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Proposal to add deputy prosecutor to focus on hate crimes in King County gains support

There’s already support for the new positions, but the King County Council needs to approve it. The council is expected to vote in late June or early July.

SEATTLE — The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office says it has support from Executive Dow Constantine to fund two new full-time positions that will be dedicated to the prosecution of hate crimes.

The proposal would add one deputy prosecuting attorney and one victim's advocate.

In recent years, reported cases have increased. The new positions would focus on prosecution, working with victims, and doing outreach to make sure the community knows how to report a hate crime.

A robbery victim allegedly targeted because of her race and a customer reportedly using racial slurs and making threats against a store clerk are just two recent examples of the growing caseload of alleged hate crimes at the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, according to Leesa Manion.

"I think that we see this crime is on the rise. We see the tremendous impact that this has. We also know that when hate goes unaddressed it escalates," said Manion.

Data from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that Washington had more than 500 cases in 2018. Only three other states reported more crimes motivated by hate.

As for King County, from 2018 until today, there have been 229 hate crimes filed, according to the prosecuting attorney's office. So far there is clear data for 185 of those cases.

"We know that 16 of those cases filed were involving anti-Asian hate and at least 63 filed involved anti-Black hate,” said Manion.

The reported crimes are most commonly against someone's race or ethnicity, the second most common are against someone's sexual orientation.

"You have to prove that hate was actually at the heart of the motivation for the crime,” said Manion.

It takes that kind of proof before a hate crime can be charged. In Washington, lawmakers have designated a hate crime as a Class C Felony, the lowest level. The prosecuting attorney’s office would like that to change to a higher level of felony.

As for the county’s two new positions, there’s already support for the additions, but King County Council needs to approve it. The council is expected to vote in late June or early July.


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