree assault will undoubtedly ring hollow in parts of Brooklyn where most young criminals couldn't hope to get such a deal.

The Brooklyn DA is treading on very dangerous ground.


ABC News - November 1, 2006

Brooklyn attack victim speaks out
Police are calling it a vicious hate crime

Brooklyn - WABC, November 1, 2006 -- Police are calling it a vicious hate crime. The victim is Pakistani and his alleged attackers are a group of Jewish teenagers.

The victim is at Bellevue Hospital where he is recovering. He tells us the doctors here have informed him that he will require reconstructive facial surgery.

"They were saying you Muslim terrorist..get out of the country," Shahid Amber said.

Those are the words that 24-year-old Shahid Amber says preceded a violent attack by a mob of teenagers -- an attack prosecutors are now calling a hate crime.