Liberals hold that “hate crimes” are worse than crimes involving the same conduct but not the same attitude. But the application of this doctrine may depend on which group the perpetrator hates.
If he hates a group that liberals desire for their political base, his crime will be viewed as particularly heinous. If he hates a group that liberals dislike, it may earn him an expression of ideological solidarity from the sentencing judge and perhaps even a break on the sentence.
This, at least, is my takeaway from the words of U.S. District Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts at the sentencing hearing of Floyd Corkins.
Corkins is the man who plotted to kill “as many people as possible” at conservative organizations that he viewed as anti-gay. He probably would have succeeded in his this objective at the Family Research Council had a security guard not stopped him. Corkins shot the security guard, but did not kill him.
Corkins pleaded guilty to three felony charges, including assault with intent to kill and committing an act of terrorism while armed. Prosecutors sought a sentence of 45 years for the would-be mass murderer. Judge Roberts sentenced him to only 25.
In announcing his sentence, Roberts stated (in part):
You are not alone in criticizing those who oppose gay rights, but a man killing opponents does not change the opponents’ minds. It does not open their hearts. It does not bring about gay rights. If anything, it makes opponents more entrenched. If anything, it feeds whatever moral arsenal they perceive to fight against gay rights. Many indications show the opponents losing favor, but it has not been because of anyone killing them.
When a president thoughtfully spoke up, it shook loose many of the entrenched opponents in his faith community. When some women and men highly revered in America chose to come out, that added far more support for gay rights than murder ever will. That’s how we affect positive change in this country, not by shootings.
Ed Whelan is correct, if somewhat restrained, in calling these remarks “grossly ill-conceived.” For one thing, a sentencing hearing is not the proper forum for a judge to announce his political views (or to suck up to the U.S. President), much less to announce his agreement with the political views of a would-be mass murderer. That’s what op-ed pages and law reviews are for.
As Whelan writes, the only effect of Roberts’ expression of ideological solidarity “is to invite suspicion that Roberts rejected the federal government’s (Department of Justice’s) recommended sentence of 45 years because he sympathizes with Corkins’s cause.”
Moreover, the judge’s message — an effort to persuade Corkins that, in attempting to engage in mass murder, he went about advancing gay rights in a tactically misguided way — is sickening. The criminality and immorality Corkins’ conduct do not reside in its ineffectiveness as a means of promoting gay rights. His actions would be just as criminal and immoral if shooting political opponents were an effective tactic.
There’s not much point in trying to reason with a would-be mass murderer, unless preening is the real point.