prosecutions redefine hate crimes

This is an interesting twist on the idea on what constitutes a hate crime... Over the last few years in Queens, in several cases, prosecutors have used hate crime laws to stiffen penalties for those convicted of crimes against the elderly: A Novel Twist for Prosecution of Hate Crimes.

In these cases, defendants were convicted of singling out elderly victims for nonviolent crimes like mortgage fraud because they believed older people would be easy to deceive and might have substantial savings or home equity. The legal reasoning is not necessarily about "hating" a particular group:
This approach, which is being closely watched by prosecutors across New York State, has won Queens prosecutors stiffer sentences, including prison for criminals who could otherwise go free, even after draining an elderly person's savings. Without a hate crime, theft of less than $1 million carries no mandatory prison time; with it, the thief must serve for a year and may face 25.

The legal thinking behind the novel method is that New York's hate crimes statute does not require prosecutors to prove defendants "hate" the group the victim belongs to, merely that they commit the crime because of some belief, correct or not, they hold about the group.
This isn't specifically Asian-related, but it does have implications. I can't help but be reminded of the rash of violent attacks on elderly Asians this year, which authorities are inexplicably reluctant to label as hate crimes.

I'm also reminded of robbery sprees targeting Asian homes and businesses. I know this story specifically applies to prosecutions in New York, where the law is ambiguous -- but could the same hate crime laws apply in such cases?

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