American Muslims ‘Disappointed’ by DA’s Handling of Bias Attack
Posted Dec 21, 2007

American Muslims ‘Disappointed’ by DA’s Handling of Bias Attack

(NEW YORK, NY 12/20/07) - The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today expressed deep disappointment at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s (DA) office for its failure to secure a hate crimes plea and jail time in a bias motivated gang assault perpetrated against a Muslim man in Brooklyn last October.

SEE: Brooklyn Attack Victim Speaks Out

Four of the five assailants, one of whom used brass knuckles to beat 24-year-old Shahid Amber, pled guilty to either first degree assault or second degree assault charges with probation and no jail time.

SEE: Hynes vs. Justice (NY Post)

In a letter to Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, CAIR-NY Civil Rights Director Aliya Latif referenced the Hate Crimes Act 2000, which states: “Crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups not only harm individual victims but send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs. Hate crimes can and do intimidate and disrupt entire communities and vitiate the civility that is essential to healthy democratic processes.”

Latif’s letter stated in part:

ias motivated crimes harm both the victim and the entire targeted group.

“Here, the violent, heinous and public nature of Mr. Amber’s beating outside a Dunkin Donuts in broad daylight not only harmed his physical and mental wellbeing but also infringed upon the rights and safety of the entire New York Muslim community and religious and ethnic minorities in general.

“Despite these broader implications, the assailants were placed on probation and received youthful offender status, thereby sealing their criminal records from public access and scrutiny.

“Notwithstanding our appreciation for educational alternatives to juvenile imprisonment, we strongly question this decision in such a high-profile attack on Mr. Amber on account of his religion and national origins, especially since two of the assailants were 18 and one was 17 years old. Indeed, a felony charge without incarceration and public accountability flouts the rule of law and sets ill-founded precedent for future bias crimes. 

“Furthermore, we are deeply concerned by your office’s failure to communicate with Mr. Amber as the victim of this crime. In “Hynes vs. Justice,” the New York Post reported that you stated a no jail time sentence was a “fair” outcome because Mr. Amber was “ok” with it. However, Mr. Amber maintains that he received news of the plea agreements from a news reporter and not from your office. In fact, your office never consulted with Mr. Amber let alone confirmed that he was “ok” with the plea agreement. To that end, we find that your office failed to uphold the responsibilities and ethics of a legal advocate for the people and the victim.

“As such, CAIR-NY requests a meeting with your office to further detail our concerns, specifically the alarming number of bias incidents that are not appropriately treated or prosecuted as hate crimes, and to assure proper resolution in future bias motivated cases.”

CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 33 offices, chapters and affiliates nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.