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The Wrong Hate Targets in Philadelphia?
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June 09, 2009, 03:19 AM
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Like many others, I was surprised by the Department of Justice`s decision to drop charges against Black Panther members who paraded menacingly outside a polling place in Philadelphia. As the Washington Times writes, imagine Ku Klux Klansmen doing the same thing, and the antics that would ensue.

But I found a small clue that could explain prosecutors` priorities. In the front of a "continuing legal education" publication of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute on "hate crimes" (not online), federal prosecutor Nancy Beam Winter submits a helpful cheat sheet titled "Interview Topics for Subjects/Friends of Subjects in Hate Crime Investigations".

In two short pages, Ms. Winter packs enough politically troubling questions to bother Nat Hentoff, Camille Paglia, Ron Paul, George Orwell and probably a host of others. What are your views on racial separation? she wants to know. What do you think of affirmative action? she wants to know. Do you think blacks work less hard than whites? (Would it matter if they truly didn`t?)

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the questions are all aimed at "neo-Nazis" or "skinheads". There were no questions for a Black Panther.

"You need to get them talking" Ms. Winter tells other would-be prosecutors, in a passage sure to gladden the hearts of criminal defense lawyers and civil libertarians everywhere. The questions themselves don`t quell concerns that "hate crimes" are 1) meant to target whites, and only whites and 2) end up criminalizing politically incorrect thought and speech instead of illegal actions.

I remember from law school that the "selective prosecution" defense is almost impossible to make out. But a federal defender in Philadelphia might make this cheat sheet Exhibit A in the next attempt.