The Connecticut legislature unanimously passed a bill Tuesday increasing penalties for hate crimes, changing intimidation based on bigotry or bias from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The penalty increase also affects hate crimes against houses of worship and classifies a first-degree hate crime as anything inflicting “physical injury” based on bigotry or bias, lowered from the previous “serious injury” standard, the Wall Street Journal reports. Those convicted of hate crimes will face one to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Lawmakers said the changes are a response to the growing rate of hate crimes across the country.
“There are people who take certain actions that require us to address in a most severe tone and that’s what this bill does,” Republican State Sen. Len Fasano told WSJ.
There was a spat of bomb threats against Connecticut schools as well as Jewish community centers across the country, following the 2016 election. Juan Thompson, a former reporter for The Intercept who holds anti-Trump and communist beliefs, was arrested in March by the FBI for making at least eight bomb threats against JCCs, using the identity of his Jewish ex-girlfriend.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADF) lauded the bill’s passage, citing that hate crimes against Jews increased 68 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Once signed by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, the law will make Connecticut the toughest state in the country on hate crimes, Connecticut ADF chairman Alan Levin told the Associated Press.
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