Suspects younger than 18 cannot be prosecuted on federal hate crime charges, RCSD says

Suspects younger than 18 cannot be prosecuted on federal hate crime charges, RCSD says

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Authorities say the multiple teens charged in connection with a string of armed robberies and kidnappings in Richland County likely will not face federal 'hate crime' charges. This comes as investigators with the county sheriff's department argue that the suspects were motivated in their alleged attacks by a 'dislike for white people.'

17-year-old Raquan Green and at least two juveniles are facing charges for seven criminal cases. A fourth suspect is also being sought.

According to an incident report from one of the cases the teens allegedly told one of their victims that they "hate white people" and had been targeting apartment complexes in the Columbia area.

The report from July 25, 2017 also reads that the suspect abducted the victim from the parking lot of her apartment complex and drove away with her in her car. When they took her driver's license and found out she was black the suspects "apologized for taking her" and returned her to the complex.

The incident report from another case read that the teen suspects forced their victims to strip down to their underwear after robbing them. One of the victims also reported that he had a gun pointed at his chest by one of the suspects. The suspect asked if he knew about 'Russian Roulette' and then pulled the trigger. The chamber was empty.

South Carolina is one of five states that does not have hate crime legislation meaning charges for a suspected hate crime have to come from the federal level. Columbia's FBI office is reviewing the case but typically the federal government does not bring hate crime charges against suspects under the age of 18.

There have been cases where hate crime charges have come federally, most notably, the Dylann Roof trial.

Earlier this year, Roof was sentenced to death for the murders of 9 black worshipers because of a federal conviction.

While some cases can be tried for what they are on the state level, whether it's a murder or assault, former U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Bill Nettles says in some ways South Carolina's lack of legislation for hate crimes could hold the state back.

"You would be hard pressed to make the argument that we don't need hate crime legislation because we don't have hate crimes in South Carolina take that off the table there are hate crimes in South Carolina," Nettles said earlier this year. "There are those that argue there's already law in the books that allow you to address all of that, and that's true. But what hate crime legislation does is it shows the commitment to the notion that civil rights are very important."

Former South Carolina Senator Jim Demint spoke out against hate crime laws in the past saying that individuals are already protected from hate crimes by the 14th Amendment.

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