George Zimmerman being investigated by the FBI for hate crime

George Zimmerman being investigated by the FBI for hate crime

Sanford : FL : USA | May 15, 2012 at 9:11 AM PDT
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Trayvon Martin Killing: FBI Investigation Continues in Day 2; Zimmerman Offers To Turn Himself in

Nothing has been issued formally by the FBI regarding charging neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman for a hate crime in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The FBI investigates crimes for the Department of Justice, some of which could include conducting intelligence operations. Robert O' Neil, the U.S. Attorney for Middle District of Florida, would be the official to charge Zimmerman with a hate crime.

The Department of Justice announced several weeks ago they would investigate the case for a possible hate crime. If evidence of a hate crime is discovered, it will be reported to the U.S. Attorney.

Speculation is that it will be difficult to present charges of a hate crime in this instance. The investigation would have to prove that Zimmerman “stalked” Martin while calling the police. A legal analyst reports that hate crimes are based on states of mind, and Zimmerman’s ethnicity and background could make it difficult to argue that the he acted out of hateful malice.

In order to further coordinate with the public, the FBI has working relationships with community groups nationally and locally and with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport. They share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems. These groups include such organizations as the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, The National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Disability Rights Network.

Defining a Hate Crime

A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.

How Hate Crimes are Investigated and Prosecuted

  • The FBI initiates a hate crime investigation when an allegation is received from a reliable source. Most complaints are received from the victim, a witness, or a third party. Many cases are also initiated by media reports, community group complaints, referrals from Department of Justice or U.S. Attorneys, and congressional inquiries.
  • Under guidelines developed in conjunction with the Department of Justice, once a complaint is received, the FBI will determine if the matter warrants a preliminary or full investigation.
  • Once a case is opened, a logical investigation is conducted within a reasonable period of time.

Zimmerman’s History of Violence

Whether Zimmerman’s previous offenses will play any part in the hate crime determination remains to be seen. Assistant prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda asked the family members about two incidents. In 2005, George Zimmerman had to take anger management courses after an undercover law enforcement officer accused him of attacking him as he tried to arrest Zimmerman’s friend.

In another incident, in 2005, his ex-fiáncée, hair salon employee Veronica Zuazo, filed for a restraining order against Zimmerman over domestic violence.

Of this particular incident, according to the Miami Herald, Zuazo claimed that she saw Zimmerman, her ex, driving near her home in August 2005. She called him and he said “he was just checking up” on her. This is stalking.

After they spoke for an hour at her home, Zuazo claimed she asked him to leave. He grew upset, snatching her cell phone away from her and pushing her, according to the Herald.

A pushing match ensued and her dog, protecting her, jumped up and bit Zimmerman on the cheek.


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2005 photo of George Zimmerman
FBI investigates possible hate crime committed by George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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