ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

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  • State Crime Research
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The State Crime Testimony Project (SCTP ) aims to enrich understandings of elite deviance through the provision of data and materials that is often marginalised, hidden or destroyed by those in power.

During the course of the 20 th  century newly emerging, and well established, states killed and plundered on a grand scale. However, these acts of barbarity have not met silence. Indeed, diverse communities of resistance around the world have, and continue to, censure domestic and foreign governments for trammelling fundamental human rights norms.

Although criminology has traditionally ignored the complex dialectic between state crime and resistance, this trend is now in remission owing to successive generations of state crime research.  On this website, state crime scholars – with particular regional expertise – present case studies on their research, in language that is free of disciplinary jargon. Each case study gives users access to a rich a range of annotated primary materials and multi-media resources that palpably brings the particular state crime event into focus.

The SCTP is administered by the  International State Crime Initiative  (ISCI). ISCI is a multi-disciplinary, cross-institutional and international initiative designed to gather, collate, analyse and disseminate research based knowledge about criminal state practices, and resistance to these practices.

The SCTP has received generous support from the  King’s College London  Teaching Fund and the  Pluto Education Trust .

The State Crime Testimony Project can be accessed  here .  Below are a list of selected case-studies and educational teaching materials:

Draw and Tell: Street Children In Apartheid South Africa

The Demolition of Paga Hill: Testimony Project

Torture At The Río Blanco Mine – A State-Corporate Crime? – Testimony Project

State Terror and The Bougainville Conflict: Testimony Project

Toxic Waste Dumping In Abidjan: Testimony Project

Hate Propaganda: Words as Knives

Learning materials to aid the project’s use in class are provided below.

Teaching materials

The following exercises are designed so the SCTP case studies can be employed as tools for promoting critical inquiry and engagement during seminars.

ISCI welcomes feedback and suggestions from teachers and students. SCTP’s editor, Dr Kristian Lasslett , can be contacted via email: [email protected]

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state crime case study examples

When we think of criminals, we often think of singular members of society. However, it's not only individuals that are capable of committing crimes. Sometimes the state is responsible for committing crimes. For obvious reasons, it can often be much more complicated to identify and prosecute offenders of state crimes.Let's…

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When we think of criminals, we often think of singular members of society. However, it's not only individuals that are capable of committing crimes. Sometimes the state is responsible for committing crimes. For obvious reasons, it can often be much more complicated to identify and prosecute offenders of state crimes .

Let's explore the idea of state crimes in the following article.

  • We will be looking at the definition, types, examples, offenders, and victims of state crimes.
  • We will also look at the relationship between state crime and international human rights, as well as the role of bodies such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).
  • We will evaluate the various complexities associated with holding states accountable for their crimes.

State crimes in sociology

State crimes are a key topic in the topic of crime and deviance in sociology; it is a distinct type of crime that is studied by sociologists. Let's consider the definition of state crimes.

Definition of state crime in criminology and sociology

Green and Ward (2005) 1 defined state crimes as:

illegal or deviant activities perpetrated by the state, or with the complicity of state agencies."

Simply put:

State crimes refer to any crime committed by, or on behalf of nation-states to achieve their individual policies.

The difference between individual and state crimes

While criminal law usually concerns itself with crimes on behalf of an individual (natural or legal), state crime is more concerned with crimes on behalf of organisations . It is interesting to note that while governments of states may break their own laws, state crime usually focuses more on states breaking international law.

Types of state crime in sociology

According to Eugene McLaughlin (2001), there are four types of state crime. These are the following:

Crimes committed by police and security

Political crimes

Economic crimes, social and cultural crimes, core international crimes, examples of state crimes in sociology.

We will go through each category of state crime below and provide examples.

Crimes by security and police forces

Crimes by security and police forces include genocide, torture, and war crimes. Although these types of crimes may have similarities and overlaps, it is important to note the differences between them.

Genocide is the deliberate killing of a group of people belonging to a nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying the nation or ethnicity.

Torture is the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental.

A war crime refers to a deliberate violation of laws of war by those in the field, such as killing innocent civilians or sexually abusing women during the invasion of another country.

Political crimes include corruption and censorship. Corruption is the dishonest or fraudulent conduct by someone in power, for example, a political figure electing themselves into power without democratic means (no election, or rigged election).

Censorship is the deliberate suppression of any form of information. For example, the removal of a film scene by labelling it as too political, when it is merely portraying the reality of the political situation of a country.

Another form of political state crime is assassination , which refers to the premeditated act of killing someone, suddenly and secretly. State-sponsored assassination or 'targeted killing' of terrorists has increasingly become a debated topic.

Bribery is an important example of a state economic crime.

Bribery refers to giving something of value to influence the actions of someone in charge of public or legal duty. It is a sad truth that public officials in many countries accept bribes from major corporations. In return, they either enable legislation that supports such organisations, or conveniently overlook their mistakes.

Social and cultural crimes include discrimination and institutional racism.

Discrimination is the unjust treatment of different categories of people based on their characteristics, such as age, sex, ethnicity, nationality, or religious beliefs. This may happen, for example, when government legislations disadvantage certain groups in society more than others.

Institutional racism is a form of discrimination that has been going on for so long that it has now become embedded in the laws, structure, and functioning of a society or organisation. The 'Black Lives Matter' movement is based on fighting against such institutional racism in the USA.

We will also consider a specific category of state crime, called core international crimes .

Core international crimes are crimes that are considered so gross that they threaten the peace, security, and well-being of humanity as a whole. The crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes are collectively recognised as the core international crimes.

Under international law, the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute these crimes falls on states. It is thus ironic that sometimes, it is the state itself that is the perpetrator.

Since states have control over large territories and a massive population, the extent of state crime in terms of numbers can be staggering.

The Cambodian genocide in the 1970s wiped out about 25 percent of the population, an estimated 2 million people. Similarly, during the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, members of the Hutu majority group slaughtered approximately 500,000 - 1,000,000 of the minority Tutsi group, about 20 percent of Rwanda’s total population.

State Crime, Soldiers running with guns on the sand, StudySmarter

Offenders of state crimes

So, who are the offenders of state crimes? Whenever any individual associated with the government harms the rights of someone to pursue the interests or policies of the state, it can be said to be a state crime.

However, it may not always be obvious who the offenders of state crimes are. How wide is the scope of what counts as 'the state'?

Jeffrey Ian Ross (2000) defined a state as "the elected and appointed officials, the bureaucracy, and the institutions, bodies, and organisations comprising the apparatus of the government".

If we analyse this definition, the state is essentially the government and everything it runs - including politicians or civil servants. Imagine a ship sailing in the ocean - it changes crew from time to time. Similarly, if the state is the ship, the governments that run it are the crew on the ship.

Further, the definition can be stretched to include public sector workers such as the police, doctors, teachers, and members of the armed forces - all of whom can be considered an extension of the state and whose acts contribute to state crime.

Note here that there are two important aspects for an act to be a state crime - the act must be done by someone who is an agent of the state, and the act must be done in furtherance of a state policy or interest.

Please note that just because an individual works for the state, that does not mean whatever wrong he commits is a state crime. For example, a civil servant can be involved in corruption for his own personal benefit. This is clearly not an example of a state crime.

Difficulty in defining the 'typical' victims of state crime

Due to the vast scope of state crimes, the study of victims and victimology in state crimes is extensive, and there are several definitions of what constitutes a victim.

Kauzlarich, Matthews and Miller (2001) 2 state that scholars have identified several groups of people as victims of state crime. These include:

civilians and war soldiers

groups targeted for genocide

individuals suffering from sexism, racism and classism

countries that are oppressed by other powerful countries

criminal suspects

the environment

Let's now consider a working definition of the victims of state crimes.

The victims of state crime: definition

Following from the above, who the victims of state crimes are largely depends on the nature of the state crime itself.

David Kauzlarich (1995) defined state crime victims as "individuals or groups of individuals who have experienced economic, cultural, or physical harm, pain, exclusion, or exploitation because of state actions or policies which violate the law or generally defined human rights".

Thus, any individual or group whose human rights have been violated due to an act of a state in furtherance of its policies may be a state crime victim.

Victims of state crime may further be divided into two types:

Victims of domestic state crime : victims whose rights have been violated by the government of their own state. For example, victims of religious discrimination perpetrated by their own government.

Victims of international state crime : victims whose rights have been violated by the government in another state (or states). For example, victims of war crimes.

State crimes and human rights

We will be looking at state crimes and human rights, specifically the relationship between the two.

Recognition and codification of state crimes

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was developed by the United Nations after World War II, in an attempt to codify basic human rights that are available to an individual as a birthright (by virtue of them being born as human beings).

The UDHR enlists thirty basic human rights and freedoms, which include:

Right to life and liberty

Right to freedom from torture

Right to freedom of speech, opinion, thoughts, and expression

Right to equality

Right to work

Right to privacy

Right to seek asylum

Human rights can be violated if they are not protected or are disregarded.

A human rights violation refers to a situation where someone's human rights are not protected or blatantly disregarded.

State crimes: international human rights law and obligations of states

The basic principles of international human rights law provide that states have three major obligations in relation to human rights:

They must respect human rights and not violate these rights themselves.

They must protect individuals and groups against human rights violations.

They should take positive steps to ensure individuals enjoy their human rights.

The second and third obligations are indicative of the fact that it is not enough for states to merely refrain from violating rights, they must take positive action towards the materialisation of such rights and freedoms.

Criminologists such as Herman Schwendinger (1970) used this framework to adopt a transgressive approach to state crime. They argued that any country that denies its people fundamental human rights which are available to people elsewhere, can be considered to be guilty of state crime. Consider the example below:

Countries that do not recognise homosexuality and deny LGBTQ individuals basic rights may be considered to be committing state crimes.

Based on this, state crime can be classified as:

Direct state crime : intentionally performed by states.

Indirect state crime : the result of the state failing to protect someone’s rights.

State Crime, UN building with flags of different countries, StudySmarter

Liability of states for state crimes

You may ask - if states themselves are responsible for their own justice systems, and it is the states themselves who are perpetrating crimes, who holds them responsible?

It is an extremely valid question; one that has puzzled the international community for a long time, especially in the aftermath of gross violations of human rights, such as in the case of the Holocaust.

That is how the International Criminal Court (ICC) came into existence. In creating the ICC, the global community of sovereign nations recognised that it was necessary to put an end to grave crimes that violated the rights of many.

The ICC, established by the Rome Statute, acts as a court of last resort that can try individuals alleged of committing crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes when the domestic jurisdiction of the state in question is incapable of doing so. This means it can try states as well. However, the reality of the matter remains that states are rarely tried at the ICC.

Complexities associated with state crime

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that in 2000, approximately 310,000 people were killed as a result of collective war-related violence; a figure equivalent to 20 percent of all global violent deaths at the time. Even then, this figure did not include domestic deaths caused by security and police forces, given the secrecy that is associated with a state crime.

This is indicative of how measuring state crime is a difficult task. Stan Cohen (1996) identified a ‘spiral of denial’ that states use when accused of human rights abuses.

In fact, due to the hegemony and power associated with states around the globe, state crime is fraught with complexities. Some of them are discussed below.

State crimes: secrecy related to state actions

Law enforcement is a part of the state's responsibility and oftentimes, it is the law enforcement officials who engage in state crimes. This makes it difficult to identify the culprits and hold them accountable.

Resistance on behalf of states to acknowledge the violation of rights

Often, states hide behind nationalistic views or the need to promote domestic security as an excuse to propagate state crimes. This is a good example of neutralisation techniques, identified by Sykes and Matza (1957) in the 'neutralisation theory'.

According to the theory, the wrongdoer may sometimes use neutralisation techniques such as denial of responsibility, denial of injury, and denial of the victim, among others, to neutralise or justify their actions.

State crimes: difficulty in the enforcement of international law

As opposed to individuals or organisations, states are difficult to hold accountable. International law, regardless of the presence of bodies such as the ICC, has extremely limited effects on states. For example, a state is not bound by international law if it does not ratify particular legislation.

State Crimes - Key takeaways

  • State crime refers to any crime committed by, or on behalf of nation-states to achieve their individual policies.
  • There are four categories of state crime: crimes by security and police forces (genocide, torture, and war crime), political crimes (corruption, assassination, and censorship), economic crimes (bribery), and social and cultural crimes (discrimination and institutional racism).
  • Some examples of state crimes are genocide, war crimes, torture, assassination, corruption, and discrimination.
  • The ICC was established by the Rome Statute and acts as a court of last resort for crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes when the domestic jurisdiction of the state in question is incapable of doing so.
  • There are multiple complexities associated with quantifying and identifying state crimes. Some of them include secrecy related to state actions, state denial to acknowledge state crimes, and difficulty in enforcing international law.
  • Green, P. Ward, T (2005) Introduction. The British Journal of Criminology. (Vol. 45 Issue 4).
  • Kauzlarich, D. Matthews, RA. Miller, J. (2001) Toward a Victimology of State Crime. Critical Criminology. Kluwer Law International.

Frequently Asked Questions about State Crimes

--> who commits state crimes.

State crime can be committed by any individual associated with the government, who harms the rights of someone in order to pursue the interests or policies of the state. However, an agent of the state who is acting for his own benefit rather than for the state’s benefit will not be said to have committed a state crime.

--> Who is a typical victim of state crime?

A state victim is typically any individual or group whose human rights have been violated due to an act of a state in furtherance of its policies. An example of this is a victim of religious discrimination perpetrated by their own government.

--> What is meant by a state crime?

Green and Ward (2005) define state crime as ‘illegal or deviant activities perpetrated by the state, or with the complicity of state agencies’. Simply put, any crime committed by, or on behalf of nation-states to achieve their individual policies is a state crime.

--> What are some examples of state crimes?

Examples of state crime include genocide, war crimes, torture, assassination, corruption, discrimination, and funding terrorist groups and other criminal organisations.

--> Why is state crime a crime?

More often than not, a state crime is a crime due to a state breaking some aspect of international law. For example, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enlists certain basic freedoms and rights. If a state does not adhere to them, this leads to a violation. The state is said to have committed a crime.

Final State Crimes Quiz

State crimes quiz - teste dein wissen.

What are state crimes?

Show answer

State crime is any crime committed by, or on behalf of nation-states to achieve their individual policies.

Show question

What are the various types of state crime?

The four types of state crime are crimes by security and police forces, political crimes, economic crimes, and social and cultural crimes.

What are some examples of state crime?

Some examples of state crimes are genocide, war crime, torture, assassination, corruption, discrimination and funding organised crimes such as terrorist groups.

Which crimes are considered ‘core international crimes’?

The crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, are collectively known as core international crimes.

What is the meaning of a state?

Ross (2000) defines a state as "the elected and appointed officials, the bureaucracy, and the institutions, bodies, and organisations comprising the apparatus of the government".

Who can be a victim of state crime?

Any individual or group whose human rights have been violated due to an act of a state in furtherance of its policies may be a state crime victim.

What are the two types of state crime victims?

The two types of state crime victims are victims of domestic state crimes and victims of international state crimes.

What are some of the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Some of the rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are -

Right to freedom of speech, opinion, thoughts and expression

Right to equality 

What does one mean by violation of human rights?

When a human right is not protected or is blatantly disregarded, it is said to be violated.

What are the responsibilities of states with respect to human rights according to principles of international law?

According to principles of international law, states have the responsibility to protect, prevent and uphold human rights.

What is Schwendinger's view on state crime?

Schwendinger adopted a transgressive approach to state crime wherein he claimed that any country that denies its people fundamental rights available to others is guilty of state crime.

What does one mean by direct state crime?

Direct state crime is a crime intentionally performed by states by violating basic human rights of individuals.

What does one mean by indirect state crime?

Indirect state crime is a state crime due to the result of the state failing to protect someone’s rights.

What is the purpose of the International Criminal Court?

The ICC was established by the Rome Statute and acts as a court of last resort for crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when the domestic jurisdiction of the state in question is not capable of doing so.

What is the spiral of denial used by states?

The spiral of denial is an excuse that states use when accused of human rights abuses, which is a denial of any abuses at all.

What are some complexities associated with identifying state crimes?

Some complexities associated with quantifying and identifying state crimes are - secrecy related to state actions and the resistance of states to acknowledge state crimes.

What are three types of crimes that are committed by security and police forces?

Crimes committed by security and police forces include:

  • torture, and
  • war crimes. 

Corruption and censorship are _______ crimes. 

Corruption and censorship are political crimes. 

Bribery is an example of a ______ crime. 

Why was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights developed?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was developed to codify basic human rights. 

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Article contents

Political corruption and state crime.

  • Clayton Peoples Clayton Peoples Department of Social Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno
  •  and  James E. Sutton James E. Sutton Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Published online: 26 April 2017

The state is responsible for maintaining law and order in society and protecting the people. Sometimes it fails to fulfill these responsibilities; in other cases, it actively harms people. There have been many instances of political corruption and state crime throughout history, with impacts that range from economic damage to physical injury to death—sometimes on a massive scale (e.g., economic recession, pollution/poisoning, genocide). The challenge for criminologists, however, is that defining political corruption and state crime can be thorny, as can identifying their perpetrators—who can often be collectives of individuals such as organizations and governments—and their victims. In turn, pinpointing appropriate avenues of controlling these crimes can be difficult. These challenges are exacerbated by power issues and the associated reality that the state is in a position to write or change laws and, in essence, regulate itself. One possible solution is to define political corruption and state crime—as well as their perpetrators and victims—as broadly as possible to include a variety of scenarios that may or may not exhibit violations of criminal law. Likewise, a resolution to the issue of social control would be to move beyond strictly institutional mechanisms of control. Criminological research should further elucidate these issues; it should also, however, move beyond conceptual dilemmas toward (a) better understanding the processes underlying political corruption/state crime and (b) illustrating the broader ramifications of these crimes.

  • political corruption
  • state crime
  • state-corporate crime
  • white collar crime
  • corporate crime
  • official deviance
  • organizational deviance

A Criminological Overview of Political Corruption and State Crime

In ideal conceptions of democracy and governance, the state represents and serves the people; it is a protector of people’s rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, the state does not always fulfill this role. Indeed, in some cases the state does the exact opposite and harms the very people it is supposed to protect—sometimes engaging in implicit or even explicit criminal activity in the process (see, e.g., Kramer & Michalowski, 1990 ). Criminal acts by the state tend to both reflect and result from abuses of power when they occur. Political corruption and crimes of the state are therefore often inextricably linked in complicated ways.

Although political corruption receives considerable scholarly attention in political science (see, e.g., Heidenheimer & Johnston, 2002 ; Philp, 1997 ; Rose-Ackerman, 1999 ), relatively little attention has been paid to political corruption in criminology. There have, however, been high-profile calls in criminology to examine the broader theme of state crime (see, e.g., Chambliss’s statements during his 1988 presidential address, documented in Criminology , 1989 ), and a sizable literature has emerged around that topic. This literature has primarily focused on conceptual issues related to state crime, but some studies have begun to branch out into other related areas. Overall, while state crime has received more attention than political corruption in criminology, both have received less emphasis than other topics within the white collar crime literature, which itself is small in comparison with the literature on street crime.

This article outlines a framework for a criminological understanding of political corruption and state crime—particularly in the context of the United States. The key conceptual question in the state crime literature is, put simply: What is the definition of state crime? A concomitant conceptual question for this article is: What is political corruption? Hence, this article provides overviews of attempts to address these questions for a criminology audience. Conceptual challenges and debates have often hindered the development of the literatures highlighted here beyond the conceptual stage (Zimring & Johnson, 2005 ). This article therefore focuses on issues pertaining to conceptual clarifications while ultimately foregrounding the interconnections between political corruption and state crime.

When assessing a specific type of crime, there are a number of important substantive considerations that extend beyond the conceptual realm. For instance, aside from defining what a particular crime is, criminologists and others will also want to know more about how it is perpetrated, its victimology, the social control mechanisms that it has elicited, and its broader impact on society. Accordingly, this article also presents sections on each of these substantive themes as they pertain to political corruption and crimes of the state. This article concludes by offering some ideas for future directions in this important and growing area of scholarship.

Literature Review

Criminological work on political corruption and state crime has roots in research on white collar and organized offending (Nelken & Levi, 1996 ). As such, this section begins with an overview of selected key works on white collar crime to provide a starting point for understanding political corruption and crimes of the state. It then addresses the key conceptual issues related to political corruption and state crime, with an emphasis on consensus or oft-cited definitions of key terms, where they exist, as well as influential typologies of these crimes.

Criminaloids and White Collar Crime

The lineage of scholarly attention to the crimes of powerful actors can be traced back to Edward A. Ross’s classic article “The Criminaloid.” Ross ( 1907 , p. 45) warned of pro-social offenders, or criminaloids, that are “guilty in the eyes of the law: but since they are not culpable in the eyes of the public and in their own eye, their spiritual attitude is not that of the criminal.” The examples Ross provided were of powerful offenders from more advantaged social positions who engaged in bribery and other forms of offending that are along the lines of what we focus on in this article.

Approximately 40 years later, Edwin Sutherland coined the term white collar crime , which he defined as “. . . a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation” (Sutherland, 1983 , p. 7). Sutherland’s groundbreaking work provided a systematic study of offending perpetrated by corporate offenders, and it set the stage for subsequent empirical work in this area. In turn, Clinard and Yeager ( 1980 ) conducted a study of corporate crime about 30 years later that updated and expanded upon the scope of Sutherland’s research. For instance, whereas Sutherland examined the offending of 70 corporations, Clinard and Yeager studied 582 corporations. Clinard and Yeager also further distinguished between occupational offenses that are perpetrated for the benefit of individuals and corporate offenses that are perpetrated to further the interests of the corporation, and their work remains the most comprehensive study of corporate offending to date. This article introduces other influential works as well in subsequent sections; it first, however, turns to corruption.

Corruption: Early Emphases

Although corruption—particularly political corruption—is a well-studied area in political science (see, e.g., Heidenheimer & Johnston, 2002 ; Philp, 1997 ; Rose-Ackerman, 1999 ), attention to corruption within criminology has been limited (Huisman & Vande Walle, 2010 ). This said, policing is one subfield in which notable works on corruption have been published.

Some of the best known books on police corruption were authored by Sherman ( 1974 ) and Goldstein ( 1974 ). Goldstein outlined the challenges associated with defining police corruption and put forth his own definition, in which he states that police corruption includes “. . . acts involving the misuse of authority by a police officer in a manner designed to produce personal gain for himself or for others” (Goldstein, 1974 , p. 3). Although Goldstein’s definition, and most of the examples outlined in his book, emphasized the personal, or occupational, nature of offending, Goldstein also presented examples of coordinated forms of corruption perpetrated by multiple actors within police organizations.

Another classic study of corruption from the 1970s is William Chambliss’s On the Take . Chambliss ( 1978 ) examined the intersections of organized crime and corruption among police and local governmental officials, and his work is especially notable for the ways in which it outlined dynamics of collusion, interplay, and exchange that occur on the local level. Chambliss’s research provides us with a fitting segue into organized crime, which is the primary context within which political corruption has been studied over the years by criminologists (Huisman & Vande Walle, 2010 ).

Corruption has most often been approached as a facilitator of organized crime. Similar to police corruption, there have also been definitional challenges associated with determining what actually constitutes organized crime and corruption (Beare, 1997 ). If we return to Sutherland’s definition of white collar crime, organized crime would differ in that the perpetrators would not be people “. . . of respectability and high social status in the course of [their] occupation” (Sutherland, 1983 , p. 7). With respect to corruption, Beare ( 1997 ) notes that common corruption categories within the context of organized crime include “bribes/kick-backs” and “election/campaign corruption,” which involve illegal payments to gain desired outcomes, as well as garnering influence by offering “protection.”

Political Corruption

Political corruption is certainly not a new phenomenon. The early great thinkers in philosophy (e.g., Aristotle, Plato) addressed the topic, and the Roman Empire—and its fall—serves as an important early case study (MacMullen, 1988 ). Despite this, the term “political corruption” has no agreed-upon definition. Although efforts have been made to advance conceptual frameworks of political corruption (e.g., Heidenheimer & Johnston, 2002 ; Philp, 1997 ), a consensus definition does not currently exist—particularly in the criminology literature.

Many definitional challenges—and, hence, debates within the study of crime—come down to issues of inclusivity, parsimony, and analytic precision. One possibility is to cast the net broadly and formulate a broad, inclusive definition. For instance, Sutherland ( 1945 ) thought of crime as going beyond state-defined violations of the criminal law to include acts that were civil law violations as well as those that were “socially injurious.” Scholars who focus on political corruption have made similar calls to go beyond legal definitions.

Passas ( 1998 , pp. 44–45) argues that political corruption comprises “public officials acting in the best interest of private concerns, regardless of, or against, the public interest. Therefore, corruption can be defined as the covert privatization of government functions.” Kaufmann and Vicente ( 2011 ) make a similar case and contend that corruption need not be exclusive to acts that are illegal.

Like Passas ( 1998 ) and Kaufmann and Vicente ( 2011 ), Douglas and Johnson ( 1977 , p. 4) also endorse a more inclusive definition. In fact, they argue that the term political corruption is itself limiting, and they propose that official deviance be used instead for two reasons: first, there is a wide range of officials performing governmental functions, including many who are not necessarily deemed to be “political” by others or themselves; second, corruption tends to connote “material” and monetary exchanges for desired outcomes, yet “most people are more concerned with usurpation of power by officials than with their material corruption.” To capture this sentiment, they therefore prefer the term deviance because it is more general and encompassing.

In contrast to definitions that extend beyond legal categories, Zimring and Johnson ( 2005 , p. 796) argue that embracing the legal component is crucial when conceptualizing political corruption, much as Tappan ( 1947 ) argued many decades ago with crime, more generally. They define corruption as “the illegal use of power for personal gain,” and they maintain that the legal threshold allows for clearer analytical specification. Zimring and Johnson ( 2005 ) further note that laws reflect local norms, which makes them the ideal dimension in which to examine corruption comparatively. Whereas Zimring and Johnson differ sharply from others on whether or not criminologists should focus on legal conceptualizations, they are similar in that most works in this area emphasize the misuse of power for personal gain.

  • State Crime

Chambliss ( 1989 , p. 184) defines state crime as “acts defined by law as criminal and committed by state officials in the pursuit of their job as representatives of the state,” and he adds that state crime does not include acts “that benefit only individual officeholders.” State crime is therefore something that involves the state or its actors, and it is done to benefit more than just the individuals who are connected to its perpetration.

One possible point of contention concerning the above definition, though, pertains to restricting state crime to only those acts that are defined by law as criminal. Others argue that state crime can also include actions that are “deviant, abusive, harmful . . . [or] wrongful” (Ross, 2015 , p. 499). Put directly, similar to political corruption, one can think of state crime as something that extends beyond legal definitions—particularly given that state actors have the power to define what is legal and illegal (discussed in more detail later). As such, a more inclusive definition might simply specify the prerequisite conditions that ought to be present to consider something a state crime—namely that (a) those committing the crimes are state actors or entities and (b) some kind of harm results from these actors’/entities’ actions (or inaction).

In conceptualizing state crime, one factor to consider is the role of the state in said criminal activity—is it explicitly involved or implicitly involved? Put differently, some state crimes may be state-initiated, while others are state-facilitated (Kramer & Michalowski, 1990 ). Another related factor is the nature of the state. Friedrichs ( 2010 ) identifies four different types of states that may be involved in state crimes: a criminal state, a repressive state, a corrupt state, or a negligent state. There is some overlap between these two typologies in that criminal or repressive states may be more likely to initiate crimes, whereas a negligent state, for instance, may tend to facilitate crimes.

The typology of Friedrichs ( 2010 ) is also useful in thinking about the connection between political corruption and state crime. State crime can be thought of as being connected to distinct from political corruption, depending on the circumstances. As noted above, Friedrichs identifies a corrupt state as one type of state that may be engaged in state crime; the other forms may not necessarily hinge on corruption as an element (e.g., a repressive state). But it is also easy to imagine scenarios in which political corruption can lead to state crime—or crimes that involve collusion between the state and other entities such as corporations.

State-Corporate Crime

Any consideration of state crime would be incomplete without mentioning state-corporate crime. A frequently cited definition asserts that state-corporate crimes are “illegal or socially injurious actions that result from a mutually reinforcing interaction between (1) policies and/or practices in pursuit of the goals of one or more institutions of political governance and (2) policies and/or practices in pursuit of the goals of one or more institutions of economic production and distribution” (Aulette & Michalowski, 1993 , p. 175). Note that here, much like with political corruption and state crime, it is not just legality that is a factor—socially injurious actions are also considered.

The state can play any number of roles in state-corporate crime. An insightful typology developed by Kauzlarich and colleagues ( 2003 ) outlines four possible roles for the state, along with examples of crimes/outcomes: omission-implicit (e.g., inequality), omission-explicit (e.g., regulatory failure), commission-implicit (funding unethical experiments), and commission-explicit (e.g., genocide).

The key element in all of the above roles, however, is the interaction between the state and economic entities, as in Aulette and Michalowski’s ( 1993 ) oft-cited definition. Put directly, things like political corruption and state crime do not exist in a vacuum. Just as political corruption can be linked with state crime, state crime can involve perpetrators within and outside the state, morphing into state-corporate crime.


One of the key challenges in examining political corruption and state crime is determining who exactly the perpetrators are. With other types of crime (e.g., street crime), it is relatively obvious who the perpetrators are, in part because it is specific individuals who are committing a given crime. With political corruption and state crime, however, determining the perpetrators is not nearly so straightforward. This is due, in part, to the fact that entire organizations/entities can be involved in these crimes rather than just individuals.

Individual Versus Organizational Perpetrators

Although most research in criminology tends to study situations in which individuals are perpetrators, some scholars have argued that “organizations, not just individuals, commit deviant acts” (Ermann & Lundman, 1978 , p. 55). This is a very important insight, as it broadens the net in terms of who can be considered a perpetrator. This becomes especially important when looking at something like state crime.

Although the state is made up of myriad individuals serving in a variety of capacities, state decisions are normally collective in nature, and state actions are typically carried out by agencies with the authority to do so. For instance, policy is made by legislative bodies (e.g., Congress); laws are enforced by agencies (e.g., the DEA). As such, when decisions or actions of the state cross into corrupt and/or criminal territory, it may be collectivities—organizations, agencies, or even the state itself—who are the perpetrators.

The idea that collectivities engage in political corruption and/or state crime fits well with the typologies outlined in the literature review. For instance, in the complicity continuum of Kauzlarich, Mullins, and Matthews ( 2003 ), explicit omission might involve state agencies failing to perform their regulatory functions; explicit commission would involve the state itself engaging in crimes. This overlaps well with the typology of Friedrichs ( 2010 ), which identifies a number of state types that may engage in political corruption (e.g., a corrupt state) or state crime (e.g., a criminal state).

The Role of Networks and Exchange

Social networks and their associated exchanges help move political corruption and crimes of the state from the individual level to the organizational level. Take campaign contributions, for instance. Campaign contributions are typically given in person to a political candidate, which establishes a social tie (Clawson, Neustadtl, & Weller, 1998 ). Something of value—campaign money—has also been given in the process. If the candidate happens to win office, she or he may feel compelled to “return the favor” due to the principle of reciprocity (Cialdini, 2001 ). So, when a contributor requests help (e.g., a “yea” vote) on a future piece of legislation, the politician may feel obligated to do so. Research has shown that this happens with surprising regularity and involves large swaths of politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike (Peoples & Sutton, 2015 ). These exchanges, in aggregate, help shape legislation and tilt laws in favor of moneyed contributors rather than the public as a whole (Gilens & Page, 2014 ).

There are some interesting things to note about the example of campaign contributions influencing votes. First, it is not usually a quid pro quo exchange. Politicians typically do not make explicit promises to do things in exchange for contributions (there are exceptions, of course). Instead, they provide help in the future on a to-be-determined issue or bill. Given that there typically is not a quid pro quo exchange involved, these situations do not fit standard legal definitions of bribery. But in the words of Russell Long, “[t]he distinction between a campaign contribution and a bribe is almost a hairline’s difference” (Kaiser, 2009 , p. 18). More importantly, whether technically a bribe or not, campaign contributions can lead to corruption—both in the public’s perception and in reality.

Opinion polls consistently show that people believe money influences politics (NYT/CBS, 2015 ). These views can erode the public’s confidence in the state. This is evident in the abysmal approval ratings for Congress, which reached record lows of approximately 10% in recent years (Gallup, 2016 ). These views can also lead people to believe that political bodies such as Congress have become corrupt (see, e.g., a CNN poll in 2006 ). But have they become corrupt? Citing the “competing dependencies” that campaign contributions create, Lessig ( 2011 ) argues that institutions such as Congress have, in fact, become corrupt. This leads directly into the final item of note about campaign contributions influencing votes: it is ultimately at the institutional and/or organizational level where this plays out.

In the work of Peoples and Sutton ( 2015 ), it was not merely a handful of individual lawmakers (“a few bad apples”) who were influenced by their contributors—a statistically significant percentage of lawmakers were engaged in this behavior. Additionally, this happened within the context of social networks such that pairs of lawmakers would vote “yea” together on legislation based on their mutual ties to contributors. In other words, there was a culture of collusion and influence-peddling that permeated Congress—it had become a corrupt institution. And again, as noted earlier, the work of Gilens and Page ( 2014 ) suggests that the result of this is policy that favors elites over the rest of society.

The example of campaign contributions nicely demonstrates that offending is not limited to the individual level. Moreover, it also shows how it can be difficult in practice to determine who the perpetrators are when political corruption and crimes of the state occur. These complications ultimately underscore the importance of conceptualization, as an individualistic and purely legalistic view of crime would not apply to this kind of situation. Similar difficulties emerge when trying to identify the victims of these complex offenses.


Victims are often afterthoughts in the study of crime, and this is particularly the case when it comes to white collar offending. This is also true of political corruption and crimes of the state, where victims have received scant attention. There are several reasons why.

From a conceptual standpoint, the lack of agreement on what constitutes an offense or perpetrator ultimately results in a lack of consensus on who is victimized. Moreover—and irrespective of how offenses might technically be defined—these acts may feature actors who derive mutual benefits from the arrangement. It is therefore highly unlikely that one of these actors will feel victimized and contact authorities (Zimring & Johnson, 2005 ).

Visibility is another consideration. Ross ( 1907 ) suggested that “criminaloids” take efforts to avoid targeting their own communities when offending. It may also be very difficult in some cases to identify victims or connect victimizations to the situations that caused them. The number of victims (or potential victims) can further complicate matters. It may be quite challenging to determine how many people are adversely impacted by a given policy or action and to what extent they are affected: it could be a relatively small number of people, it could be entire cultures or societies. Likewise, there may be significant lag time between these acts and their effects. Moreover, the complexities associated with organizational forms of offending might make it impossible to either detect harms that have been perpetrated or connect perpetrated harms to the actors that caused them. This is particularly likely when offenses transcend national or other jurisdictional borders. The disconnects between actors, actions, and consequences resulting from political corruption and crimes of the state likely result in these forms of victimization being less visible than the temporal and visceral victimizations that are characteristic of street crime.

An additional consideration for victimology surrounding political corruption and state crime is power. It was previously noted that corrupt exchanges are unlikely to result in the involved actors feeling victimized given that they each benefit from the transaction. However, it may be that more peripheral actors perceive themselves as victims but feel powerless in the situation. For instance, the previous section outlined what appears to be open corruption perpetrated by Congress. Zimring and Johnson ( 2005 , p. 804) argue that conspicuous offending serves as “. . . an advertisement of the corrupt actor’s power.” To the extent that this is the case with political corruption and crimes of the state, victims may feel helpless to seek voice for their experiences—especially when the very entities that are supposed to help them are the ones committing the offenses.

We can and should ask what the victimology of political corruption and state crime looks like. Unfortunately, the broader conceptual challenges that have previously been noted preclude us from coming to a definitive answer, though a few observations are instructive. First, the victimizations that stem from these forms of offending are often qualitatively different from the individual victimizations that commonly occur within the context of street crime. On a related note, the scale of victimization resulting from these acts is potentially far reaching given that these harms are often perpetrated by organizational actors. Lastly, the systematic, organizational, and structural forces that often render victims invisible and disempowered can ultimately prevent us from knowing much about them, furthering their invisibility.

Social Control Mechanisms

With most crimes, there are clear-cut sanctions in place to regulate/control their incidence. With political corruption and state crime, however, things are much blurrier. There are two likely reasons why this is the case: (1) as noted earlier, state crimes are complicated in that neither the perpetrators of these crimes nor their victims are readily identifiable, and (2) it is the state that is normally in a position to regulate/control crime, and, thus, it has a conflict of interest in regulating/controlling itself. Of course, this does not mean that there are no efforts to control state crime—there are (see, e.g., Ross, 2000 ). It does mean, however, that efforts to control state crime face a number of challenges.

Challenges Related to Perpetrators/Victims

The fact that there is gray area with regard to conceptualization, and therefore identification, of the perpetrators and victims of state crimes makes it difficult to control these offenses. This is due to both practical considerations and issues of power.

With regard to practical considerations, there are problems that emerge when it is unclear who the perpetrators or victims are with a given crime. When the perpetrators cannot be concretely identified, questions arise that are difficult to answer: Who should be prosecuted for the crime? What should the sanctions/penalties be? How should the penalties be applied? This is compounded by the fact that, as noted above, those who engage in state crime are often large organizations. How does one go about prosecuting an organization or an entire government? When the victims cannot be identified, again difficult questions come up: Who can make legitimate claims of harm? How should they (or their loved ones) be compensated?

With regard to power, it is well established that powerful entities in society escape prosecution—or receive more lenient sentences if they are prosecuted—than less powerful individuals. This is certainly true of white collar and corporate crime; it is likely true of state crime as well. A less-often-acknowledged reality, though, is that powerful entities can even tilt the laws in their favor (what Lukes, 1974 , refers to as the “second dimension of power”) to allow for activities that in most other contexts would be considered illegal.

This reality of powerful entities tilting the laws in their favor might partly explain why these powerful entities are not prosecuted for their crimes—their activities may not technically be illegal if they have succeeded in getting the laws changed to allow these activities. A great example from the corporate world is the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (to be described again shortly), which repealed provisions of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act by allowing banks and investing firms to merge. In so doing, it allowed entities such as Citigroup to legally proceed as merged corporations—the 1999 Act is sometimes referred to in critical circles as “the Citigroup Relief Act”—even though their existence would have been illegal anytime in the 66 years preceding the Act.

When thinking about the state, the ability to shape and tilt laws is even more important. After all, state entities (e.g., legislatures) are literally the very bodies that craft and pass laws. They are therefore in the perfect position to tilt laws in their favor (or exempt themselves from laws that might typically apply to other individuals or entities). This is, however, a clear conflict of interest, as is self-regulation.

Conflicts of Interest in Lawmaking and Self-Regulation

As noted above, the state is responsible for writing and passing laws. It is also tasked with defining, regulating, and controlling criminal behavior. But what if the state or its entities are the ones engaging in crime—can the state be trusted to regulate itself?

Congress presents an interesting case study. Many of the organizations meant to limit congressional deviance are themselves controlled by Congress. For instance, internal ethics committees (e.g., the House Committee on Ethics) are responsible for addressing questionable activities among individual members of Congress. The Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is funded by Congress and whose members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, is responsible for monitoring and enforcing campaign finance laws. Even campaign finance laws—and other laws affecting Congress—are themselves written and enacted by Congress. Simply put, Congress gets to set the very rules by which it is governed and accordingly has significant power over how these rules are enforced.

Congress is just one example; there are many others one could explore. The common thread, however, is that state organizations and agencies often lack truly independent mechanisms of regulation. Granted, some might argue that even auditors and regulators are self-interested individuals who might be susceptible to bias (e.g., Rose-Ackerman, 1999 ), it is nonetheless true that the lack of external oversight means that these entities are charged with “regulating” themselves. Combined with the fact that some of them get to literally make their own rules (see, again, the example of Congress), this means that things such as corruption, deviance, and crime can go virtually unfettered. These organizations and agencies are above the law; the rules and norms of society do not apply to them. The end result is that they can offend with impunity and potentially harm the very individuals they are supposed to protect: the people.

Broader Societal Consequences

Although there are some who could cite Merton’s ( 1938 ) classic work on anomie to contend that deviance can occasionally carry positive functions for society, there is ample evidence that political corruption and state crimes have a largely adverse impact. As noted above, the number of people affected can vary: in some instances, it is a relatively small percentage of the population; in other cases, it is entire cultures or societies.

The Adverse Impact of Political Corruption

In terms of political corruption, there are a number of adverse impacts on society. As already noted, policy reflects the preferences of elites rather than the general public (Gilens & Page, 2014 ). This results in tax codes that benefit corporations (Clawson et al., 1998 ), sometimes to the detriment of the rest of society (e.g., cutting programs for the poor). Additionally, corporations with connections to politics seek out “government contracts, regulatory waivers, and government subsidies” (Godwin & Seldon, 2002 , p. 205), many of which they succeed in obtaining. For instance, Halliburton profited nicely from its connections to the presidential administration during the Iraq War, securing lucrative “no-bid” contracts (Rothe, 2006 ).

When corporations secure special benefits due to their campaign contributions and connections with politicians, the public can be adversely impacted. This was especially true in the lead-up to the housing crisis and the resultant Great Recession in 2007 . We now know that there were two key pieces of legislation passed in 1999 and 2000 that helped lead to the Great Recession (The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, respectively). They allowed banking and investing firms to merge and ensured a virtually unregulated market for risky investments such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Evidence is beginning to suggest that campaign contributions significantly influenced the passage of both bills (Peoples, 2012 ). Although some businesses and firms initially made handsome profits from the activities allowed by these bills, these same activities introduced so much structural risk that the integrity of the system itself became compromised and the economy collapsed. The result—trillions of dollars in losses, with millions of people losing their jobs and their homes.

The Adverse Impact of State (or State-Corporate) Crime

In terms of state crime, adverse impacts on society are similarly pronounced. Again, as noted at the beginning of this section and above, the number of people impacted can vary. Additionally, as noted in the typologies reviewed above, the involvement of the state (implicit versus explicit) can fluctuate depending on the situation. Nonetheless, the negative effects are significant and sometimes even result in death.

A number of examples can fit around the theme of regulatory failure resulting in harm or death. For instance, the Challenger space shuttle disaster likely stemmed, in part, from a breakdown in proper safety protocol (Kramer, 1992 ). This resulted in the loss of astronauts’ lives and a period of national shock and mourning.

There are other examples of regulatory failure at the nexus between corporations and their (lack of) regulation by the state. For example, stronger regulatory controls could have prevented the fire at the Imperial Foods chicken plant (Aulette & Michalowski, 1993 ) and the ValuJet crash in Florida (Matthews & Kauzlarich, 2000 ). These incidents resulted in 25 and 110 deaths, respectively.

Other examples can fit around the theme of the state itself acting as a criminal agent. These examples would fit under the explicit commission category of the complicity continuum (Kauzlarich et al., 2003 ) and would involve a repressive or criminal state (Friedrichs, 2010 ). The Holocaust stands out as perhaps the quintessential example of the state acting as a criminal agent. In the Holocaust, over 6 million Jews were killed at the hands of the Nazi government. Any situation, though, in which the state sanctions mistreatment and/or murder (e.g., displacement, slavery, mass executions, genocide) would fit here. It is not a stretch to say that in such cases the state has committed “crimes against humanity,” which have been prosecuted in international criminal courts (e.g., during the Nuremberg Trials). Of course, this ultimately takes us full circle and back to the conceptualization challenges introduced at the beginning of this article.

Conclusions and Future Directions

The state is supposed to protect the people. Sadly, it sometimes does just the opposite—it becomes corrupt and/or engages in criminal activity, thereby harming the people instead. Although political corruption and crimes of the state have historically been understudied by criminologists (much like with white collar and corporate crime), this is beginning to change. A distinct literature has more recently begun to coalesce around corruption and state crime, with high-profile calls for more work in this area (e.g., Chambliss, 1989 ).

The key debates and unresolved issues in this growing literature revolve around definitional and conceptual problems and, by extension, questions such as: What is political corruption, What is state crime, Who are the perpetrators, Who are the victims, and What are the implications for social control and broader society? The challenge of resolving these complex questions is further exacerbated by the fundamental nature of political corruption and state crime: not only are those who are committing these crimes powerful individuals or entities, they are also often literally in a position to define whether or not their activities are legal (and, by extension, how to regulate these activities, if at all).

The criminology literature is replete with debates over how crime should be defined. Much of the controversy has been centered on whether or not criminologists should adopt state definitions of crime. As noted earlier, Sutherland ( 1945 ) thought of crime as going beyond state- defined violations of the criminal law. Schwendinger and Schwendinger ( 1970 ) believed that state definitions of crime expressed and reinforced the interests of those with power, and toward this end they called for criminologists to use human rights violations rather than state definitions as the standard for what constitute crimes.

A possible solution to the difficulties of defining the parameters of political corruption and state crime is to follow the above-noted pioneers in thinking beyond the limited scenarios outlined in criminal law. In other words, we can perhaps include acts that are civil law violations, as Sutherland did, as well as those that are, to use his words, “socially injurious.” Future work in this area could continue with this more inclusive approach to what may be defined as political corruption and/or state crime.

A similar solution could be applied to the challenges of determining who perpetrators and victims are with political corruption and state crime: cast the net broadly to be as inclusive as possible. In the case of perpetrators, it is important to remind ourselves that “organizations, not just individuals, commit deviant [or corrupt/criminal] acts” (Ermann & Lundman, 1978 , p. 55). Researchers should therefore expand their parameters accordingly. In thinking about victims, casting the net widely can be very helpful as well. As with white collar and corporate crime, the cost of state crime to society in terms of economics, health, and even life are likely very great.

Lastly, in terms of the control of state crime, it is again the case that broader, more inclusive approaches are potentially warranted. As Ross ( 2015 ) notes, existing approaches include more typical institutional approaches (e.g., internal and external control mechanisms) plus alternative approaches (e.g., resistance by victims, activists, and oppositional groups). Given the unique positon of the state to write its own rules and regulate itself, the most effective approaches may well be those that do not rely on conventional institutional controls. Instead, alternative approaches involving the public may be more effective in the long run.

In reality, though, research on political corruption and state crime needs to move beyond definitional and conceptual issues and focus on the broader processes and ramifications of these crimes. In terms of processes, political corruption and crimes of the state are ultimately linked through exchange and relationships among actors. Social network analysis may therefore provide a methodological tool through which scholars can better trace the trajectories of these crimes and connect the individual to the organizational level (Peoples & Sutton, 2015 ).

In terms of ramifications, visibility is critical. With political corruption and state crime, the complexities and powerful actors associated with these acts can result in these offenses going unnoticed or being deliberately hidden. This is why it is critical to follow the call of Chambliss ( 1989 ) and conduct more criminological research on crimes of the state (and associated themes). More research on these topics—through both quantitative studies and, importantly, qualitative case studies (Kramer, Michalowski, & Kauzlarich, 2002 )—would further increase the visibility of these offenses and give voice to their many, sometimes invisible, victims.

Further Reading

  • Chambliss, W. J. (1978). On the take: From petty crooks to presidents . Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Chambliss, W. J. (1989). State-organized crime—The American Society of Criminology, 1988 presidential address. Criminology , 27 , 183–208.
  • Clinard, M. , & Yeager, P. C. (1980). Corporate crime . New York: Free Press.
  • Domhoff, G. W. (2014). Who rules America? The triumph of the corporate rich (7th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
  • Douglas, J. D. , & Johnson, J. M. (1977). Official deviance: Readings in malfeasance, misfeasance, and other forms of corruption . Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.
  • Ermann, M. D. , & Lundman, R. J. (1978). Deviant acts by complex organizations: Deviance and social control at the organizational level of analysis. The Sociological Quarterly , 19 , 55–67.
  • Friedrichs, D. O. (2010). Trusted criminals: White collar crime in contemporary society (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Heidenheimer, A. J. , & Johnston, M. (Eds.). (2002). Political corruption: Concepts and contexts (3d ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Johnston, M. (2005). Syndromes of corruption: Wealth, power, and democracy . New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kauzlarich, D. , Mullins, C. W. , & Matthews, R. A. (2003). A complicity continuum of state crime. Contemporary Justice Review , 6 , 241–254.
  • Peoples, C. D. , & Sutton, J. E. (2015). Congressional bribery as state-corporate crime: A social network analysis. Crime, Law and Social Change , 64 (2–3), 103–125.
  • Rose-Ackerman, S. (1999). Corruption and government: Causes, consequences, and reform . New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rosoff, S. M. , Pontell, H. N. , & Tillman, R. (2014). Profit without honor: White collar crime and the looting of America (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  • Ross, J. I. (Ed.). (2000). Controlling state crime . New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Sutherland, E. H. (1983). White collar crime: The uncut version . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Tunnell, K. D. (Ed.). (1993). Political crime in contemporary America: A critical approach . New York: Garland.
  • Aulette, J. R. , & Michalowski, R. (1993). Fire in Hamlet: A case study of a state-corporate crime. In K. D. Tunnell (Ed.), Political crime in contemporary America: A critical approach (pp. 171–206). New York: Garland.
  • Beare, M. E. (1997). Corruption and organized crime: Lessons from history. Crime, Law and Social Change, 28 (2), 155–172.
  • Chambliss, W. J. (1989). State-organized crime—The American Society of Criminology, 1988 presidential address. Criminology, 27 , 183–208.
  • Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Clawson, D. , Neustadtl, A. , & Weller, M. (1998). Dollars and votes: How business campaign contributions subvert democracy . Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • CNN . (2006.) Poll: Half of Americans think congress is corrupt. CNN . Retrieved from .
  • Ermann, M. D. , & Lundman, R. J. (1978). Deviant acts by complex organizations: Deviance and social control at the organizational level of analysis. The Sociological Quarterly, 19 , 55–67.
  • Gallup . (2016). Confidence in institutions. Retrieved from .
  • Gilens, M. , & Page, B. I. (2014). Testing theories of american politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens. Perspectives on Politics, 12 , 564–581.
  • Godwin, R. K. , & Seldon, B. J. (2002). What corporations really want from government: The public provision of private goods. In A. J. Cigler & B. A. Loomis (Eds.), Interest group politics (6th ed., pp. 205–224). Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.
  • Goldstein, H. (1974). Police corruption: A perspective on its nature and control . Washington, DC: Police Foundation.
  • Huisman, W. , & Vande Walle, G. (2010). The criminology of corruption. In G. de Graaf , P. von Maravic , & P. Waagenar (Eds.), The good cause. Theoretical perspectives on corruption (pp. 115–145). London: Barbara Budrich Publishers.
  • Kaiser, R. G. (2009). So damn much money: The triumph of lobbying and the corrosion of American government . New York: Knopf.
  • Kaufmann, D. , & Vicente, P. C. (2011). Legal corruption. Economics & Politics, 23 (2), 195–219.
  • Kauzlarich, D. , Mullins, C. W. , & Matthews, R. A. (2003). A complicity continuum of state crime. Contemporary Justice Review, 6 , 241–254.
  • Kramer, R. C. , & Michalowski, R. J. (1990). State-corporate crime . Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Baltimore.
  • Kramer, R. C. (1992). The space shuttle Challenger explosion: A case study of state-corporate crime. In K. Schlegel & D. Weisburd (Eds.), White-collar crime reconsidered (pp. 214–243). Boston: Northeastern University Press.
  • Kramer, R. C. , Michalowski, R. J. , & Kauzlarich, D. (2002). The origins and development of the concept and theory of state-corporate crime. Crime & Delinquency, 48 , 263–282.
  • Lessig, L. (2011). Republic, lost: how money corrupts congress—and a plan to stop it . New York: Twelve.
  • Lukes, S. (1974). Power: A radical view . London: Macmillan.
  • MacMullen, R. (1988). Corruption and the decline of Rome . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Matthews, R. A. , & Kauzlarich, D. (2000). The crash of ValuJet flight 592: A case study in state-corporate crime. Sociological Focus, 33 , 281–298.
  • Merton, Robert K. (1938). Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review, 3 (5), 672–682.
  • Nelken, D. , & Levi, M. (1996). The corruption of politics and the politics of corruption: An overview. Journal of Law and Society, 23 (1), 1–17.
  • NYT/CBS . (2015). Americans’ views on money in politics. New York Times/CBS . Retrieved from .
  • Passas, N. (1998). Structural analysis of corruption: The role of criminogenic asymmetries. Transnational Organized Crime, 4 (1), 42–55.
  • Philp, M. (1997). Defining political corruption. Political Studies, 45 , 436–462.
  • Peoples, C. D. (2012). Quasi-legal markets in D.C.: Contributions, corruption, and their effects on the global financial crisis . Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), Denver.
  • Peoples, C. D. , & Sutton, J. E. (2015). Congressional bribery as state-corporate crime: A social network analysis. Crime, Law and Social Change, 64 (2–3), 103–125.
  • Ross, E. A. (1907). The criminaloid. The Atlantic Monthly, 99 , 44–50.
  • Ross, J. I. (2015). Controlling state crime and alternative reactions. In G. Barak (Ed.), The Routledge International Handbook of Crimes of the Powerful (pp. 492–502). New York: Routledge.
  • Rothe, D. L. (2006). Iraq and Halliburton. In R. J. Michalowski & R. C. Kramer (Eds.), State-corporate crime: Wrongdoing at the intersection of business and government (pp. 215–238). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Schwendinger, H. , & Schwendinger, J. (1970). Defenders of order or guardians of human rights. Issues in Criminology, 5 , 123.
  • Sherman, L. W. (1974). Police corruption: A sociological perspective . Garden City, NY: Anchor Press.
  • Sutherland, E. H. (1945). Is “white collar crime” crime? American Sociological Review, 10 (2), 132–139.
  • Tappan, P. W. (1947). Who is the criminal? American Sociological Review, 12 (1), 96–102.
  • Zimring, F. E. , & Johnson, D. T. (2005). On the comparative study of corruption. British Journal of Criminology, 45 (6), 793–809.

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A level sociology revision – education, families, research methods, crime and deviance and more!

Category: state crime

Examples of state crimes 2020-2023.

Three examples of state crimes since 2020 include Russia targeting civilians during the Ukraine invasion, China’s genocide against the Uyghur’s and the Taliban’s denial of women’s rights.

This post provides several examples of Contemporary State Crimes and links to sources of information students can use to explore State Crimes further.

Before reading this post, you might like to read these two posts:

  • What is State Crime ?
  • Sociological Perspectives on State Crime

Studying State Crime is an explicit requirement for students studying A-level Sociology, as part of the compulsory Crime and Deviance Module .

Below I have highlighted five countries who are responsible for some of the worst state crimes in recent years….

I’ve tried to select examples of mainly developed countries committing state crimes, to demonstrate that it’s not all impoverished, war torn countries or ‘rogue states’ who are state-criminal actors.

It is, however, important to realise that I have been selective (so there is some selection bias here and these examples will lack representativeness) but I think it has to be this way to make this topic manageable. I have included links below where you can search for further examples of State Crimes.

NB – this post is a work in progress!

Countries Committing State Crimes in 2020-2023

Three prominent examples of governments committing crimes against humanity since 2020 include:

  • Russia – the invasion of Ukraine
  • China – the cultural genocide against the Uyghers.
  • The Taliban’s increasing oppression of women.

Russia’s Crimes Against Humanity

Historically, there’s only one real contender for the the worst state criminal in all of all of human history – the USA.

The International Criminal Court is currently investigating Russia for potential crimes against humanity committed during its invasion of Ukraine . Russia is under investigation for the following crimes:

  • deliberate targeting of civilian areas and the systematic mass killing civilians.
  • Torture and rape of civilians in Ukraine and Ukrainian prisoners held in Russian territory.
  • Forced deportation of over two million Ukrainian adults and children to Russia since the start of the invasion.

China’s Genocide Against the Uyghurs

The Human Right’s Watch Report 2021 report summarises a nearly 10 year history of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese State. The Uyghurs live in Xinjiang province in the far North East of China, a relatively remote and underdeveloped region of China.

map showing the Xinjiang region of China

In 2014 the Chinese government commenced a “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” in the Xinjiang region has since involved pressuring Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims to abandon Islam and their culture.

Two examples of Chinese state crimes include:

  • Since 2014 over one million ethnic minorities have been forcibly detained and subject to ‘re-education’ sometimes involved torture.
  • The populations of the region are also subject to mass surveillance and there are reports of women having been forcibly sterilised.

These actions by the Chinese state are possibly characterised as a cultural genocide and are ongoing today.

The Chinese State has a history of violating human rights. For example the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms, ongoing repression in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and the crackdown on independent voices throughout the country more generally.

The Taliban in Afghanistan

According to Human Rights Watch since the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan they have:

  • forced women to wear headscalves in public
  • Banned girls from secondary education
  • Banned women from working and public office.
  • Imposed mass censorchip on the media, undermining freedom of speach
  • Murdered or disappeared numerous political opponents.

The United States and Israel as State Criminals

Despite the United States outing Russia as a perpetrator of State Crime in Ukraine, according to Noam Chomsky, the United States, along with Israel, are the two worst terrorist organisations/ rogue states of modern times, even if in the last couple of years their crimes against humanity may have been out of the spotlight!

The Crimes of the United States of America

Below is a useful summary video which takes a trip through some of the War Crimes committed by the United States of America since the end of World War Two.

The State of Israel

Israel has been committing crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories for several decades now – there are presently almost 7 million Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid policies which forbids Palestinians from having equal access to regions across Israel. This 2021 report from Human Rights watch explores this. A more accessible report might be this one from Amnesty international .

Some of the crimes the state of Israel commits against Palestinian civilians include:

  • Unlawful killing
  • Prevention of freedom of movement
  • Forced displacement
  • Discrimination

Syria and Turkey

War Crimes are still being committed by Syria and Turkey in Syria – including the arbitrary killing of civilians, forced detention, which can lead to the death penalty, looting of property and displacement of peoples – there are now 6 million refugees from the region.

Interestingly the report also labels neighbouring countries as committing crimes by blocking access to these refugees!

War Crimes in War Torn Countries (Special Note)

NB – you will find plenty of examples of many state crimes in war torn countries such as Yemen for example, but it seemed a little bit too easy to focus on those, I’m trying to be critical here!

Three organisations which monitor state crimes:

  • Amnesty International has a useful hub page here which will allow you to explore contemporary case studies of States involved in various crimes – such as disappearances, political violence, torture and states denying citizens freedom of expression.
  • Human Rights Watch – monitors all sorts of State crimes – they cover some of the same ground as Amnesty but also focus more extensively on issues such as women’s’ rights, and reproductive rights and lots more. Their reports page is well worth a browse!
  • Transparency International – monitors global political corruption – they’ve developed an index based on surveys which asks people questions such as ‘have you paid a bribe to access a public service in the last year’ – they rank countries according to how corrupt they are and do research into corruption in several countries. You can access the latest world corruption report here .
  • You might also be interested in this rare academic source – The State Crime Journal .

Sources and Signposting

This material is mainly relevant to the Crime and Deviance module.

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The Deportation of Chevon Brown – A Breach of Human Rights?

It can be difficult to find easy to understand examples of the state breaching individual human rights, but the recent deportation of Chevon Brown might just be one such example.

This case study from February 2020 is relevant to the ‘state crime and human right’s topic within the A-level sociology Crime and Deviance module .

In February 2020 Chevon Brown was deported to Jamaica from the United Kingdom.

state crime case study examples

He had just been released from Prison having served 8 months of a 14 month sentence for danagerous driving and driving with no insurance.

He was 21 when he decided to take his car for a spin, despite being a learner driver with no insurance, and when he saw police, he says he panicked, and sped up, which led to a 5 minutes high speed chase, and he puts his actions down to stupidity, and he’s paid the ultimate price.

Britain has the right to deport foreign citizens who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, under the UK Borders Act, which came into force in 2007, unless doing so would infringe their human rights, by sending them back to a country where their life would be at threat, for example.

Chevon was 14 when he moved to Britain with his father on a Jamaican Passport. Despite having ‘indefinite leave to remain’ in the UK, he is still technically a Jamaican national, and so the UK had the right to deport him. The problem is, he no longer has any friends or family in Jaimaica, and his father is remaining in the UK, with his other children.

Since returning to Jamaica, Chevon says he doesn’t feel safe. “I am nervous walking down the street,” he says. “Anything could happen – every day people die here.”

According to UN data, Jamaica had a murder rate of 47 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. In the UK, the rate was 1 per 100,000.

Chevon was deported along with 40 other criminals, many of whom had committed more serious offenses, such as murder, and he says the Jamaican media as labelled them all with the same brush, so it is difficult for him to make friends or find a job.

“I’m labelled a murderer, a drug trafficker and a rapist” Chevon Brown was deported from the UK to Jamaica last year, alongside other convicted criminals, after serving time in prison for dangerous driving He says his life has become a “complete mess” — Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) February 12, 2020

Sources – The BBC News May 2020.

Sociological Questions to consider about this case study

  • Is deportation for ‘dangerous driving’ an appropriate punishment?
  • Given his lack of friends and family in Jamaica, the alleged discrimination he’s facing (due to negative media labeling) and his increased chance of being murdered, did the UK government breach his human rights by deporting him?
  • Is this deportation an example of institutional racism?
  • Do you think the original decision to imprison him for 14 months was fair, or just another example of institutional racism?

By contrast you might want to consider this in relation to the case of Anne Sacoolas , the American Diplomat’s Wife who actually killed a British Teenager by driving on the wrong side of the road, fled back to America and is now being protected by the US Government, rather than being deported back to the UK to stand trial.

China’s Persecution of the Uighurs – A Horrible Example of a State Crime

The Chinese government is currently engaged in an ongoing act of cultural genocide against the Uighur Muslims, a minority population within North Western China.

As part of this cultural genocide, 15000 mosques have already been bulldozed and thousands of Uighur Muslims have been rounded up and forced into ‘re-education’ camps (which the Chinese government calls ‘job training’ centers.

state crime case study examples

In these camps they are forced to renounce their faith and their traditions, and to speak Mandarin Chinese.

The Chinese state has used surveillance technology including facial recognition, mandatory fingerprinting, Iris scans, and routine checks on phones, combined with AI based predictive software to flag up suspects who ‘refuse alcohol’ or who ‘discuss the Koran’.

The camps were constructed following a series of terror attacks in the region, leaked government documents have President Xi dictating his officials to show ‘no mercy’ in the battled against extremists, and that anyone ‘infected’ by extremism requires a painful ‘interventionary treatment’ where their ‘erroneous thinking’ can be eradicated.

Relevance of this to A-level sociology

Firstly, it’s a horrific example of a contemporary state crime – this is a flagrant abuse of the human rights (as ‘protected’ by the United Nations) by the Chinese State.

Secondly, it’s a good example of both the power of the Nation State (China) to abuse people, and the powerlessness other Nation States to do anything about it – pretty much every country on Earth is ignoring this, including Muslim majority countries.

Thirdly, it’s an interesting (and again horrific) example of how surveillance can be used to control people.

Source: The Week, 30 September 2019.

Find out More

This Al Jazeera news article is a useful starting point.

Britain’s recent involvement in torture – a good example of a ‘state crime’

Britain’s recent involvement in torture – a good example of a ‘state crime’

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee It’s been 15 years since allegations first emerged of Britain’s involvement in the torture of those suspected of the 9/11 terror attacks, and earlier this month (July 2018) an official report has finally been released which reveals the ‘true’ extent of Britain’s compliance with the USA’s programme of torture.

uk torture

According to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), Britain’s involvement amounted to at least 13 occasions of British agents witnessing suspects being mistreated and having been informed (but done nothing about) of mistreatment by their foreign counterparts or detainees more than 150 times.

The report found that British agents weren’t directly involved in torture themselves, but the strategy of British intelligence was to ‘outsource’ the interrogation process to those who they knew used ‘enhanced techniques such as stress positions, sleep deprivation and beatings.

The British effectively turned a blind eye to the fact that the USA was in breach of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. They were so ‘blind’ in fact that they ignored the fact that at one detention centre detainees were kept in containers so small that they could neither stand or lie down, getting around this particular breach of human rights by simply building interrogation portacabins which were large enough to comfortably accommodate the prisoners.

So why did this happen?

Following 9/11 the security and intelligent services were under intense pressure to find and prosecute those responsible, but also to find information which might prevent future terrorist attacks. The problem with using such techniques, however, is that they might well just serve to increase recruitment to the same terrorist networks the authorities are trying to quash.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This seems to be a good example of Britain being involved in a ‘state crime’ , also a good example of the extent of barriers to researching powerful actors: it’s taken 15 years for this official report to be conducted, and even this doesn’t tell us the whole story: Theresa May refused permission for four key officers to give evidence on national security grounds, so the true extent of Britain’s complicity in state crime may not surface for many years to come!

  • The Week, 7 July 2018
  • Independent Article
  • Published: 05 February 2009

That Was Then, This Is Now, What About Tomorrow? Future Directions in State Crime Studies

  • Dawn L. Rothe 1 ,
  • Jeffrey Ian Ross 2 ,
  • Christopher W. Mullins 3 ,
  • David Friedrichs 4 ,
  • Raymond Michalowski 5 ,
  • Gregg Barak 6 ,
  • David Kauzlarich 7 &
  • Ronald C. Kramer 8  

Critical Criminology volume  17 ,  pages 3–13 ( 2009 ) Cite this article

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Research and theorizing on state crime has come to play an important role in the fields of criminology and criminal justice for understanding the worst of crimes: those of powerful state agencies and agents. Since William Chambliss’ ( 1989 ) ASC presidential address, scholars of state crime have made advances in theoretical modeling and analyzing core enactment and etiological factors of crimes of the state (e.g., Barak 1991 ; Friedrichs 1998 ; Grabosky 1989 ; Kauzlarich and Kramer 1998 ; Kramer and Michalowski 2005 ; Kramer et al. 2005 ; Michalowski and Kramer 2006 ; Mullins and Rothe 2008a , b ; Pearce 1976 ; Ross 1995 , 2000 ; Rothe 2009 ; Rothe and Mullins 2006 , 2008 ). Nonetheless, the study of state crime still has a long way to go before it ever reaches the magnitude or legitimacy afforded to the study of traditional street crime. It is with this in mind that several leading scholars of state criminality have come together and reevaluated the state of state crime and the ways in which the field must move forward. This kind of inventory, where scholars examine the past, present and future of the field, is not without precedent. For example, almost a decade ago (Ross et al. 1999 ) explored the difficulty of conducting state crime research and made a series of recommendations on how it could be improved. Nearly 7 years later (Rothe and Friedrichs 2006 ) re-evaluated the state of state crime and called for more attention to those beyond US crimes of the state and include crimes of globalization and also international controls such as the International Criminal Court (Friedrichs and Friedrichs 2007 ; Rothe and Mullins 2006 ; Rothe et al. 2006 , 2008 ). Since that time, there has been substantial movement by scholars of state crime in these other areas, yet, as we note, there still remains key issues that need to be addressed and overcome: it is with this that we again revisit the field of state crime.

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Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

Dawn L. Rothe

Division of Criminology, Criminal Justice & Forensic Studies, University of Baltimore, 1420 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD, 21201, USA

Jeffrey Ian Ross

Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL, USA

Christopher W. Mullins

Scranton University, Scranton, PA, USA

David Friedrichs

Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

Raymond Michalowski

Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, IL, USA

Gregg Barak

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL, USA

David Kauzlarich

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA

Ronald C. Kramer

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We wish to thank all of those that contributed to our discussions and thoughts during the American Society of Criminology Roundtable on State Crime I and II, November 2007.

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Rothe, D.L., Ross, J.I., Mullins, C.W. et al. That Was Then, This Is Now, What About Tomorrow? Future Directions in State Crime Studies. Crit Crim 17 , 3–13 (2009).

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section State Crime

Introduction, general overviews and anthologies.

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State Crime by Christopher Mullins LAST REVIEWED: 17 June 2019 LAST MODIFIED: 24 June 2020 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0014

The focused academic study of crimes committed by nation-states is now more than two decades old, spanning several generations of scholars and increasingly drawing on multiple theoretical positions. At its root is the attempt to push the boundaries of both academic and political discourses to provide a recognition of the most harmful actions as states as criminal in nature and to bring social scientific theories of crime and criminality to bear in the identification, analysis, and control of these events. The subfield developed out of white-collar crime studies, as a group of mainly critical scholars applied and revised conceptual and theoretical materials developed in the study of crimes of corporations (and their actors) to the behavior (and agents) of nation-states. Of course, not all scholars who approach the study of crimes committed by nation-states are tied to critical criminology. Some work has been published that looks at law violation by states criminologically from mainstream theoretical perspectives. As this article is situated in the discipline of criminology, there are some threads of research that it does not index. Criminologists are not the only scholars to research crimes committed by nation-states. Even though the field is highly interdisciplinary, areas of overlap with history, political science, and legal studies exist. While these bodies of work are beneficial and illuminating, this bibliography limits itself to work that has an explicit or implicit criminological foundation. While a section is included here on genocides and other mass atrocities, sources included are limited to those that somehow work within criminological theories or approaches. Thus, the massive literature on the Holocaust is excluded (save for the few criminological explorations), as is political science–based work on state violence and repression (i.e., the work of Gurr or Rummel).

Since the late 20th century, a number of books have been published that provide a conceptual and empirical overview of the field. Some have taken the form of anthologized collections; others are monographs. All represent an attempt to define and overview the breadth and depth of the field. Most anthologies represent multiple positions on Definitions and Conceptualizations . Barak 1991 represents the earliest statement of the field and its concerns, while Friedrichs 1998 , a two-volume work, is the most extensive. Green and Ward 2004 and Rothe 2009 are both excellent overviews. Two recent anthologies are both strong contributions, with Chambliss, et al. 2010 focusing more on issues of neo-empire and state crime and Rothe and Mullins 2011 providing a broader presentation of the field as a whole.

Barak, Gregg. 1991. Crimes by the capitalist state: An introduction to state criminality . Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

This early anthology pulls together a number of disparate views and conceptual frameworks. The uniting factors are the attempts to define state crime and to apply basic conceptual and theoretical positions from criminology (especially critical criminology) to specific cases of state crime.

Chambliss, William J., Raymond Michalowski, and Ronald C. Kramer, eds. 2010. State crime in the global age . Collumpton, UK: Willan.

Anthology of essays examining many current expressions of state crime. Integrates issues on globalism and internationalisms throughout. Strongly focused on issues of empire and state imperialism. An excellent presentation of this vein of state crime thinking and scholarship.

Friedrichs, David O., ed. 1998. State crime . 2 vols. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

Anthology of state crime and legal studies pieces that attempt to identify and understand violations of law by nation-states. An invaluable resource for the serious scholar of the field. Includes numerous pieces from law, political science, and other disciplines not typically read by criminologists.

Green, Penny, and Tony Ward. 2004. State crime: Governments, violence and corruption . London: Pluto.

Provides an overview of the nature and types of state crime. Becker-influenced audience-based definition is central. Suggests that state acts are criminal when social audiences define them as such. Involves actions typically defined as criminal, but also governmental responses to natural disasters, maintaining services, and similar realms of state responsibility.

Rothe, Dawn L. 2009. State criminality: The crime of all crimes . Lanham, MD: Lexington.

Subfield overview suitable for students and scholars. Covers and classifies numerous cases of crimes and controls. Expands the boundaries of state crime to include violations of international law. Stands as the best assimilation and presentation of work in the field to date.

Rothe, Dawn L., and Christopher W. Mullins, eds. 2011. State crime: Current perspectives . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

Presents updated versions of several classic essays in the field, as well a few new works. It covers the more traditional orientations of state crime as well as the two new threads of crimes of empire and the push into supranational criminology. Valuable as an introduction or for experienced scholars.

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The Inside Story on 5 Organized Crime Cases and the People Who Brought Them to Justice

By Kirsten Slyter on 10/18/2021

image of a board with pictures and clues trying to solve organized crime

There’s no question that organized crime is a fascinating topic. Hit Hollywood depictions like Goodfellas , The Departed and The Sopranos have firmly established themselves as a part of American popular culture. While these depictions may paint individual members of organized crime rings in a sometimes-favorable light, organized crime remains a substantial problem that leads to a lot of suffering for those caught up in their web.

These organizations are committed to ill-gotten profits and power. Some boast huge numbers and often the takedowns of even key figures aren’t enough to stop the group from carrying on. It takes a lot of resources, manpower and smarts on the law enforcement side to catch and convict these criminals. 

In this article, we’ll walk through some well-known—and not-so-well-known—organized crime cases where law enforcement was able to get the upper hand and explain how they did it.

What is organized crime?

But first, let’s start with defining organized crime. According to the FBI, organized crime is the associations of individuals who operate illegally to gain power, influence and wealth. Organized crime enterprises can be organized by clans, networks or hierarchies. They’re often involved in crimes like:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Human trafficking
  • Firearms trafficking
  • Illegal gambling
  • Migrant smuggling

Though groups organized via local ethnic ties (like the Mafia or the Westies) are well-known, criminal enterprises can do their work all across the world thanks to international ties and the Internet.

Often, the FBI in the U.S works to breakdown international and national organized crime enterprises by using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statue (RICO act). Passed in 1970, this act gives authorities more leverage to pursue civil and criminal penalties for racketeering activity against groups of people working as part of an on-going criminal enterprise.

In the cases that follow, you’ll see more specific actions taken by law enforcement to catch and convict individuals in organized crime enterprises.

A closer look at 5 fascinating organized crime cases

1. the st. valentine’s day massacre and capone’s downfall.

February 14, 1929 , is known as the date of one of the most violent events ever to occur in Chicago gang history. The infamous Al Capone and George “Bugs” Moran ran opposing enterprises on the north and south sides of Chicago, respectively. Capone made huge sums of money through bootlegging, speakeasies, gambling and prostitution through the 1920s and sought to consolidate the gangs of Chicago to increase his personal wealth.

On February 14, seven members of Moran’s gang were brutally gunned down in a parking garage in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Over 70 rounds of ammunition were fired. When police arrived at the scene, only one gang member was found alive. He later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

Eyewitness reported that two men dressed as police officers and two in plain clothes entered the garage and pretended to arrest the men in the garage, but instead shot them. Moran himself was meant to be at the garage, but on the way, he saw the men dressed as police officers and decided to stop for coffee instead, saving his own life.

Though no one was ever brought to trial for the murders, Al Capone was eventually put in prison for income tax evasion thanks to diligent forensic accounting by special agent Frank Wilson and other members of the Intelligence Unit of the Internal Revenue Service. Wilson and the others reviewed over two million documents to find several ledgers containing income that Capone had not reported. He was convicted and sentence to eleven years in prison, in addition to $80,000 in fines and court costs.

2. Operation Trojan Shield

Operation Trojan Shield was put into effect in just 2018. The international effort , coordinated by the FBI, resulted in more than 800 arrests. A search warrant affidavit filled by an FBI Special Agent in San Diego allowed the FBI to identify over 300 transnational criminal organization using a platform called ANOM, run with collaboration by the FBI.

Traffickers and criminals used ANOM devices and platforms to send encrypted messages planning and coordinating their activities. They didn’t know copies of those same messages were sent to the FBI, the Australian Federal Police and other agencies. Those agencies gathered over 27 million messages.

This international effort was able to show connections around the world. Because of the messages, Australian Federal Police were able disrupt 20 threats to kill people. Authorities in Europe seized more than 8 tons of cocaine, 22 tons of cannabis and several tons of other drugs, along with 55 luxury vehicles and over $48 million in various worldwide currencies and cryptocurrencies.

3. United States v Antony Salerno, et al (The Mafia commission trial)

This 1986 trial is known as one of the most significant blows to organized crime in the United States. Formerly confidential information about the Mafia’s internal organization was revealed, and eight defendants were convicted of racketeering including some of the “dons” and underbosses of New York’s five most-prominent crime families, also known as “the Commission” or “La Cosa Nostra.”

The court indictments were the products of five years of investigations, 171 court-authorized wiretaps and the work of more than 200 federal agents. By the time the trial started, there were more than 25 indictment counts including charges of extortion, narcotics, gambling, labor racketeering and murder.

One of the most dramatic moments of the trial occurred when Angelo Lonardo, former Cleveland mafia underboss, took the stand and broke the Mafia’s “omerta” code of silence. Lonardo had been offered a deal by the FBI—testimony in exchange for a reduced sentence and possible parole for his own conviction on drug charges. He provided insights into how the Commission operated. Lonardo’s family in Cleveland communicated to the Commission via Tony Salerno. He pointed out Salerno in court and called out Salerno as the current boss of the Genovese crime family.

The ten-week trial ended with eight convictions of involvement in the Commission and more specific criminal acts from the Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo and Bonanno families.

4. Kansas City Massacre

This June 17, 1933, massacre took the lives of four FBI agents and their federal prisoner, Frank Nash, outside the Union Railway Station in Kansas City, Missouri. Nash already had a long history of criminal activity and was being brought back to a U.S. penitentiary after escaping.

The four individuals indicted of the shooting were said to have connections with Nash in the crime world and didn’t want him sharing potentially damning information with law enforcement. The four individuals—Richard Galatas, Herbert Farmer, “Doc” Louis Stacci and Frank Mulloy—were found guilty of conspiracy to cause the escape of a federal prisoner from the custody of the United States. Each were sentenced to serve two years in a federal penitentiary and pay a fine of $10,000, the maximum penalty allowed by law at the time.

The events of the Kansas City Massacre changed the operations of the FBI. Before, the agency wasn’t permitted to carry firearms or make arrests. After the massacre, Congress gave the FBI statuary authority to carry guns and make arrests, making FBI agents much closer to what they are today.

5. Operation Family Secrets

This seven-year investigation is known as one of the most successful organized crime law enforcement efforts ever conducted. It all started when a letter arrived at the Chicago FBI office from Frank Calabrese Jr. in prison. Calabrese Jr. wanted to help put his father, a mobster, away for life. Nick Calabrese, Frank’s brother, also became an informant.

The investigation led to indictments among 14 defendants affiliated with the Chicago outfit, the Windy City’s mafia organization. Eighteen murders and one attempted murder were investigated with the rest of the crimes encompassing loansharking and bookmaking.

Throughout the 2007 trial, more than 125 witnesses and 200 pieces of evidence were presented. Frank Calabrese was sentenced to life in prison for 13 slayings (among other crimes).

Could a crime-solving career be in your future?

Though we’ve explored organized crime cases with convicted criminals behind bars, many more cases stand unsolved. The world of organized crime is changing. The Mafia, cartels and other organized crime rings still exist, but catching underworld criminals today might look more like Operation Trojan Shield than hunting down mob bosses on the street. No matter how methods may change, the need to help reel in criminal behavior remains constant.

Does the thrill of the chase and the investigative nature of solving crime sound like something you could devote your career to? Our article “Investigate Your Future: Are You Destined for a Crime-Solving Career?” highlights some of the other key signs you’d thrive in an investigative role.

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Below is a selection of representative federal hate crimes case summaries. Each includes a link to a DOJ press release, with additional information.

Oklahoma | August 16, 2023 | Race

Two Oklahoma Men Sentenced to Prison for Attacks on a Black Man

Two Oklahoma men pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 6 and 10 years in prison, respectively, for a racially motivated attack in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The two men must also pay the victim restitution, money to cover medical or other expenses, amounting to $113,644.40.

On Jan. 18, 2022, a grand jury charged the defendants with physically assaulting a Black man because of his race, as well as his white friend, in the parking lot of the Brickhouse Saloon in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

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Utah | August 8, 2023 | Race, National Origin

Utah Man Sentenced for Hate-Motivated Attack on Three Men with a Metal Pole

A Utah man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attacking three men with a metal pole he believed to be Mexican.

On November 27, 2018, the man entered a tire store and shouted at employees there that he wanted to “kill Mexicans.” Then he began attacking the employees with a metal pole, striking the first victim, a teenager, in the head, resulting in a serious injury. After the father of the victim, the business owner, rushed to help his son, the attacker struck him several times with the metal pole. The business owner’s brother rushed to intervene. The attacker threatened him, but he was not injured in the attack.

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Pennsylvania | August 2, 2023 | Religion

Shooter Receives Death Sentence for Attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue

After two months of trial, a federal jury in Pittsburgh unanimously recommended that a Pennsylvania man be sentenced to death for killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, critically wounding seven others, including five responding police officers.

On October 27, 2018, the assailant entered the Tree of Life Synagogue during worship with multiple firearms and stated his desire to “kill Jews.” He shot and killed 11 congregants, injuring two other members of the congregation and five law enforcement officers. Evidence showed that the defendant meticulously planned his attack based on his violently antisemitic beliefs, reflected in dozens of online posts.

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Additional Charges Filed:

Missouri | August 2, 2023 | Religion

Missouri Man Sentenced for Setting Fire to Islamic Center

A Missouri man was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison, in addition to owing $551,217.91 in damages, for hate crime and arson violations after pleading guilty to burning down the Cape Girardeau Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

On April 24, 2020, the first morning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, at about 4:50 a.m., the defendant set fire to the Islamic Center at 298 Northwest End Boulevard, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Video showed him throwing multiple objects through the building’s glass window, causing it to break. He poured the contents of two gallon-sized containers throughout the foyer and down the hallway and then lit two fires that immediately spread through the inside of the building.

The Islamic Center suffered severe damage that rendered it unsuitable for use as a religious center. The defendant admitted that he set the fire because of the religious character of the building.

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Florida | July 27, 2023 | Race

Florida Man Found Guilty in Racially Motivated Attack Near 1923 Rosewood Massacre Site

A jury in Gainesville, Florida, convicted a Florida man for hate crimes after his racially motivated attack on a group of Black men surveying property along a public road in Rosewood, Florida. The property is near the location of the 1923 Rosewood Massacre, an infamous racially motivated attack on a prospering Black community that destroyed a thriving town.

On Sept. 6, 2022, the defendant noticed the victims surveying land near a public roadway. When the defendant came upon the victims, who were on the public roadway, he shouted racial slurs and expletives at them, including “[racial slur] get out of these woods,” before driving a pickup truck directly at the group, nearly striking one of them. At trial, one witness testified that the defendant admitted that he “came at those [expletives],” and that he “would have [expletive]d up all those Black [expletive]. Video evidence showed that after he was arrested, the defendant complained that he was “getting treated like this [expletive] over a [expletive] [racial slur].” Although no victims suffered from physical injuries, one witness testified that the defendant came “within inches” of striking one of the victims and that one victim, “nearly lost his life that day.”

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Kentucky | July 27, 2023 | Race

Kentucky Woman Sentenced for Mailing Threats to Neighbors Because of Their Race

A Kentucky woman was sentenced to nine years in prison for mailing threats to her neighbors in 2020 because of their race.

The woman sent multiple threatening letters to an interracial couple and their children, who lived in the same neighborhood. Many of these letters contained violent threats and racial slurs.

At trial, the jury found that the threatening letters were sent to the defendant’s neighbors because of their race.

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Alaska | July 25, 2023 | Religion, National Origin, Sexual Orientation, Gender

Alaska Man Sentenced to 18 Months for Hate Crimes, Drug Trafficking

An Anchorage man was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for hate-motivated vandalism and a drug trafficking offense.

In May 2021, the defendant placed stickers with a swastika and the text “WE ARE EVERYWHERE” at eight locations around Anchorage, including the Alaska Jewish Museum, the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, and a site associated with the LGBTQI+ community. In September, he returned to the Alaska Jewish Museum, where he placed another sticker and carved a swastika into the door.

During the investigation, investigators discovered that the defendant used social media to traffic drugs. Federal agents searched the defendant’s residence and recovered drugs, firearms, and Nazi-inspired imagery, including a box of swastika stickers.

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Wisconsin | July 24, 2023 | Race

Wisconsin Man Sentenced for Making Racially Charged Threats Against Black Neighbors

A Wisconsin man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for threatening his Black neighbors because of their race.

In March 2021, the defendant vandalized a Black woman’s vehicle parked outside her apartment by slashing her tires and smashing her windshield. He left a note on her car filled with racial slurs, threatened to slash her throat, and demanded she move out. A week later, he slashed her tires again, left another note filled with racial slurs, and gave her an ultimatum – move out of the neighborhood or suffer violence.

In April 2022, a Black woman and her two children moved into the defendant’s apartment complex. The defendant vandalized her front door with racial graffiti and left her a note calling her family by a racial slur and demanding that she leave the building.

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New Jersey | July 12, 2023 | Religion

New Jersey Man Admits Communicating Threats to Attack Synagogue

A New Jersey man admitted posting an online manifesto threatening to attack a synagogue and Jewish people.

On November 1, 2022, the defendant wrote and used social media to share a document entitled “When Swords Collide.” In this document, he admitted targeting a synagogue, providing that “It’s in the context of an attack on Jews.” He used the document to threaten at least five people on social media.

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Florida | July 7, 2023 | Race

Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Racially Motivated Hate Crimes

A Florida man faces up to 20 years in prison for racially motivated attacks on two Black women.

On September 10, 2022, the defendant directed racial slurs at the clerk of a convenience store after his credit card was declined. The defendant left the store with unpaid merchandise, retrieved a shotgun from his car, pointed it at the clerk, and cocked it, using racial slurs throughout the encounter. The victim ran away in fear for her life.

Two days later, the defendant approached a woman resting on the seat of her walker in the sidewalk. He used racial slurs, told her that she could not sit there, and threatened to kill her. Then he retrieved his shotgun and fired a single shot.

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Texas | July 7, 2023 | Race, Ethnicity, National Origin

Texas Man Sentenced for 2019 Mass Shooting in El Paso, Texas

A Texas man was sentenced to 90 consecutive life sentences in prison for carrying out a mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3, 2019, killing 23 people and injuring 22 more.

The defendant admitted that he killed and wounded people at the Walmart because of the national origin of the people he expected to be at the Walmart. He also admitted that he intended to kill everyone he shot.

The defendant wrote a manifesto and uploaded it to social media minutes before he launched his attack. In it, he characterized himself as a white nationalist, motivated to kill Hispanics because they were immigrating to the United States. He admitted selecting El Paso, a border city, as his target to stop Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants from coming to the United States.

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Michigan | June 28, 2023 | Religion, Race, Ethnicity

Michigan Man Charged with Threatening Violent Antisemitic Actions

A Michigan man was charged with making violent threats online.

According to evidence, the defendant used social media to plan acts of violence. He allegedly sent Antisemitic messages glorifying Nazis and past mass shooters, expressing his intent to mimic them.        

These are serious allegations. But the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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Kansas, Tennessee | June 20, 2023 | Sexual Orientation

Kansas Man Charged with Threatening Violence Against Nashville Pride Event

A Kansas man was charged with two hate crimes for threatening to attack a Nashville Pride event.

According to the charges, on April 26, 2023, the defendant posted comments on the social media account for Nashville Pride threatening to “make shrapnel pressure cooker bombs for this event.” In another comment posted the same day, the defendant threatened to “commit a mass shooting.”

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Idaho, Oregon | June 15, 2023 | Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Oregon Man Pleads Guilty for Attacks on Local LBGTQI+ Community

An Oregon man faces up to 45 months in prison after pleading guilty to two federal hate crimes.

On October 8, 2022, the defendant approached a transgender employee of the Boise Public Library, called her a slur, punched her, and threatened to stab her. He then drove his car at a security guard who was attempting to speak with him.

Four days later, while sitting in his car in a public parking lot, the defendant saw two women walking together toward another vehicle. Assuming that the women were lesbians, he began shouting threats and slurs at them, then suddenly accelerated his car toward the women, intending to collide with them. The women jumped out of the path of the oncoming car, which struck another vehicle.

As part of his plea agreement, the defendant also admitted that he was responsible for three other instances of anti-LGBTQI+ vandalism and violence in Boise in early October 2022.

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Montana | June 14, 2023 | Sexual Orientation

Montana Man Sentenced for Attacks on Local LGBTQI+ Community

A Montana man was sentenced to 18 years in prison for a series of hate-motivated attacks in Basin, Montana.

The defendant made it his mission to rid the town of Basin, Montana, of its lesbian and gay community. Armed with a rifle and other weapons, he approached the house of a woman that he knew identified as lesbian, firing several rounds into the property. The woman was home, but not hit.

Assuming the first victim was dead, the defendant approached other homes of people known locally to be gay or lesbian. He walked past a church that was letting out and was approached by several people who knew him and tried to intervene, including a pastor who was wearing a device to record his sermons. While the device was recording, the defendant admitted to the initial attack and described his intent to rid Basin of LGBTQI+ people.

He shot several more rounds at people in the vicinity before fleeing when law enforcement arrived. He was arrested the next day.

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Kansas | May 30, 2023 | Race

Kansas Man Charged for Using Guns, Death Threats, and Racial Slurs to Intimidate Black People

A grand jury charged a Kansas man with using death threats and racial slurs to intimidate Black people.

According to the charges, on July 27, 2022, the defendant showed a firearm and threatened two Black juveniles using racial slurs. Then, he threatened a Black adult with his firearm after they intervened.

From January to August 2022, the defendant told a white woman that he would hurt or kill any Black people who visited her home.  He would occasionally stand outside her house and shout threats and racial slurs when he believed the woman had Black visitors.  He is also charged with posting threatening videos and messages to the social media accounts of the victim’s family.

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Nevada | May 11, 2023 | National Origin, Religion

Nevada Man Charged with Federal Hate Crimes for Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church Shooting

A Nevada man has been charged with hate crimes for the shooting and attempted bombing of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church.

According to the charges, on May 15, 2022, the defendant carried firearms into the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church to kill its congregants.  Once inside, he shot and killed one person and attempted to kill 44 others. Five congregants were also injured by gunfire. The defendant allegedly targeted the church because of the congregants’ national origin and religion.

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Minnesota | May 5, 2023 | Religion

Minnesota Man Charged in Mosque Arson

A grand jury charged a Minnesota man for setting fire to a mosque.

According to the charges, on April 23, 2023, the defendant started a fire in the bathroom of the Masjid Omar Islamic Center. The next day, surveillance video captured the defendant returning to the mosque. Soon after his arrival, a much larger fire broke out on the third floor of the mosque causing significant damage and forcing dozens of people to evacuate.

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Colorado | May 4, 2023 | Religion

Colorado Man Pleads Guilty to Church Arson

A Colorado man pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with a church fire he set in Loveland, Colorado. The defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.

According to the evidence, the defendant set the church on fire during the evening of January 19, 2023, by throwing two Molotov cocktails at the church – one at the front door and the other at the basement. The defendant admitted that he was motivated by the religious nature of the church and intended to destroy the church.

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Ohio | April 26, 2023 | Religion

Ohio Man Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire to a Church

An Ohio man pleaded guilty to setting fire to a church, and now faces up to 20 years in prison.

According to evidence, the defendant broke into the Mount Zion Church in Baltimore, Ohio, on November 27, 2021, and spread an accelerant before setting the church on fire, which resulted in significant damage. During the hearing, the defendant admitted that he intentionally set the fire because of the religious character of the church.

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Ohio | April 24, 2023 | Religion, Sexual Orientation

Ohio Man Charged for Attempting to Burn Down a Church that Planned to Host Drag Shows

An Ohio man was charged with using Molotov cocktails to burn a church in Chesterfield, Ohio that planned to host drag shows.

According to the charges, the defendant attempted to set fire to the church after learning that the church would be holding multiple drag show events the following weekend.

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Indiana | April 20, 2023 | Race, National Origin

Indiana Woman Charged in Racially Motivated Attack

A grand jury charged an Indiana woman with a hate crime for a racially motivated attack on a woman of Chinese descent.

According to the indictment, on January 11, 2023, the defendant attacked the victim with a knife because of the victim’s race and national origin and injured her. The indictment also alleges that that the defendant attempted to kill the victim.

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Missouri | April 20, 2023 | Sexual Orientation

Missouri Man Sentenced for Hate Crime in Attempted Murder of Teen

A Missouri man was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison without parole after pleading guilty for attempting to murder a teenager because of his sexual orientation.

According to the plea, after a chance meeting at the Kansas City Public Library on May 29, 2019, the defendant and victim talked briefly over Facebook Messenger. The defendant then went with the victim to the Swope Park area under the guise of looking for a place to engage in a sex act. Around the same time, the defendant wrote to his girlfriend that he “might shoot this boy” because of his sexual orientation. After arriving at a secluded area with the victim, the defendant shot the victim eight times.

The defendant fled from the woods toward his apartment and tried to avoid detection or arrest. Later that day, and in the days that followed, he told people that he shot the victim because of his sexual orientation.

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California, Massachusetts, New York | April 14, 2023 | Sexual Orientation, Gender, Gender Identity

California Man Sentenced for Threatening Merriam-Webster with Anti-LGBTQ Violence

A judge sentenced a Californian man to more than a year in prison for making anti-LGBTQ+ threats against the dictionary company Merriam-Webster, Inc., and others.

Between October 2 and October 8, 2021, the defendant made a series of threatening messages and comments. Some of the threats were about the word entries for “Girl” and “Woman”, and the defendant sent comments through the website threatening to bomb Merriam-Webster’s offices. These threats led Merriam-Webster to temporarily close its offices in Springfield, Massachusetts and New York City, New York.

The same online user made similar threats to others, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Land O’ Lakes, Hasbro, Inc., IGN Entertainment, the President of the University of North Texas, two professors at Loyola Marymount University, and a New York rabbi.

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Texas | April 7, 2023 | Religion

Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime and Arson for Setting Fire to Synagogue

A Texas man pleaded guilty to a hate crime and arson for setting fire to a synagogue. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

On October 31, 2021, the defendant was spotted on a surveillance video carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper toward the synagogue. Moments later, a fire broke out. A security camera recorded the defendant jogging away from the fire. The defendant admitted that he targeted the synagogue because of his hatred of Jews, and kept a journal filled with antisemitic statements.

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Maryland | April 4, 2023 | Sexual Orientation

Howard County Man Facing Charges for Allegedly Threatening an LGBTQI+ Advocacy Group

A Maryland man was charged with a hate crime for using a telephone to threaten an LGBTQI+ advocacy group.

According to the charges, on the evening of March 28, 2023, the organization received a voicemail saying “…We’ll cut your throats.  We’ll put a bullet in your head.” Investigators discovered that the voicemail was left by a phone number belonging to the defendant.

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Georgia | March 16, 2023 | Race, National Origin

Georgia White Supremacist Sentenced for Federal Racially Motivated Shootings

A judge sentenced a Georgia man to 20 years in prison for shooting into two Clayton County convenience stores and attempting to kill the people inside because of their race.

According to evidence, the defendant first fired his pistol into a Shell gas station convenience store. Minutes later, he fired into a nearby BP gas station convenience store. No one was injured in either shooting.

The defendant admitted that he was targeting Black people and others he thought were Arab, and he hoped to kill them. He also admitted to believing in a white supremacist ideology.

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Michigan, Texas | March 9, 2023 | Religion

Michigan Man Charged With Threatening to Kill Jewish Government Officials

A grand jury charged a Michigan man for threatening to kill Jewish people who work in the Michigan government using Twitter.

According to the charges, on February 17, 2023, the defendant tweeted a series of threats while in Texas, including “I’m heading back to Michigan now threatening to carry out the punishment of death to anyone that is jewish in the Michigan govt if they don’t leave, or confess.”

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Mississippi | March 9, 2023 | Religion

Mississippi Man Sentenced for Cross Burning

A judge sentenced a Mississippi man to more than three years in prison after the man pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and arson charges.

According to the plea, on December 3, 2020, the defendant made racial slurs toward his Black neighbors, then burned a cross near their property to intimidate them.

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New York | March 3, 2023 | Religion, National Origin

New York Man Sentenced For Antisemitic Hate Crimes

A New York man was sentenced to more than a year in prison for conspiring to attack New Yorkers because of their actual or perceived Jewish or Israeli identity.

According to evidence, the defendant conspired with others to commit Antisemitic hate crimes in New York City. On three separate occasions, the defendant assaulted people who were wearing religious clothing or items associated with Judaism or Israel.

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Hawaii | March 3, 2023 | Race

Two Maui Men Sentenced for Racially Motivated Attack on White Man

A judge sentenced two Hawaiian men to more than four years in prison for their racially motivated attacks on a white man who was moving into Kahakuloa Village. 

At trial, evidence showed the victim was harassed and threatened by other residents of Kahakuloa Village. On February 13, 2014, while unpacking in his new home, the defendants stormed onto his property and demanded that he pack his things and leave. When the victim declined, one of the defendants threatened the victim and hit him in the head with a shovel. Later, as the victim began packing up his possessions to leave, the defendants attacked him a second time.

During the second attack, the defendants hit the victim in the head again, and the victim became unconscious. When he came to, the attackers were kicking him in the side—kicks that broke two of his ribs. During the second attack, one of the defendants said, “no white man is ever going to live here.”

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California | March 3, 2023 | Religion

California Man Charged for Allegedly Shooting Two Men Leaving Synagogues in Los Angeles

A federal grand jury charged a California man with two hate crimes for allegedly shooting two Jewish men as they left synagogues in Los Angeles.

According to the charges, the defendant shot the first victim as they were leaving services at a synagogue. The next day, the defendant shot another victim who was leaving services at a different synagogue in the same Los Angeles neighborhood.

Evidence indicates that the defendant held antisemitic beliefs. The defendant allegedly obtained two firearms before the attacks and targeted a predominately Jewish neighborhood after searching a popular business-review app for a kosher market in the Pico-Robertson district of Los Angeles.

These are serious allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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Maryland | February 6, 2023 | Race

Maryland Woman and Florida Man Charged with Conspiring to Destroy Energy Facilities

A Maryland woman and a Florida man have been charged with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility, allegedly driven by their ideology of racially-motivated hatred. The two defendants schemed to attack local power grid facilities.

The defendants each face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

These are serious allegations. But the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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District of Columbia | February 2, 2023 | Race, Gender

District Man Found Guilty of Hate Crime in Bias-Related Assault

A District man has been found guilty on charges stemming from a hate crime in which he spit in the face of a female neighbor in Southwest Washington.

According to evidence, on July 20, 2020, at approximately 2 p.m., the victim, a Black woman, was walking her service dog and crossing the exit ramp of her apartment complex. The defendant drove his SUV up the exit ramp at a high rate of speed, almost hitting the victim and her dog. After the victim told him to be careful, he began screaming racist and sexist epithets.

The man spit into the victim’s face, and drove away. He was arrested 23 days later after being identified. The man had a history of racist tirades against his Black neighbors.

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New Jersey | February 1, 2023 | Religion

Passaic County Man Arrested for Attempt to Firebomb Synagogue

A man in New Jersey allegedly went to a synagogue in the middle of the night and maliciously attempted to damage and destroy it using a firebomb.

Surveillance footage shows the defendant walking up to the Temple Ner Tamid Jewish Congregation in Bloomfield, New Jersey and igniting a wick on the top of a bottle. He then threw the bottle at the front glass doors of the temple and fled on foot.

The defendant has been charged with one count of attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce. He faces a up to 20 years in prison.

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South Carolina | February 1, 2023 | Gender Identity

Two Men Charged with Hate Crimes and Obstruction in the Murder of Transgender Woman

Two South Carolina men have been charged with hate crimes for the murder of a transgender woman because of her gender identity.

According to the charges, one of the defendants shot the victim because of her gender identity and then both men lied to authorities about where they were on the night of the murder.

These are serious allegations. But the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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  Idaho, Oregon, Washington | January 30, 2023 | Race, Ethnicity

Four Men Sentenced for Hate Crime and False Statement Charges After Racially-Motivated Assault

Four men have pleaded guilty to hate crime and false statement charges in Washington for assaulting a Black man because of his race. The defendants were members of various white supremacist groups.

On Dec. 8, 2018, the four men entered a bar in Lynnwood, Washington. The men repeatedly gave “Nazi salutes” once inside the bar. After the DJ, a Black man, objected to the men touching his DJ equipment, the defendants attacked him while shouting racial slurs. Bystanders, who attempted to intervene, were also assaulted.

The hate crime carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison.

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Pennsylvania | January 27, 2023 | Disability

Former Employee of Health Care Facility Sentenced on Hate Crime Charges for Assaults on Residents

A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to 17 years in prison for committing federal hate crimes and related offenses involving numerous severely disabled victims at a healthcare facility.

Residents at the facility have a range of severe disabilities and many need help with daily activities, like bathing, using the bathroom, eating, and dressing.

According to the plea, the defendant and a co-defendant texted each other about their hatred of the facility’s residents. The men allegedly punched and kicked residents, jumped on them, and sprayed irritants in their eyes and mouths. The men shared pictures and videos of their attacks on residents and encouraged each other’s further abuse of residents. They may have avoided detection because the victims were non-verbal and unable to report the abuse.

The case against the co-defendant remains pending, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Louisiana | January 25, 2023 | Sexual Orientation

Louisiana Man Sentenced to 45 Years for Kidnapping and Attempting to Murder a Gay Man

A Louisiana man was sentenced to 45 years in prison for kidnapping and attempting to murder a gay man as part of a months-long scheme to kidnap and murder gay men.

According to evidence, the defendant attempted to kidnap one man and successfully kidnapped two other men using Grindr, an online dating application for gay and bisexual men. The defendant attempted to murder one of the men, intending to dismember and keep the victim’s body parts.

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Florida | January 25, 2023 | Race

Two Florida Men Sentenced for Hate Crime Following Racially-Motivated Assault

Two Florida men were sentenced for hate crime charges in connection with their racially-motivated attack against a Black man in Citrus Springs.

According to the plea, on Nov. 17, 2021, the two men traveled to the Family Dollar in Citrus Springs, where the victim, a Black man, was shopping inside. The two men targeted the victim with racial slurs. They followed the victim into the parking lot where they attacked him with an axe handle.

Both men directed racial slurs towards the victim before, during, and after the attack.

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Idaho | January 12, 2023 | Sexual Orientation

Idaho Man Indicted for Federal Hate Crime Against LGBTQ Residents of Boise

A man in Idaho has been charged with a hate crime after attempting to hit two people with his car. Allegedly, the defendant targeted the two victims because of their actual and perceived sexual orientation.

The defendant faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

An indictment is a serious accusation. But the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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Washington | December 16, 2022 | Race

Washington Man Sentenced for Making Threatening Phone Calls to Businesses in Four States

A Washington man was sentenced in federal court to two years in prison after pleading guilty to making threatening phone calls to businesses in four states.

The man called grocery stores in Buffalo, New York, and threatened to shoot Black people in the stores. He told staff at the stores to “take him seriously,” and ordered the store to clear out the customers, as he was “nearby” and “preparing to shoot all Black customers.” One store closed. The threats followed a racially-motivated shooting at another Buffalo grocery store in May. Law enforcement traced the phone number and identified the person who made the call.

The man had placed similar threatening calls to business in other states. He told law enforcement that he made the threats to strike fear in the Black community.

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District of Columbia | December 16, 2022 | Race, National Origin

District Man Pleads Guilty Mid-Trial to Hate Crimes Charges

A District man pleaded guilty today, mid-trial, to charges stemming from two assaults.

According to the plea, the defendant assaulted the first victim on May 15, 2022, at the Dupont Circle Metro Station. During this assault, he targeted the victim, hit the victim with a metal object, and then made derogatory statements about the victim’s ethnicity.

The second assault took place on May 22, 2022, when the defendant targeted another victim inside of a Metro Station, kicked the victim in the back while descending the escalator, followed the victim throughout the station, and assaulted the victim again, all the while making derogatory comments directed at the victim’s race and ethnicity.

When he was arrested, the defendant made a number of racist and xenophobic statements.

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Massachusetts | December 15, 2022 | Gender Identity  

Texas Man Indicted for Threatening Doctor with the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center

A federal grand jury indicted a Texas man for threatening a Boston doctor because the doctor provided care for members of the transgender community.

The government alleges that misinformation spread online about procedures at Boston Children’s Hospital for gender nonconforming children. The defendant called the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center in Boston, and left a threatening voicemail targeting one of the Center’s doctors.

The defendant faces a sentence of up to five years of prison.

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Washington | December 14, 2022 | Religion

Washington Man Indicted for Arsons at Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls

A federal grand jury indicted a Washington man for three arsons that damaged or destroyed Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls in Washington State.

The government alleges that the defendant set fire to Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls on three occasions in 2018 because of the religious nature of the properties. The Kingdom Halls were defaced, damaged, and destroyed through arsons.

The defendant was charged before with damage to religious property and use of a firearm in connection with a shooting that damaged a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Yelm, Washington.

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Michigan | December 13, 2022 | Race

Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crimes for Threats Against Black Lives Matter Supporters

A Michigan man pleaded guilty to two hate crimes for attempting to intimidate people from engaging in lawful speech and protests supporting Black Lives Matter.

According to the evidence, the defendant called nine Starbucks stores in Michigan and told the employees answering his calls to relay racial threats to Starbucks employees wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. He also threatened to kill Black people, using racial slurs to refer to his targets.

The defendant also pleaded guilty to placing a noose inside the vehicle of two of the victims. He attached a handwritten note to the noose: “An accessory to be worn with your ‘BLM’ t-shirt. Happy protesting!”

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Puerto Rico | November 29, 2022 | Gender Identity

Co-conspirator Sentenced in Hate Crime Against a Transgender Woman

A federal judge sentenced the first of three men charged with hate crimes for a February 2020 assault on a transgender woman to 33 months in prison. In August, the defendant pleaded guilty to helping the attackers and harassing the victim because of her gender identity.

According to evidence, on February 24, 2020, the three men were traveling by car when they recognized the victim near the road in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. After identifying her, the defendants verbally harassed her. The three men then drove to get a paintball gun and paintballs, returned to the location and fired paintballs at her.

During both encounters, the men used cell phone to record their actions and shared the recordings with others.

Charges against the other two men are still pending.

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Florida | November 7, 2022 | Race

Florida Man Sentenced for Racially-Motivated Hate Crime

A federal court sentenced a Florida man to 24 months in prison for attacking a Black man who was driving with his family in Seminole, Florida.

According to evidence, the defendant shouted racial slurs at the victim and sideswiped his car while attempting to force the car off the road. The victim’s girlfriend and four-year-old daughter were in the car at the time.

When officers from the Pinellas County Sherriff’s Office arrived on the scene, the defendant made numerous statements evidencing his bias motive, telling the officers that Black people need to be kept “in their areas.”

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Ohio | November 3, 2022 | Race

Ohio Man Charged with Hate Crime for Assaulting Asian Student

A Cincinnati man has been charged with a federal hate crime for physically assaulting a student.

According to evidence, on August 17, 2021, the defendant attacked an Asian American student on Calhoun Street at the University of Cincinnati. He allegedly made racist comments, including, “Go back to your country…You brought the kung flu here…You’re going to die for bringing it.” After making the threats, the defendant allegedly punched the victim causing multiple injuries, including a concussion and cuts on their face. Two witnesses intervened and one held the defendant down until law enforcement arrived.

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  Texas | October 19, 2022 | Religion

Texas Man Indicted for Hate Crimes in Shooting at Muslim-Owned Business

A federal grand jury indicted a Texas man for killing one person and attempting to kill four others during an attack at Omar’s Wheels and Tires , a Muslim-owned business, because of their religious beliefs.

According to evidence, the defendant went to Omar’s Wheels and Tires on December 24, 2015, shot and killed one person and attempted to kill three other people. As he was leaving, he attempted to kill a fourth person with his vehicle.

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Ohio | October 11, 2022 | Gender

Ohio Man Pleads Guilty in Plot to Conduct Mass Shooting of Women

An Ohio man pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to commit a hate crime, which, because it involved an attempt to kill, is punishable by up to life in prison.

The man had plotted to shoot sorority students at a university in Ohio, identifying himself as an “incel” or “involuntary celibate.” The incel movement is an online community that seeks to commit violence against women in support of their belief that they have been unjustly denied sexual or romantic attention.

According to the charges, the defendant allegedly wrote a manifesto stating he would “slaughter” women “out of hatred, jealousy, and revenge” and later conducted surveillance at the university. He also maintained profiles on a popular incel website, drafting hundreds of posts. Law enforcement found guns, ammunition, body armor, and other tactical equipment in the defendant’s residence and car.

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Missouri | August 8, 2022 | Religion

Missouri Man Admits Threatening to Blow up a St. Louis Synagogue

A man from St. Louis admitted threatening to blow up a St. Louis synagogue in 2021.

The defendant admitted to calling the St. Louis office of the FBI on Nov. 5, 2021 and saying, “I’m going to blow up a church.” He gave his name and identified his target as the Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, saying he would act the next morning, while people were inside.

The defendant continued to contact the FBI with threats, saying he hated Jewish people “with rage.” In a third call, he gave his location, which was on the same street as the targeted Church. Officers arrested the man without further incident.

The charges carry a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

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Texas | August 4, 2022 | Race

Texas Man Sentenced on Hate Crime Charges for Attacking Asian Family

A Texas man was sentenced to 25 years in prison on hate crime charges for attacking an Asian family he believed was Chinese and therefore responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The man admitted that he entered Sam’s Club Warehouse in Midland, Texas, behind an Asian family with young children on March 14, 2020. He had never seen the family before and believed they were Chinese. He followed the family for several minutes because he thought they were “from the country who started spreading that disease around.” He found a serrated steak knife in the store, and cut the father in the face. He left the scene, only to retrieve another knife from the store. When he returned, he attacked the family’s two young children – then aged 6 and 2 years old – who were seated in the front basket of the shopping cart, slashing open the face of the six-year-old child. He also stabbed a Sam’s Club employee who intervened. While witnesses held the man down, he yelled “Get out of America!” at the family. The defendant admitted attempting to kill the 6-year-old child. He also admitted that he attacked the store employee because they prevented him from killing the child.

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New Jersey | July 19, 2022 | Race

New Jersey Man Sentenced for Threatening Maryland Woman and Her Family

A New Jersey man was sentenced for using an anonymizing text message service to threaten physical harm to a Black woman and her family in Maryland.

According to the plea, on April 14, 2020, the man began sending threatening messages, including racial epithets, to describe the Maryland woman and her family. He threatened to come to their home and harm them. The defendant wrote, among other things, that “I know where you live now, I’m coming to rape your family” and “eat my bullets.”

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District of Columbia | July 14, 2022 | Sexual Orientation

Maryland Man Indicted for Assaulting Men in a D.C. Park

A federal grand jury indicted a District man for assaulting four men because of their perceived sexual orientation.

The indictment alleges that on five separate evenings from 2018 to 2021, the man went to a meeting place for men seeking consensual sex with other men, and assaulted men with a chemical irritant. Before spraying the men, he pretended to be a Park Police officer, shined a flashlight in the victims’ faces and gave the victims police-style directives.

The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for each assault.

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New York | July 14, 2022 | Race

Federal Grand Jury Indicts Accused Tops Shooter on Federal Hate Crimes and Firearms Charges in Buffalo, New York

A federal grand jury indicted a New York man in connection with the mass shooting at the Tops grocery store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, New York.

The indictment alleges that on or about May 14, the man opened fire and shot multiple individuals in and around the Tops grocery store, which resulted in the deaths of 10 Black people, as well as injury to three others.

The defendant faces up to life in prison or the death penalty.

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Kansas | June 29, 2022 | Race

Kansas Man Sentenced for Violent Racially-Motivated Hate Crime Targeting Black Man

A Kansas man was sentenced today to 27 months in federal prison and 18 months of supervised release for threatening a Black man with a knife because of the man’s race.

According to evidence, the defendant was driving through a residential area in Paola, Kansas, when he saw the victim walking on the sidewalk. The defendant stopped, got out of the car, and approached the victim with a knife. Threatening the victim, the defendant yelled racial slurs, and told the victim that Paola is a “white town.”

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Washington | May 26, 2022 | Sexual Orientation

Washington Man Pleads Guilty to Committing Hate Crime for Arson at Seattle Nightclub

A Washington man pleaded guilty to a hate crime for the Feb. 24, 2020, arson at Queer/Bar, a nightclub and event space in Seattle, Washington.

According to the plea, the man set fire to the contents of a dumpster in the alley directly behind Queer/Bar on Feb. 24, 2020. He was arrested only minutes after setting the fire. He admitted to law enforcement that he set the fire and that he targeted Queer/Bar because it angered him to see a sign that said “queer.” He also told officers, “I think it’s wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society.” A few weeks after the incident, the defendant told a stranger that his intent in setting the fire was to trap and hurt the people inside.

The defendant faces up to 10 years in prison.

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California | May 12, 2022 | Race

California Man Arrested After Using His Car to Disrupt a ‘Stop Asian Hate’ Rally

A Diamond Bar man was arrested on federal charges alleging that he disrupted a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in March 2021 by deliberately running a red light, blocking the path of demonstrators and yelling racial epithets at them.

According to the charges, on March 21, 2021, a “Stop Asian Hate” rally occurred in Diamond Bar. The rally was a protest against the increase in hate crimes and hate incidents against members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community both locally and nationally – including the murders of six Asian American women five days earlier in Atlanta.

During the rally, the defendant allegedly yelled, “Go back to China!” and other racial slurs at the demonstrators. Allegedly, he then deliberately drove his car through the intersection’s crosswalk at the red light, made an illegal U-turn and cut off the route of several rally participants lawfully crossing the street. His car narrowly missing a 9-year old, and others.

The defendant pulled his car over some distance away from the intersection, got out of the car and continued to yell racial epithets and threats at the demonstrators. He then called the police, identified himself as “John Doe” and falsely reported to police that the rally participants were blocking the street and he had to run a red light “because they were about to trample my car,” the indictment alleges. He also allegedly requested that police “get some control out” at the intersection.

If convicted of the two charges in the indictment, the defendant could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Virginia | April 29, 2022 | Race, National Origin

Virginia Man Found Guilty in Bias-Motivated Attack on Construction Workers

A jury found a Virginia man guilty for a hate crime in in his attack on two Hispanic construction workers.

Evidence showed that on July 13, 2019, at about 6 p.m., the victims were closing their construction site for the day. The defendant approached the men and asked to use their power washer.

When the workers did not allow the defendant to borrow the power washer, he became enraged and began screaming racist epithets. He picked up a construction tool with a sharp metal blade, and tried to stab one of the men. A second victim tried to intervene, but he was struck in the face several times causing serious injuries.

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Oregon | April 25, 2022 | Race, Sexual Orientation

Oregon White Supremacist Sentenced to Prison for Mailing Threats to Former Teacher

A jury sentenced an Oregon white supremacist to four years in prison for mailing threats to a former teacher because of her sexual orientation.

Between December 2020 and May 2021, the man sent two threatening letters. The first contained a printout of what appeared to be a dead, mutilated woman. Handwriting on the image included racial and sexual orientation slurs and stated, “What I’d like to do to you.” The second letter contained another photograph of a decapitated woman in a black trunk.

After identifying fingerprints on the letters, in May 2021, the FBI searched the defendant’s house. Agents found body armor, weapons, and a black trunk like the one depicted in his second letter. The house contained literature and handbooks on death, dismemberment, murder, torture, and sexually-motivated killings. Investigators also found evidence that the defendant was a white supremacist, and that he ran a white supremacist website. On January 4, 2022, the defendant pled guilty to two counts of mailing threatening communications.

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New Jersey | April 20, 2022 | Religion

New Jersey Man Charged with Federal Hate Crimes for Attacks on Members of the Orthodox Jewish Community

The Department of Justice charged a New Jersey man with federal hate crimes for a series of violent assaults. The victims were all members of the Orthodox Jewish community in and around Lakewood, New Jersey.

According to the complaint, on April 8, the defendant attacked the first victim and stole his car. The victim was an Orthodox Jew. On three separate occasions that day, the defendant tried to drive a car into Orthodox Jewish pedestrians. On the first attempt, he struck a man causing serious injuries. On the second attempt, the defendant struck the victim, then exited his car and stabbed the victim in the chest with a knife. The third attack also struck an Orthodox Jewish victim, causing serious injuries.

Charges contained in a criminal complaint are serious. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Florida | April 19, 2022 | Religion

A Florida Man Pleads Guilty for Hate-Motivated Threats Against a Member of Congress

A Florida man pled guilty to threatening a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

On July 16, 2019, the defendant sent an email to U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar threatening to kill her. The subject line of his email read, “[You’re] dead, you radical Muslim.” He referred to Congresswoman Omar and her colleagues as “radical rats,” and asked her if she was prepared “to die for Islam.” The email further stated that he was going to shoot her in the head.

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Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota | April 12, 2022 | Religion

Two Illinois Men Sentenced to Prison for Their Roles in 2017 Bombing of Minnesota Islamic Center

A federal judge sentenced two men to prison for their roles in the 2017 bombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Two other defendants have pled guilty to their roles in the bombing.

During the summer of 2017, the defendants joined a terrorist militia group called “The White Rabbits” in Clarence, Illinois. On August 4th and 5th, the group drove a rented truck from Illinois to Minnesota to bomb the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center. The defendants selected the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center to terrorize Muslims into believing they are not welcome in the United States and should leave the country. On August 5, the group bombed the Islamic Center. At the time of the bombing, several worshipers were gathered in the mosque for morning prayers.

On November 7, 2017, the group also attempted to set fire to the Women’s Health Practice in Champaign, Illinois. They used a sledgehammer to break a window and placed a device in the building to start a fire. The device did not ignite and was found by a Women’s Health Practice employee.

The two men face between 14 and 16 years in prison for their crimes.

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Washington | April 8, 2022 | Race

Washington Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime in Assault of a Black Man

The second of four prospective members of a white supremacist group admitted to beating a Black man, and lying to investigators about using racial slurs.

According to the plea agreement, the defendants were prospective members of a white supremacist group. The men traveled to the Seattle area to celebrate a known white supremacist who died in the 1980s. On December 8, 2018, the men went to a bar in Lynnwood, Washington, assaulting a Black man who was working there as a DJ. The group assaulted two other men who came to the DJ’s aid. The attackers shouted racial slurs and made Nazi salutes during the assault.

In admitting his guilt, the defendant also admitted that he lied to the FBI when he claimed that the defendants did not use racial slurs during the assault.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, both sides recommend a 37-month prison term for the defendant.

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Texas | March 24, 2022 | Religion

Texas Man Charged with Setting Fire to Synagogue

A federal grand jury indicted a man for intentionally setting fire to the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Austin on October 31, 2021.

According to evidence, on October 31, 2021, a man set fire to the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue. Security video from that day shows the man moving toward the synagogue’s sanctuary. Moments later, video shows the glow of fire coming from the sanctuary. Then, it shows the man jogging away from the fire to an open vehicle.

No one was injured, but the fire caused over $200,000 in damage. The vehicle seen in the surveillance video was later traced to the defendant. On November 10, 2021, the FBI searched his house. During the search, agents found items like those seen on security videos, including the clothing worn by the defendant. The defendant also had journals with writings about the fire and his hatred of Jewish people.

The defendant faces at least 10 years and up to 60 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the loss suffered by the victim, and additional fees for the amount of damage caused.

An indictment is a serious accusation. A defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

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California | March 7, 2022 | National Origin

Men Who Targeted Turkish Restaurant Sentenced to Prison for Hate Crimes

A federal court sentenced two men to prison for hate crimes after their attack on a family-owned Turkish restaurant in 2020.

Turkey and Armenia are neighboring countries in western Asia that have a long history of conflict. In September 2020, tensions in Turkish and Armenian communities escalated worldwide, including in the United States.

The defendants, who are Armenian-American, sent text messages stating that they planned to go “hunting for [T]urks.” Later that day, the men met with Armenian-American friends to protest what they considered to be Turkish aggression against Armenians, expressing their contempt for Turkey, and showing support for Armenia. The group drove to the restaurant, and the defendants stormed inside, attacking several people inside. During the attack, multiple victims were injured, including one individual who lost feeling in their legs and collapsed multiple times due to their injuries. One of the defendants asked the victims, “Are you Turkish?” and shouted, “We came to kill you! We will kill you!”

The attack caused at least $20,000 of damage to the restaurant and physically injured multiple victims. The defendants owe their victims $21,200 to pay for the damage.

A federal judge sentenced the one of the men to five years in prison and the other to 15 months in prison for the attack.

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Georgia | February 22, 2022 | Race, Color

Federal Jury Finds Three Men Guilty of Hate Crimes in the Pursuit and Killing of Ahmaud Arbery

A jury found three Georgia men guilty of hate crimes and attempted kidnapping in the pursuit and killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man who was jogging on a public road.

Seeing Mr. Arbery jogging, two of the defendants armed themselves, got into a truck, and chased him through the neighborhood. They yelled at him, used their truck to cut off his route, and threatened him with guns. The third defendant joined the chase, and all three men tried to prevent Mr. Arbery from leaving after surrounding him. In the ensuing struggle, one of the men shot and killed Mr. Arbery as he attempted to escape.

An important part of the trial was proving that the defendants acted because of Mr. Arbery's race. Evidence showed that each defendant held racist beliefs that led them to assume, without reason, that Mr. Arbery was a criminal.

All three defendants face sentences of up to life in prison.

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Tennessee | February 16, 2022 | Religion

Tennessee Man Sentenced to Seven Years for Church Arsons

A federal court sentenced a Tennessee man to seven years in prison for setting fire to four Nashville area churches.

According to evidence, the man intentionally set fire to the Crievewood United Methodist Church on June 17, 2019; the Crievewood Baptist Church on June 25, 2019; the Saint Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church on June 25, 2019; and the Priest Lake Community Baptist Church on June 26, 2019, all because of their religious character. The fires resulted in significant damage to all four churches.

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Massachusetts | February 16, 2022 | Religion

Man Indicted for Obstructing Investigation into Fires at Jewish-Affiliated Institutions

A federal grand jury indicted a man for making false statements and concealing evidence in a domestic terrorism investigation.

The defendant’s brother was a suspect in four bias-motivated fires set in the Boston area. The fires damaged four Jewish-affiliated community centers and businesses.

In March 2020, federal investigators asked the man about his brother's personal property. The defendant allegedly misled investigators, lying about the location of evidence. Shortly after talking with investigators, the defendant fled the country. Allegedly, taking his brother’s electronic devices and papers with him to Sweden.

The defendant faces up to 8 years in prison for making false statements. He faces up to 20 years for concealing evidence.

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District of Columbia | February 14, 2022 | National Origin

District Man Pleads Guilty to Bias-Related Assault at Fast-Food Restaurant

A District man pled guilty to a bias-related assault and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon.

According to the evidence, the defendant entered a Chipotle restaurant and asked an employee how much food he could buy with about $8. The employee tried to assist, but due to a language barrier, she asked her manager to help the man. Not satisfied, the man began yelling a series of xenophobic, ethnic, and transphobic slurs at the employees.

He climbed onto the service counter and spit on the employee. He began throwing food and serving spoons at the employee, striking her in the hand. The defendant continued yelling slurs throughout the incident. Finally, as he moved towards the exit, he shouted that he was going to return and kill the employees.

The court sentenced the defendant to 450 days in prison. He will serve less time if he completes a year of probation and participates in mental health treatment.

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Maine, Massachusetts | February 10, 2022 | Race

Maine Man Indicted for Hate Crimes in the Burning of a Black Church

A federal grand jury indicted a Maine man for setting fire to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. The church serves a predominantly Black congregation.

The government alleges that the man is also responsible for a string of other crimes leading up to burning the church. Setting fires on the church’s property and a series of tire slashings. A search of the defendant’s vehicle and electronic devices revealed his hatred of Black people. His phone contained a recent message calling to “eliminate all N****s.”

The defendant faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 for using fire to damage religious property, and faces a sentence of at least 10 years in prison for using fire to commit a federal felony.

An indictment is a serious accusation. But the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

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Oklahoma | February 8, 2022 | Race

Two Oklahoma Men Indicted for Hate Crimes

A federal grand jury indicted two Oklahoma men for committing hate crimes.

The indictment alleges that the men attacked two people because of their race. The assaults occurred in the parking lot of a bar in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

If convicted, the defendants each face up to 10 years in prison.

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Arizona, Florida, Texas, Washington | January 11, 2022 | Religion

Leader of Neo-Nazi Group Sentenced for Plot to Target Journalists and Advocates

A federal court sentenced a Washington man to seven years in prison for his role in a plot to threaten journalists and advocates. The man, a leader of the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, targeted people who were working against anti-Semitism. Three others pled guilty for their roles in the plot in prior hearings.

According to evidence, the participants in this plot made threatening posters. The posters contained Nazi symbols, threatening language and imagery. The posters were then distributed to members of Atomwaffen Division online. Members of the hate-group then delivered or mailed the posters to targeted journalists and advocates.

In Seattle, the group sent posters to a TV journalist who had reported on Atomwaffen Division. The posters were also sent to members of the Anti-Defamation League, a leading Jewish civil rights organization. The group also targeted journalists in Phoenix and Tampa for reporting on anti-Semitism.


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California | December 28, 2021 | Religion

California Man Sentenced for 2019 Poway Synagogue Shooting and Attempted Mosque Arson

A federal court sentenced a California man to life followed by 30 years in prison for his attack on a Poway synagogue. The man pled guilty to over 100 charges for killing one woman, injuring three people, and attempting to kill more than 50.

According to evidence, the defendant set fire to the Dur-ul-Arqam Mosque on March 24, 2019. A month later, he went to the Chabad of Poway Synagogue with a loaded semi-automatic rifle and ammunition. He opened fire on the congregants, killing one and injuring three others. The defendant fled the scene, but law enforcement later caught him and discovered the rifle and ammunition in his car.

A later search of his computer, uncovered a document where he admitted to setting fire to the Dur-ul-Arqam Mosque. He also wrote that the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue shooting inspired him to burn the mosque and attack the synagogue.


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Illinois | December 7, 2021 | Religion

Two Inmates Charged with Murder and Hate Crimes in the Death of a Fellow Inmate

A federal grand jury charged two inmates at Thomson Penitentiary in Thompson, Illinois, with hate crimes and related charged in the beating death of a fellow inmate.

According to the indictment, the two men were members of a white supremacist group called the Valhalla Bound Skinheads. Allegedly, the men attacked the victim because he was Jewish. They beat him even after he was unable to defend himself.

Three of the charges, conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree murder, and hate crimes, carry sentences of up to life in prison.


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California | December 3, 2021 | Race, Color

California Man Sentenced to More Than Six Years in Prison for Federal Hate Crime

A federal court sentenced a California man to more than six years in prison for a hate crime for attacking a Black man in Santa Cruz, California.

According to evidence, the defendant slashed the victim with a nine-inch knife. He cut the victim on his head, chest, and stomach, while yelling racial slurs.

The defendant had a history of committing violent acts while yelling racial slurs. This was his fourth known attack against Black men in the last seven years.

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Ohio | November 23, 2021 | Religion

Man Sentenced for Making Anti-Semitic Threats to Neighbors and Breaking Their Window

A federal court sentenced a former Columbus man to six months in prison and a $50,000 fine for a hate crime.

According to evidence, the man threatened his neighbors and their guests during an outdoor gathering in November, 2020. During the confrontation, he made a series of references to gassing Jewish people, chopping them up, and burning them in ovens. He threatened to poison and shoot their dog, and “burn to the ground” a garage that the neighbors were remodeling. He shouted more anti-Semitic slurs, spat at one of the neighbors, and broke one of their windows.

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New Jersey | November 16, 2021 | Race, Religion

New Jersey Man Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Vandalize Synagogues

A federal court sentenced a New Jersey man to one year and one day in prison for conspiring with members of a white supremacist hate group.

After joining the white supremacist group, “The Base," he began encouraging members to vandalize properties connected with African Americans and Jewish Americans.

The group called their plan “Kristallnacht,” or “Night of Broken Glass.” Kristallnacht was a notorious 1938 attack in which Nazis murdered Jewish people and destroyed their homes, synagogues, stores, and schools.

On September 21, 2019, members of “The Base” vandalized synagogues in Racine, Wisconsin, and Hancock, Michigan, spray painting them with hate symbols.

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Oregon | November 16, 2021 | Sexual Orientation

Oregon Man Charged with Hate Crime After Attacking Gay Man

Federal prosecutors charged an Oregon man with a hate crime for using the internet to target and assault a gay man. The complaint alleges that he tried to kill the victim.

According to court documents, the defendant met his victim using Grindr, a social media and networking app designed for gay men. On July 5, after agreeing to meet, he entered the victim’s apartment and beat him with a wooden club. The victim’s injuries were life-threatening.

In the weeks before the attack, the defendant searched for violent anti-gay material on the internet. He also searched for suggestions about getting away with murder. The defendant purchased the weapon and other materials used in the attack online.

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Texas | October 13, 2021 | Sexual Orientation

Four Texas Men Sentenced to Prison for Targeting Gay Men for Violent Crimes

Four Texas men have been sentenced to prison for their involvement in a scheme to target gay men for violent crimes: one to more than 11 years, another to 22 years, a third to 20 years, and most recently, a fourth was sentenced to more than 23 years.

The four defendants admitted that they conspired to target men in and around Dallas for violent crimes. Using Grindr, a social media dating platform used primarily by gay men, the defendants lured men to an apartment complex in Dallas. When the men arrived, the defendants held the men at gunpoint and forced them to drive to local ATMs to withdraw cash from their accounts. While the victims were held at gunpoint, some were physically assaulted, at least one victim was sexually assaulted, and all of the victims were taunted with gay slurs.

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Ohio | September 13, 2021 | Religion

Ohio Man Sentenced for Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS and Attempting to Attack a Toledo-Area Synagogue

An Ohio man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and attempting to commit a hate crime.

The defendant planned to target Jewish congregants at a Toledo-area synagogue while they worshipped. He met online and in person with undercover FBI agents over several months to discuss these plans. During those meetings, he stated that he wanted to kill a rabbi and that he had conducted research to determine when the Jewish sabbath was so that more people would be present. He was arrested after taking possession of two semi-automatic rifles.

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Maine | September 10, 2021 | Race

Maine Man Sentenced for Committing a Federal Hate Crime

A Maine man was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty for his role in a series of race-based attacks on Black men.

The first attack occurred without any clear cause outside of a bar in Portland, Maine. The assault, which broke the victim’s jaw, was immediately followed by an attack on another Black man who was standing nearby.

In a second incident, which occurred at a convenience store about an hour later and miles away, the defendant and his uncle approached a Black man who was walking toward the store’s entrance. As the uncle of the defendant distracted the victim by shouting a racial slur, the defendant sucker-punched the victim, knocking him to the ground. The attack broke the victim’s jaw in several places.

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Oregon | September 9, 2021 | Race

Colorado Man Sentenced to 16 Years for Unprovoked Stabbing of a Black Man

A Colorado man was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for a federal hate crime after attempting to kill a Black man in an Oregon restaurant.

On December 21, 2019, the defendant walked into a fast food restaurant where the victim was waiting to meet with the restaurant manager about a job. The defendant approached the victim from behind and stabbed him twice in the neck. The victim was able to prevent the defendant from stabbing him again and eventually broke free from his grip.

The defendant later admitted that he was trying to kill the man because he was Black.

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New York | August 25, 2021 | Religion

New York Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Hate Crime Offenses

In November 2019, a woman, who is Jewish, began receiving numerous threatening text messages, voicemails and Facebook posts. In several text messages and voicemails, which continued until June 2020, the defendant threatened to murder and seriously injure the woman. He also threatened to blow up her house and car. Some of the threatening text messages contained anti-Semitic references to the Holocaust.

On December 23, 2019, the first day of Hannukah, the defendant sent the woman a message that included the words “Suns about to go down. It would be a shame if your house were used to light the menorah. Or turned in a gas chamber.” On April 8, 2020, the first day of Passover, he wrote “I’m going to kill you. You better be gone because if you’re in [the victim’s housing community] Easter weekend I’m going to stick you in an oven. Or I’m going to shoot you . . . . I should send you to a concentration camp.”

On June 26, 2020, only a few hours before the defendant was located and arrested by the FBI, the defendant left the victim a voicemail message stating, “The police are not going to help you. The courts are not going to help you. . . . I will kill you.”

The FBI investigation identified several other people who had been similarly threatened and harassed by the defendant.

On April 27, 2021, the defendant pled guilty to one count of interference with the right to fair housing, a hate crime, and one count of sending threatening communications. He was sentenced to 36 months of imprisonment, and additional punishment.

Press Release:

Iowa | August 20, 2021 | Race, National Origin

Iowa Woman Sentenced to More Than 25 Years in Prison for Attempting to Kill Two Children Because of their Race and National Origin

An Iowa woman was sentenced on two hate crimes charges for attempting to kill two children because of their race and national origin. The defendant was sentenced to two 25-year terms in federal prison running concurrently, with the sentences to overlap with the sentence imposed in her state court case.

On December 9, 2019, the defendant was driving her car on Creston Avenue in Des Moines, where the first child-victim was walking along the sidewalk with a family member who was also a child. Upon seeing the children and believing them to be of Middle Eastern or African descent, the defendant drove her vehicle over the curb towards the children, striking one of them, and then fleeing the scene.

About 30 minutes later, she was driving her Jeep near Indian Hills Junior High School in Clive, Iowa. The defendant saw a child that she believed was Mexican walking on the sidewalk. The defendant drove her vehicle over the curb and hit the child-victim, causing serious injury, including a concussion, bruises, and cuts. The defendant again fled the scene, but was caught later that day.

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Virginia | August 20, 2021 | Race

Virginia Man Sentenced for Burning Cross on the Front Yard of Black Family

A Virginia man who burned a cross on the front yard of a Black family’s home in June, 2020, following a civil rights protest earlier that day, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. The defendant pled guilty in April, 2021, to criminal interference with federally protected housing rights because of the victim’s race.

On June 14, 2020, the Marion Police Department received a report of a burning cross in the front yard of a Black family, one of whom had organized a civil rights protest the day before.

Witnesses stated that the defendant admitted to the cross burning and used racial epithets when referring to the Black family.

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Press Release (charged):

District of Columbia | August 12, 2021 | Race

District Woman Pleads Guilty to Two Assaults, Including One Prosecuted as Hate Crime

A District of Columbia woman pled guilty this week to charges stemming from two assaults that took place in April and May of 2021, including one that was prosecuted as a hate crime.

The defendant pled guilty on August 9, 2021, to one count of bias-related assault and one count of simple assault. She was sentenced to a total of 180 days in jail, only serving half if she completes a year of probation.

The bias-related assault took place on April 6, 2021, when the defendant assaulted a U.S. Postal Service worker who was making deliveries. She shoved the worker, a Black female, while using racial slurs. As the worker tried to flee, the defendant pursued her and continued her assault by repeatedly shoving her and using racial slurs.

Press Release:

Missouri | August 11, 2021 | Race

Missouri Man Indicted on Federal Hate Crime and Firearm Charges

A federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri has charged a Missouri man with hate crime and firearm charges.

According to court documents, the defendant allegedly shot the victim, trying to kill him with a handgun because of his sexual orientation, causing significant non-fatal injuries.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. If guilty, the defendant faces up to life in prison on the hate crime charge and at least 10 years in prison on the firearm charge.

Press Release:

Kentucky | June 24, 2021 | Race, Color

Kentucky Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Hate Crime Murders

A Kentucky man was sentenced to life in prison without parole for two racially motivated murders and his attempted murder of a third person.

On Oct. 24, 2018, the defendant followed a Black man who was grocery shopping with his grandson, before shooting him several times and killing him. He then walked out of the store and into the parking lot, where he shot and killed a Black woman, and exchanged fire with a Black man who was in lawful possession of a handgun. As he left the third victim, he encountered a legally armed white man, who he said he would not shoot because “whites don’t shoot whites.”

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Indiana | June 21, 2021 | Race, Color

Indiana Man Sentenced to Prison for Making Racially Motivated Threats Toward Black Neighbor

An Indiana man was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to making racially motivated threats to intimidate and interfere with his neighbor, who is Black, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, and for unlawfully possessing firearms.

After learning about the neighbor’s plans to remove a tree from the neighbor’s property, the defendant took several steps to threaten, intimidate, and interfere with his neighbor and the construction. This included placing and burning a cross on the fence line facing his neighbor’s property; displaying a swastika facing his neighbor’s property; displaying a large sign containing a variety of anti-Black racial slurs and a machete next to the swastika; loudly playing the song “Dixie” on repeat; and throwing eggs at his neighbor’s house.

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District of Columbia | June 9, 2021 | Race, Color

District Woman Sentenced to Prison for Hate Crime Targeting Member of the Asian Community

A District of Columbia woman was sentenced to prison for threatening to kill someone because they were a member of the Asian community.

In April, the defendant approached the victim outside a neighborhood store while armed with a knife. She then threatened to kill the victim, saying, “I will kill you; you have coronavirus; go back to China.”

The judge sentenced the defendant to the maximum penalty of 270 days, but suspended all but 90 days of incarceration. After her term in prison, she will be placed on probation for 18 months.

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Alaska | May 27, 2021 | Religion

Alaska Defendant Pleads Guilty for Threatening Los Angeles Synagogue

An Alaska defendant pled guilty to making threats to a synagogue and attempting to obstruct the free exercise of religious beliefs.

On November 1, 2019, the defendant called a Los Angeles area synagogue and left a voice message stating that they were going to kill the synagogue’s congregants. In their message, the defendant repeatedly used slurs referring to people of Jewish faith. The defendant admitted to committing this act with the intent to obstruct the synagogue’s congregants from enjoying the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced on August 23, 2021.

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New York | May 22, 2021 | Religion

New York Man Arrested for Arson of Yeshiva and Synagogue

A New York man was arrested and charged with setting fire to a yeshiva (a Jewish school) and synagogue on May 19, 2021.

He was captured on surveillance video piling and igniting garbage bags next to a Brooklyn building that housed a yeshiva and a synagogue. Hours later, he was captured on surveillance video again, this time repeatedly punching a man wearing traditional Hasidic garb. There was no interaction between the defendant and the victim prior to the assault.

The charge in the complaint is an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment.

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Tennessee | May 17, 2021 | Religion, National Origin

Tennessee Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Hate Crime for Assaulting Two Teenage Girls and their Father

A Tennessee man pled guilty to a federal hate crime offense for assaulting two girls and their father.

On October 24, 2017, he yelled “Allahu Akbar!” and “Go back to your country!” at two teenage girls wearing hijabs. He later attacked and injured the girls’ father by swinging a knife and punching at him. When the girls’ mother arrived on the scene with her young child in her car, he chased after them with his knife still drawn. After being taken into custody, the defendant made derogatory comments about the family, pledged to kill them when the police released him, and admitted that he carried out this assault because of the actual and perceived religion and national origin of the victims.

He will be sentenced on October 7, 2021.

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California | April 27, 2021 | Race, National Origin

Two California Men Indicted in Hate Crimes Case Alleging They Attacked Family-Owned Restaurant and Threatened to Kill the Victims Inside

Two Los Angeles-area men have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy and hate crimes offenses for attacking five victims of a family-owned Turkish restaurant and threatening to kill them. On the day of the attack, one of the defendants sent a text message saying that he planned to go “hunting for [T]urks.” The two men allegedly attacked the restaurant while shouting anti-Turkish slurs, hurling chairs at victims, and threatening to kill them. Multiple victims were injured during the attack and there was over $20,000 worth of damage done to the restaurant.

If found guilty, each of the men face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the hate crime charges and five years in prison for the conspiracy charge.

Press Release:

Iowa | April 22, 2021 | Race, National Origin

Iowa Woman Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime Charges for Attempting to Kill Two Children Because of their Race and National Origin

An Iowa woman pled guilty to hate crime charges for attempting to kill two children because of their race and national origin.

While driving, the defendant spotted children walking on the sidewalk and upon seeing them and believing that they were of Middle Eastern or African descent, she drove her vehicle over the curb toward both children, striking one of them. She then drove away from the scene. Approximately 30 minutes after the initial assault, the woman drove her vehicle onto another sidewalk striking a child that she believed was Mexican.

She will face a maximum penalty of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the charged offenses.

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Michigan | March 30, 2021 | Race

Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Hate Crime for Attacking Black Teenager

A Michigan man pled guilty to willfully causing bodily injury to a Black teenager because of the teenager’s race. He confronted a group of Black teenagers, including the victim, in a park state park and repeatedly used racial slurs and declared that the teenagers had no right to use the public beach where the incident occurred. He then struck the victim with a bike lock, knocking out several of the victim’s teeth, lacerating his face, and fracturing his jaw.

The defendant faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

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California | March 26, 2021 | Religion, Sexual Orientation

California Woman Sentenced to 15 Months for Threatening to Bomb Catholic Prep School

A California woman has been sentenced to 15 months and 13 days for intentionally obstructing individuals’ free exercise of religion by threatening to bomb the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, D.C., the oldest Catholic school for girls in the country.

The defendant faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.In May of 2019, the school announced that it would begin publishing same-sex wedding announcements in its alumni magazine. In response to the school’s decision, the defendant made multiple calls to the school, threatening to bomb the church, blow up the school, and kill school officials and students.

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Colorado | February 26, 2021 | Religion

Southern Colorado Man Sentenced to More Than 19 Years for Plotting to Blow Up Synagogue

A Colorado man, who self-identifies as a neo-Nazi and white supremacist, was sentenced to over 19 years in federal prison followed by 15 years of supervised release for plotting to blow up the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado.

In conversations with undercover FBI agents, the defendant repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and said that he wanted the bombing of the synagogue to send a message to Jewish people that they must leave his town “otherwise people will die.” The defendant’s conduct meets the federal definition of domestic terrorism.

Press Release:

Michigan | February 11, 2021 | Race, Color

Michigan Man Indicted for Hate Crimes After Attacking African-American Teenagers

A Michigan man has been charged for causing bodily injury to two Black teenagers through the use of a dangerous weapon.

According to the charges, he confronted a group of Black teenagers at a state park, repeatedly using racial slurs and saying that Black people had no right to use the public beach. He then struck one of the teens in the face with a bike lock, fracturing the victim’s jaw and knocking out several of his teeth, before trying to strike another teen with the lock.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years for each count.

Vermont | November 3, 2020 | Race, National Origin

Man Sentenced for Federal Hate Crime

A Vermont man was sentenced to time served, of nearly a year, and three years of supervised release for pleading guilty to a federal hate crime.

On July 29, 2019, the defendant intimidated and harassed his neighbors, o a Hispanic family including two children, because of their race and national origin. He threatened to burn down the family’s home while they were inside and threatened to set fire to a member of the family. The defendant also shouted racial and ethnic slurs at the family, yelled at them to “go back to Mexico,” and yelled that “you Mexicans don’t belong on this street.” He warned the family that he would do “whatever it takes to get you off this street,” and exposed his genitals and buttocks in front of the family, including one of the children. Finally, he smashed the family’s mailbox and smashed glass on their lawn.

Press Release:

New York | June 30, 2020 | Religion

New York Man Arrested for Hate Crime

A New York Man has been charged by federal criminal complaint with making anti-Semitic death threats to a resident of Stratford, Connecticut.

On December 23, 2019, the first day of Hanukkah, the man began sending the victim, who is Jewish, threatening text messages. In several messages, he threatened to murder or seriously injure the victim. He also threatened to blow up the victim’s house and car. Some of the threatening text messages contained anti-Semitic references to the Holocaust.

The charges, which include a hate crime, carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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Florida/Virginia | April 30, 2020 | Race, Color

Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Racially-Motivated Election Interference and Cyberstalking

A Florida man pled guilty to threatening an African-American Charlottesville City Council candidate because of his race and because he was running for office, and to threatening, harassing, and stalking another victim using social media.

The defendant admitted using fake names on social media to promote white supremacy and to express support for racially-motivated violence. The defendant also admitted to using social media to threaten violence against an African-American resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, because of his race and because he was running for City Council.

The defendant will be sentenced on July 23, 2020, and faces up to one year in prison for making online threats and up to five years in prison for using the internet to threaten, stalk, and harass.

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Massachusetts | April 15, 2020 | Religion

Massachusetts Man Charged with Attempted Arson at a Jewish-Sponsored Assisted Living Facility

An East Longmeadow man was arrested and charged in connection with attempted arson at a Longmeadow assisted living residential facility.

According to the criminal complaint, on April 2, 2020, police discovered a homemade bomb at the entrance of Ruth’s House, a Jewish-sponsored assisted living residential facility for seniors of all faiths,. Police linked D.N.A. found on the device to the defendant. The device was discovered after law enforcement identified credible online threats against Ruth’s House on social media posts tied to a white supremacist organization.

The defendant faces two separate charges, each with sentences of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release following imprisonment, and fines of $250,000.

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Pennsylvania | March 30, 2020 | Race, Color, Religion, National Origin

Lehighton Man Charged with Internet Threats

A Leighton man has been charged with transmitting threats across state lines to cause bodily injury to another person.

The defendant allegedly used fake names online to post hundreds of anti-Semitic, anti-black, and anti-Muslim messages, images, and videos. Several of these posts, like the one charged in the complaint, included threats to various religious and racial groups. Other posts expressed a desire to commit genocide and “hate crimes,” and called for or depicted images of the killing of Jewish people, black people, and Muslim people”. On March 13, 2019, the defendant allegedly posted a digitally-created image of his arm and hand aiming an AR-15 rifle at a congregation of praying Jewish men, gathered in what appears to be a synagogue.

The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is 5 years of imprisonment for each violation, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.

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Maine | March 10, 2020 | Race, National Origin

Man Convicted of Hate Crime Assaults in Maine

Maurice Diggins was convicted of conspiring to—and committing—hate crimes against black men in Maine. The government proved that Diggins conspired with his nephew, Dusty Leo, to brutally assault two men because they were black. Leo had already pleaded guilty.

In the first incident, Diggins attacked a black Sudanese man without provocation. During the same incident, Diggins and Leo assaulted another black man who was standing nearby. Witnesses heard Diggins and Leo using racial epithets during these incidents.

In the second incident, which occurred about an hour later and approximately 20 miles away, Diggins and Leo drove into a parking lot of a convenience store, where Diggins got out of the truck and approached a black man who was walking toward the store’s entrance. Diggins directed a racial slur at the man and distracted him while Leo got out of the truck and sucker-punched the man in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.

In both incidents, Diggins and Leo’s unprovoked attacks broke the victims’ jaws requiring extensive surgery.

Diggins and Leo have not been sentenced yet. Diggins faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each hate crimes charge, and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge. Leo faces the same penalties for the conspiracy charge and the hate crimes charge.

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Louisiana | February 10, 2020 | Religion

Louisiana Church Bombing

Holden Matthews has pled guilty to intentionally setting fire to three Baptist churches in the area of Opelousas because of the religious character of those buildings. Matthews set the fires over ten days in March and April of 2019, and each of the church buildings was destroyed.

Matthews admitted that he intentionally set fire to the three Baptist churches with predominately African-American congregations.

Matthews further admitted that he wanted to raise his profile as a “Black Metal” musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s.  After setting the third fire, he posted photographs and videos on Facebook showing the first two churches burning.  He admitted that he took these photographs and videos in real-time on his cell phone as he watched the churches burn, and that he posted them to Facebook to promote himself in the Black Metal community.

Matthews will be sentenced on May 22, 2020. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 70 years in prison. 



Maryland | January 16, 2020 | Religion

Man Charged for Making Threats Against a Maryland Synagogue

A federal grand jury has returned a superseding indictment charging a Maryland man for threatening to attack a Baltimore-area synagogue on multiple occasions. The superseding indictment replaces the previous indictment, which only charged him with making threats in interstate communications.

In addition to the interstate communications charge, the suspect is charged with intentionally attempting to obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs through threats of force.

According to the superseding indictment, he made numerous telephone calls to an employee of a synagogue in Owings Mills, Maryland, and threatened to kill members of the synagogue’s congregations with firearms, explosives, and by burning the synagogue down.

If convicted, the maximum sentence is 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to 250,000.

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New York | January 9, 2020 | Religion

Orange County Man Charged with Additional Federal Hate Crimes for Machete Attack at Rabbi’s Home

A federal grand jury has indicted a New York man with federal hate crimes including willfully causing bodily injury to five victims because of the victims’ religion and for obstructing the free exercise of religion by attempting to kill during Hanukkah observances at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York.

The indictment alleges that on December 28, 2019, the subject was armed with an 18-inch machete and entered a rabbi’s home—adjacent to the rabbi’s synagogue—where dozens had gathered for Hanukkah. There he slashed and stabbed several of the assembled congregants. At least five victims were hospitalized with severe injuries. It is alleged that he targeted and attacked the congregants because of their religion.

Following the attack, he was stopped by members of the New York City Police Department.   In the vehicle they saw a machete that appeared to have traces of dried blood on it. After securing warrants, law enforcement searched the subject’s residence and cellphone. The residence contained handwritten journals with several pages of anti-Semitic references, including references to “Adolf Hitler” and “Nazi Culture.” The cellphone contained internet searches for terms such as “Zionist Temples in Staten Island and New Jersey,” “why did Hitler hate the Jews,” and “prominent companies founded by Jews in America.” Also found was a webpage visit on the day of the attack to an article titled, “New York Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here’s What to Know.”

Each count carries a maximum prison term of life.

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Texas |  December 13, 2019  |  Sexual orientation

Dallas Men Plead Guilty to Hate Crimes After Using Dating App to Target Gay Men

Two men have pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime and other charges in connection with their involvement in a scheme to single out men because of their sexual orientation. The defendants conspired with a third accomplice, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges in connection with the case in March of 2019.

The defendants used Grindr, a social media platform, to lure gay men to areas around Dallas for robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, and violent hate crimes. The co-conspirators held the victims at gunpoint against their will, forced a victim to withdraw money from an ATM, sexually assaulted at least one of the victims, and wiped human feces on and urinated on another victim.

Defendant Atkinson will be sentenced in February of 2020. Sentencing for defendant Ceniceros-Deleon is set for April 1, 2020, and the court has not scheduled a sentencing hearing for defendant Henry.

Henry and Ceniceros-Deleon Guilty Plea:

Atkinson Guilty Plea:

Mississippi |  November 7, 2019  |  Race, Color

Two Mississippi Men Sentenced for Crossburning in Predominantly African American Residential Area

Graham Williamson and Louie Revette, of Seminary, Mississippi, were sentenced for a racially motivated crossburning in a predominantly African-American residential area. Williamson was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. Revette was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for recruiting Williamson, planning, and executing the crossburning.

In October 2017, the two men built a cross that they set up and lit on fire near the homes of African-American residents in the Keys Hill area of Seminary, Mississippi. Both men admitted to knowing that burning crosses have historically been used to threaten, frighten, and intimidate African-Americans, and that they wanted to make the community members in the neighborhood fearful. The crossburning was mostly directed at a young African-American victim and placed near the victim’s home.

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Colorado |  November 4, 2019  |  Religion

Colorado Man Charged with Federal Hate Crime for Plotting to Blow Up Synagogue

A Colorado man was charged with a federal hate crime for plotting to blow up the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado.  

According to the affidavit, the defendant self-identifies as a skinhead and a white supremacist.  After visiting Temple Emanuel and observing Jewish congregants, the subject allegedly told undercover FBI agents that he wanted to do something that would tell Jewish people in the community that they are not welcome in Pueblo, and they should leave or they will die.  He repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and support for a racial holy war.   He suggested using explosive devices to destroy the Synagogue to “get that place off the map.” He allegedly met with undercover FBI agents posing as fellow white supremacists to develop an attack plan and coordinate how to get explosives.

On November 1, 2019, Holzer allegedly met with undercover agents who provided him with inactive explosive devices created by the FBI. He planned to set off the explosives early Saturday, November 2.

The defendant is currently in federal custody and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if found guilty.

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Louisiana |  October 31, 2019  |  Disability

Louisiana Family Members Sentenced for Violating Civil Rights of Woman with Disabilities

Terry Knope and Raylaine Knope have been sentenced to 336 months in federal prison for charges of conspiring to obtain forced labor and a Hate Crime involving a woman with cognitive disabilities. Bridget Knope was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison for conspiring with family members to receive forced labor.  Jody Lambert was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison in June 2019 for conspiring with family members to violate the federal housing rights of a woman with disabilities.

The family conspired to obtain unpaid household labor from a woman with a disability through force, threats of force, physical restraint, as well as physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. The victim was locked in a backyard cage and forced to perform housework in exchange for food and water. The family also routinely stole the victim’s federal disability benefits.

Terry Knope Sentencing:

Raylaine Knope and Bridget Lambert Sentencing:

Jody Lambert Sentencing:

Virginia |  August 15, 2019  |  Religion, National Origin

Virginia Man Sentenced To 60 Months In Prison For Threatening Employees Of The Arab American Institute

William Syring of Arlington, Virginia, has been sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin. Syring also targeted AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States.

Syring sent over 700 emails to AAI employees from 2012 to 2017, including five death threats. Similarly, in 2008, Syring admitted to sending threatening emails to AAI employees and used language nearly identical to that in his 2017 emails. For over a decade, AAI employees lived in fear that he would follow through with his threats. The threatening messages took a toll on them, their families, and their loved ones.

On May 9, 2019, Syring was convicted on all 14 counts in the indictment, including seven hate crime charges and seven interstate threats charges.



Virginia |  July 19, 2019  |  Race, Color

Three Members of California-Based White Supremacist Group Sentenced on Riots Charges Related to August 2017 “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville

Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis, and Thomas Gillen, members of the white-supremacist group formerly known as the Rise Above Movement (RAM), were sentenced in court for violence they committed at political rallies as part of their conspiracy to riot.

From March 2017 to August 2017, the three men traveled with other RAM members to multiple political rallies and organized demonstrations in Virginia and California where they engaged in planned acts of violence. They attended these rallies intending to provoke physical conflict with counter-protestors, which they believed would justify their use of force and protect them from prosecution. The defendants admitted that their acts of violence during the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally were not in self-defense.

Daley was sentenced to 37 months in prison, Gillen was sentenced to 33 months in prison, and Miselis was sentenced to 27 months in prison. A fourth defendant, Cole Evan White, will be sentenced at a later date. All four defendants previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to riot.


Virginia |  June 28, 2019  |  Race, color, national origin, religion

Charlottesville Rally Participant Sentenced for Car Attack

James Alex Fields, Jr., who participated in a white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to hate crimes charges that resulted in the death of a victim, caused bodily injury, and involved an attempt to kill other people after he drove into a group of counter-protestors.

According to facts signed by Fields, he attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where multiple groups and individuals chanted and expressed white supremacist and anti-Semitic views. After law enforcement told rally participants to leave, he admitted that he drove into downtown Charlottesville where a racially and ethnically diverse crowd had gathered. Fields proceeded to drive into a crowd of counter-protestors because of their actual and perceived race, color, national origin, and religion. He also admitted that prior to the rally he used social media to express and promote white supremacist views; the social and racial policies of Nazi-era Germany; and violence against groups that he perceived to be non-white.


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Oregon |  May 23, 2019  |  Religion

Oregon Man Sentenced to 15 Months in Federal Prison for Hate Crime Targeting Eugene Church

Benjamin Hernandez, of Eugene, Oregon, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for committing a hate crime targeting St. Mary Catholic Church in Eugene in September 2018 and illegally possessing ammunition.

Hernandez was escorted from St. Mary Church property on September 9, 2018, following an angry outburst during communion services. Over the following weeks, Hernandez was spotted around the property by security cameras and employees spraying door handles with pepper spray, making threatening gestures towards members of the congregation, and leaving a threatening note coupled with ammunition. As a result, staff and churchgoers were physically injured, frightened, and concerned about their safety.

Hernandez was arrested on September 21, 2018, and pleaded guilty on February 12, 2019, to obstruction or attempted obstruction of persons in the free exercise of their religious beliefs and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Guilty Plea:


Ohio  |  January 29, 2019  |  Religion

Ohio Man Indicted for Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS and Attempting to Commit a Violent Hate Crime Attack Against a Toledo Synagogue

A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Ohio charged an Ohio man with three federal charges in connection with his plan to attack a synagogue in the Toledo area.

The three-count indictment charges the defendant with attempting to provide material support to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), attempting to commit a hate crime, and possessing firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.

According to court documents, the defendant drew law enforcement’s attention in 2018 with social media posts of weapons and messages supportive of ISIS, as well as posting a photograph originally distributed by ISIS. That online activity led to multiple interactions between him and undercover FBI agents, during which the defendant stated his support for violent attacks and operations. For example, he communicated to the undercover agent his admiration for the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting that occurred in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in October 2018. Additionally, the defendant discussed conducting a mass shooting at a synagogue with the undercover agent. He identified two synagogues as potential targets, discussed the types of weapons he believed would be able to inflict mass casualties, and stated he wanted to kill a rabbi. He wrote the name and address of the synagogue he selected and showed the undercover agent photos of the inside. He was arrested after he accepted two semi-automatic rifles the undercover agent told him he had purchased for the attack. The weapons were rendered inoperable by law enforcement officers, so they posed no danger to the public.


Kansas  |  January 25, 2019  |  Religion, national origin

Three Kansas Men Sentenced to Prison for Plotting to Bomb Somali Immigrants in Garden City

On January 25, 2019, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, and Patrick Stein were sentenced to 25, 26, and 30 years, respectively, for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and to violate the housing rights of their intended victims. Both conspiracies stemmed from the defendants’ plot to blow up an apartment complex in an effort to kill the Somali Muslim immigrants who lived and worshipped there. Prior to the conviction, the FBI conducted an eight-month-long investigation during which they uncovered recordings of the defendants discussing their plan to attack the apartment complex. One undercover FBI agent posed as a black-market arms dealer and met with one of the defendants, who attempted to purchase a bomb from the undercover agent.



Examples of Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes

judge with gavel, federal crimes

29 Sep Examples of Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes

Federal crimes are violations of the U.S. Constitution and always overrule state law. The majority of criminal trials are held in state courts. For a crime to go to federal court, it must be of federal interest. See below for some examples of common federal crimes vs. common state crimes. 

Some factors that make a crime a federal offense are:

  • the criminal activity occurs in multiple states
  • the crime happened on federal property (like the robbery of a federal bank)
  • a specific federal law was violated
  • the crime involves citizens from different states

The federal courts may take a case where state law goes against constitutional law. The supremacy clause , which is outlined in the Constitution, states that federal law will always trump state law. 

When state and federal laws don’t align, the general idea is that the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction within the state borders . However, the federal government can interfere and decide to convict you of a federal crime. 

A common example of this is the legalization of marijuana. Some states allow the use of medicinal or recreational marijuana. Yet, the federal government has it listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance . This makes the use, possession, or sale of the drug federally illegal . 

Examples of federal crimes:

  • IRS (tax) violations and mail fraud
  • drug trafficking/drug possession
  • kidnapping 
  • counterfeiting bills
  • immigration crimes  
  • copyright infractions
  • child pornography 

The difference between state crimes vs. federal crimes boils down to where the court proceedings will occur (jurisdiction). For a state crime, court will be held in the city or county where the crime was committed. For a federal crime, there are three levels to the court system: district court, court of appeals, and the Supreme Court. 

Examples of common state crimes:

  • traffic violations
  • contract breach
  • robbery/burglary/theft

In Arizona, some of the most common crimes are aggravated assault, other violent crimes (such as assault, rape, and murder), and burglary.  

Representation Matters

In 2014 in Arizona, there were fewer than 100 lawyers certified as Criminal Law Specialists. Todd Coolidge is one of those lawyers. He is a member of the Criminal Law Advisory Commission and has been a certified specialist for twenty years. For legal representation in Chandler, Arizona and the surrounding area, contact the office of Todd Coolidge . He deals with cases of domestic violence, DUIs, traffic offenses, and felonies . 

Photo by  mohamed hassan   from PxHere

state crime case study examples

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E4J University Module Series: Organized Crime

Module 11: international cooperation to combat transnational organized crime, introduction and learning outcomes.

  • Mutual legal assistance (MLA)
  • Transfer of criminal proceedings
  • Transfer of sentenced persons

Case studies and exercises

  • Thinking critically through fiction
  • Excerpts of legislation

Possible class structure

Core reading, advanced reading, student assessment.

  • Review and assessment questions
  • Research and independent study questions

Additional teaching tools

Published in May 2018

Regional Perspective: Pacific Islands Region - added in November 2019

  This module is a resource for lecturers   

Case study 1 (mutual legal assistance in a case of online child sexual exploitation).

Please note that the text below involves disturbing subject matter. A disclosure of the content of this case study may cause uncomfortable feeling or emotional distress.

The defendant is an Israeli citizen who met the complainants, a woman and her 10 years old daughter who lived in Georgia, through the internet. The defendant persisted in on-line relations with the mother, as well as later upon his arrival to Georgia, where he met her and the daughter, bought the child gifts, went out with them and wired money for them from Israel. Later, according to the indictment, the defendant arrived to a hotel in Tbilisi and asked the mother and daughter to join him. The defendant and the mother reached an agreement according to which he will pay her USD 100 per month for allowing him to use her daughter's body for the production of pornographic material and conducting sexual acts.

According to this agreement, in two cases, the defendant arrived to the hotel in Tbilisi and the mother brought the daughter there. In the hotel room, the defendant took obscene photos of the minor and sexually assaulted her, while visually recording the acts with several cameras belonging to him and the mother.

The defendant gave the mother a camera and a laptop so she could produce paedophilic photos of the minor at his will. The mother emailed the photos to the defendant and he paid her. Later on, the defendant published and sold the photos and films. Additionally, the defendant held in his possession many other obscene materials of other minors, which he also published.

The submission of the indictment was in cooperation with the Georgian authorities. The Georgian authorities arrested the mother and indicted her on charges of trafficking in persons. The evidence in the case against the defendant was based on materials that were collected in Israel as well as in Georgia. Both the mother and the daughter were interviewed and gave written statements. The indictment was submitted in Israel with the approval of the Deputy State Attorney (Criminal Matters) since some of the offenses, for example the sex offenses, are considered foreign offenses conducted in Georgia.

The Court ruled that according to the strong evidence in this case, it was proven that the minor was passed from hand to hand, from her mother to the defendant, as if she was an object, and therefore the element of "a transaction in a person," as required by the offense of trafficking in persons according to Israeli law, was met. The daughter was objectified. According to the Court, the objectification, and making use of a person, need not to be permanent and does not even require a long period of time but rather can occur for a short period of time.

Also, the transaction in a person, and the objectification of a person, do not need to involve the displacement of the victim from their place of residence, as long as they are done for one of the purposes mentioned in the offense, in this case "causing him/her to participate in an obscene publication or in an obscene performance and or subjecting him/her to a sex offense."

Additionally, the Court decided that the linkage between the money transferred to the mother by the defendant and the "usage" of the minor was proven beyond reasonable doubt, even though this is not an element of the offense that needed to be proven.

As for the consent, which is also not an element of the crime, it was proven that the minor protested several times, which only reinforced the element of objectification of her body by her mother and the defendant.

Finally, the Court accepted the State Attorney's Office' argument, according to which the crime of trafficking in persons involves a wide range of situations that are not necessarily contingent upon a place, consent nor a compensation, and that clearly the circumstances of the case shows that a transaction was made between the mother of the victim and the defendant, a transaction whose purpose was to make use of the minor's body as an object, both for the defendant's sexual desires and for trading in the minor's photos

Case-related file

  • UNODC SHERLOC Case Law Database UNODC No.: ISR017

Significant feature

  • The Georgian authorities arrested the mother and indicted her on trafficking in persons charges, the indictment was submitted in Israel and the defendants were tried by a Tel Aviv-Jaffa District Court. The evidence in the case against the defendant was based on materials that were collected both in Israel and Georgia.

Discussion questions

  • What are the legal foundations for mutual legal assistance between Georgia and Israel?
  • What kind of international cooperation did the case require?
  • How did they facilitate the prosecution of this case?

Case Study 2 (Mutual legal assistance in a drug trafficking case)

In 2004, the defendant José, together with BB, CC and DD, decided to start introducing narcotic drugs, notably cocaine, in Spain. According to this criminal plan, BB, CC and DD, residing in Brazil, provided for the transportation of cocaine to Portugal, where the defendant José would collect and transport drugs and, subsequently, sell them in Spain.

In accordance with this plan, on 7 July 2004, the ship North Express moored in the Port of Leixões, Matosinhos, and unloaded the containers CMCU 210514.0 and GLDU 223878-7, which had been shipped in the port of Santos, Brazil, on 1 June 2004. The container CMCU 210514-0 contained 8 packages, each of them with the approximate weight of one kilogram and the container, GLDU 223878-7, contained 2,231.615 kilograms of cocaine, which were hidden inside boxes of ceramic floor tiles.

The defendant, in cooperation with BB, CC and DD, bought several companies and opened in his name, and on behalf of those companies, different bank accounts, notably in Madeira's offshore.

The defendant José, one of the partners of Company-D, with an office in Rua Estela in São Paulo, Brazil, transferred to an account held by Company-C a large sum of USA dollars. Company-C, which has never engaged in any activities, made several bank transfers of large sums of USA dollars. The defendant José had the sole and exclusive power to operate bank accounts and was ready to hold and keep available the amounts in cash held therein.

The investigation into the case was carried out by Portugal's Criminal Investigation Police (Polícia Judiciária). They made use of phone interceptions, surveillance, searches and seizures, and cooperated with the Brazilian homologues. A summary financial investigation was also carried out. During the inquiry, several phone interceptions took place according to arts. 187 et seq. of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Portugal. Searches were also carried out according to art. 174 et seq. of the same Code. These were aimed not only at collecting evidence on the perpetration of the offence but also on the seizure of instrumentalities, proceeds and advantages deriving from them.

The competent Spanish and Brazilian authorities collaborated with the investigation in Portugal. They made available all the information needed for the investigation carried out in Portugal. Police information was also requested from Italian, Swedish, Chinese, American, Swiss and British authorities, notably on the commercial activities developed in those countries by the defendant, as well as by companies directly or indirectly run by him.

During the investigation, after the seizure of the narcotic drugs, a European Arrest Warrant was issued in relation to the defendant. Such warrant eventually was executed in Spain on 9 July 2004 and the defendant was surrendered to national authorities on the 23rd of the same month.

The warrant was issued on the basis of articles 21, n.1 and 24 (b), (c) and (j) (aggravated drug trafficking) of Portugal's Decree-Law 15/93, of 22 January; article 23, n.1 (conversion, transfer or concealment of property or proceeds) and article 28, n.1 (criminal organizations) from the same legal text. In fact, although at the beginning of the inquiry the Public Prosecutor had directed the investigation towards the criminal organization offence as well, he did not use that offence because he did not find evidence of its perpetration.

Several letters of request were also sent to the Spanish, Brazilian and American authorities asking them to carry out several steps of the inquiry, notably house searches, searches in offices, collection of bank information, interrogation of suspects and witness hearing, inventory of movable and immovable property directly or indirectly held by the defendant in those countries, and seizure of bank account deposits.

The main difficulty was in making mutual legal assistance compatible with procedural deadlines, in particular the deadline for filing charges (accusation). In fact, the letters of request sent to Spain, Brazil and the USA were returned after the maximum time-limit for remand in custody during the prosecutorial phase had expired; thus, the charges were brought even before the letters of request were received back, without reflecting the information resulting therefrom.

The court of first instance sentenced the defendant to 14 years of  imprisonment  for aggravated drug trafficking, provided for and punished by articles 21, n. 1 and 24 (b) and (c) of Decree-Law 15/93, of 22 January. In addition, the instrumentalities of crime and the amounts deposited in accounts held either by the defendant or by companies, of which he was the main beneficiary were first seized and then confiscated. The link between these amounts and the criminal charges was not proven, but the Supreme Court of Justice considered that under Act. No. 5/2002 (Establishing Measures for the Combat against Organised Crime and Economic and Financial Crime) of 11 January, 2002, such amounts should be deemed to derive from the criminal activity.

  • UNODC SHERLOC Case Law Database. UNODC No.: PRTx002 .

Significant features

  • Application of the European Arrest Warrant
  • Usage of letters of request
  • What are the benefits of mutual legal assistance in facilitating investigation and prosecution of drug trafficking cases?
  • What are the functions of letters of request and how were they used in this case?
  • What are the grounds of the European Arrest Warrant in this case?

Case Study 3 (Extradition refusal on grounds of inhuman treatment)

In 2016, the Guardian reported a case in which British magistrates refused to extradite to France a man allegedly involved in cocaine smuggling and firearms offences on the grounds that conditions in France's overseas prisons, namely in Guadeloupe and Martinique, are inhumane and degrading. The judgement led to the release on bail of Kurtis Richards, 54, who had been in Wandsworth prison for almost a year after being arrested at Gatwick airport. Richards, a citizen of Dominica in the West Indies, was accused by France in the arrest warrant of smuggling approximately 80 kg of cocaine, shotgun, and two hunting guns into Guadeloupe.

Richard's legal representative argued that prisons of the French West Indies fail to meet the minimum requirements for detention facilities for reasons of poor sanitation and hygiene as well as prison overcrowding and unacceptable disciplinary measures used by guards against inmates.

Both Guadeloupe and Martinique have the status of overseas administrative territories of France. As argued by the defence and supported by the district judge Quentin Purdy, the application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is not to be automatically applied. France, including its overseas territories, must demonstrate commitment to human rights and fully comply with art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.

  • Bowcott, Owen. (2014). UK court rejects extradition request due to French West Indies jail conditions. The Guardian , May 7, 2014.
  • Limits to the application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW)

In making legislative changes and in carrying out extradition, the intention of the Organized Crime Convention is to ensure the fair treatment of those whose extradition is sought and the application to them of all existing rights and guarantees applicable in the State party from whom extradition is requested.

  • What are the minimum human rights standards and guarantees in international law relevant for extradition cases?
  • How does the Organized Crime Convention ensure human rights protection and guarantees?

Case Study 4 (Hacker "Kolypto" extradited from Norway)

Mark Vartanyan, also known as "Kolypto", a Russian national, was charged with developing and maintaining the "Citadel" malware toolkit. He was extradited to the USA from Norway and charged with computer fraud in March 2016. According to information presented in court, Citadel was a malware toolkit designed to infect computer systems and steal financial account credentials and personally identifiable information from victim computer networks. Citadel was offered for sale on invite-only through Russian-language internet forums frequented by cybercriminals. Users of Citadel targeted and exploited the computer networks of major financial and government institutions around the world. According to estimates, Citadel infected approximately 11 million computers worldwide and is responsible for over USD 500 million in losses.

Vartanyan lived first in Ukraine and then Norway. He allegedly engaged in the development and distribution of Citadel and uploaded numerous electronic files that consisted of Citadel malware, components, updates and patches, as well as customer information, all with the intent of improving Citadel's illicit functionality. The case led to Vartanyan's guilty sentence and a punishment of five years in prison.

Case-related files

  • U.S. Department of Justice. (2017). Press Release: Russian Hacker "Kolypto" Extradited from Norway. March 14 .
  • U.S. Department of Justice. (2017). Press Release: Russian Citizen who Helped Develop the "Citadel" Malware Toolkit is Sentenced. July 19 .
  • On what grounds did the United States made an extradition request of Mark Vartanyan from Norway?
  • What other countries might have reasons to make extradition requests for this suspect?
  • What kind of evidence needed to be collected from outside the United States? Is seizure and sharing of computer hardware and data included in mutual legal assistance agreements between the United States and Norway?

Case Study 5 (Dotcom et al. v. the United States)

In 2005, Kim Dotcom developed a business under the name "Megaupload." This business enabled users to upload files for storage in the cloud on one of the many servers leased by Megaupload. By January 2012, Megaupload claimed to have over 60 million registered users. It was said to be the thirteenth most frequently visited site on the Internet attracting an average of 50 million visits daily and more than one billion visitors in total.

Users could upload videos to Megaupload and obtain a link which would provide access to it. A user could repeatedly upload the same video and obtain multiple links. The user could then choose to share these links with others, including through third party websites, enabling them to access the video using Megavideo. Megaupload was not responsible for these linking sites and only the user could determine whether to make a link available to others. However, the United States contends that Megaupload encouraged this file sharing practice by offering financial rewards and incentives to users who uploaded files that attracted high numbers of views or downloads. Anyone gaining access to a file stored on Megaupload through a link would be limited to viewing approximately 72 minutes of content, which is less than the length of most motion pictures. The viewer was then prompted to subscribe to Megaupload as a "premium user" in order to continue watching. Premium users were also able to view Mega-hosted videos embedded on third party linking websites. Subscriptions from premium users provided the main source of revenue to the Mega group, estimated by the United States to be approximately USD 150 million. The other principal source of revenue was from online advertising shown prior to the commencement of each video. The United States contends that total advertising revenue exceeded USD 25 million.

In March 2010, the Motion Picture Association of America made a complaint of criminal copyright infringement arising out of the operations of Megaupload, leading to a lengthy investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On 5 January 2012, the Grand Jury returned an initial indictment against the appellants. The United States Court immediately issued arrest warrants and made restraining orders in respect of all of the appellants' assets worldwide, including real and personal property in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. Prosecutors sought to seize an extensive list of assets, including millions of dollars in various seized bank accounts in Hong Kong and New Zealand, multiple cars, four jet skis, the Dotcom mansion, several luxury cars, two 108-inch TVs, three 82-inch TVs, a USD 10,000 watch, and a photograph by Olaf Mueller worth over USD 100,000. On 20 January 2012, the United States took control of the website domain name and database service of Megaupload and its associated websites, effectively terminating the entire operation. The websites were replaced with an anti-piracy warning issued by the United States Department of Justice in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre.

At a hearing in the High Court on 28 August 2012, Justice Judith Potter allowed Dotcom to withdraw approximately NZD 6 million (USD 4.8 million) from his seized funds. He was also allowed to sell nine of his cars. The amount released was to cover USD 2.6 million in existing legal bills, USD 1 million in future costs, and another USD 1 million in rent on his New Zealand mansion. In April 2014, Megaupload launched legal action against the Hong Kong government, applying for the restraining order to be set aside while accusing the Secretary of Justice of procedural failings when the application for seizure was made.

After several years of legal wrangling, involving Supreme Court cases and multiple delays in the proceedings, extradition proceedings finally got underway in an Auckland court, New Zealand, on 21 September 2015. In February 2017, the New Zealand High Court rejected earlier defence appeals and endorsed the extradition to the United States. Justice Murray Gilbert of the High Court of New Zealand ruled that while he agreed with one of Dotcom's defence attorney's primary argument that "online communication of copyright protected works to the public was not a criminal offense in New Zealand," Dotcom and his co-defendants were still eligible for extradition based on their conduct which can be interpreted as the offense of conspiracy to defraud in terms of art II.16, referring to a particular section of the extradition treaty between New Zealand and the United States.

  • UNODC SHERLOC Case Law Database.No.: NZLx006
  • United States v. Batato et al. United States Court of Appeals .
  • Interview with Dotcom's Lawyer Rothken .
  • Kim Dotcom Exclusive Interview "I will fight this and win" (2012) .
  • Russia Today. (2014). Kim Dotcom: The Man Behind Megaupload .
  • Farivar, Cyrus. (2017). New Zealand appeals court upholds Kim Dotcom extradition ruling. Ars Technica, February 20 .
  • Extraterritorial jurisdiction
  • Application of the double (dual) criminality principle
  • Elements of an "extraditable offense"
  • What principles of extradition apply to the extradition of Kim Dotcom to the United States?
  • Kim Dotcom's extradition defence team argued that none of the alleged charges against the Megaupload founder were enough to extradite him to the United States. "I'm no longer getting extradited for Copyright. We won on that," Dotcom tweeted after the ruling against him. " I'm now getting extradited for a law that doesn't even apply ." What were the grounds of the defence position? On what grounds did the court in New Zealand reject the defence team's appeal?

Case Study 6 (Extradition of Ze'ev Rosenstein)

On 27 December 2004, the United States Government relayed a request to the Government of the State of Israel for the extradition of appellant Ze'ev Rosenstein to the US. The request included a detailed account of Rosenstein's alleged crime, in which-according to the prosecution authorities in the USA-he conspired in Israel to import ecstasy pills (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) into the USA and to distribute it there.

The essence of the allegations in the extradition request was that in the late 1990s Rosenstein together with Baruch Dadush and Zvi Fogel began trafficking in drugs. The extradition request claims that Rosenstein was involved in three drug deals of wide scope. The first took place in 1999, when 135,000 MDMA pills were bought in Holland and brought to their destination in the United States via Germany, hidden in motor vehicles. According to the USA prosecution authorities, Rosenstein funded the purchase of 32,000 of these pills. After Dadush and Fogel sold the drugs in the USA on Rosenstein's behalf, Fogel transferred part of the profits to Dadush, USD 90,000 of which Dadush gave Rosenstein, keeping the same amount for himself.

In the same year another drug deal was carried out. That deal led to the distribution of 305,000 pills of the drug in the US, 50,000 of which Rosenstein purchased for a total of USD 50,000, which he paid Fogel via Dadush. This time the drug was transported while hidden in copper scrap and computer parts. Dadush intended to travel to the US, accompanied by his brother Alain, in order to coordinate the distribution of the drug, but he was refused entry and returned to Israel. As for Alain, he entered the USA, and followed Dadush's instructions in order to distribute the pills in New York City. When the job was finished, the profits were transferred to Fogel in Israel. The latter transferred the relevant part of the profits to Dadush, out of which Rosenstein's share was paid to him. According to the prosecution authorities, an additional shipment of drugs was arranged in 2001.

In November 2004, as a result of an extended covert investigation efforts on the part of American law enforcement agencies the Miami police and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized about 700,000 ecstasy pills in a Manhattan apartment. Further investigation on the Israeli side led to Rosenstein's arrest. The USA wanted Rosenstein for the crime of conspiracy to import large shipments of ecstasy pills with the aim to distribute them in the country (an offense pursuant to 21 USC § 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(c) and 846), and conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the United States (an offense pursuant to sections 952(a), 960(b)(3) and 963 of that law). The State of Israel, in which Rosenstein was detained and in which the conspiracy was made, was being asked, on the basis of the extradition treaty between the two countries, to extradite him.

The District Court of Israel emphasized that in crimes involving a prominent international dimension, including drug offenses, the centre of gravity of the offense should not be identified as the physical place in which it was committed, since that place is likely to be random and unimportant. Instead, weight should be given to the place in which the offense was consummated. The court further stressed that in such offenses, the territorial principle should be given little weight, and the interests regarding the reciprocity of extradition between States, and the need for international cooperation to rout organized crime, should be preferred. The court concluded that Rosenstein's extradition raised no concern of violation of public policy or due process, and did not impair his ability to defend himself against the charges against him.

Rosenstein's defence appealed the decision. Rosenstein argued that the dominant link of the offenses with which he was charged was to Israel and not to the United States. Considering, further, that the offender was an Israeli citizen and resident, who was not a fugitive from justice in another country and who could be tried in Israel, Rosenstein claimed that extradition served no worthy purpose and was not proportional. He further contended that the target of the conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances and the personal link of the victims of the crime could not outweigh the principle of territorial jurisdiction.

Rosenstein further argued that his extradition would violate his procedural and substantive rights as a defendant in a criminal case. He would not have the benefit of being judged in his natural environment, and language difficulty and the difference between the Israeli and American legal systems could compromise his defence and his rights to due process. The argument referred mainly to the jury system, which was a different decision-making system than the one in Israeli law.

The Supreme Court of Israel denied the appeal in 2006, reaffirming his extradition to stand trial in the United States-a precedent-setting decision that made Rosenstein one of very few Israelis to ever be extradited for prosecution in another country. In accordance with the extradition treaty between Israel and the US, he was nevertheless returned to Israel to serve his US-imposed sentence in an Israeli prison.

  • Supreme Court of Israel. CrimA 4596/05 Ze'ev Rosenstein v. The State of Israel .
  • Extradition and return to the country of citizenship to serve a sentence
  • What are the key features of the transnational conspiracy and its operations in the black market for ecstasy in which Rosenstein was involved? What role did Rosenstein play in ecstasy trafficking and distribution?
  • How many crimes were involved in the case? How many countries could make an extradition claim to prosecute Rosenstein (and his associates)?
  • What principles of extradition discussed in the Module can you identify?
  • What grounds did the Rosenstein defence team present to claim against his extradition to the United States?
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of prosecuting Rosenstein in the US? What are the reasons for the arrangement between Israel and the United States to return Rosenstein to serve his sentence in Israel?

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