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The Northern District of California just sentenced its first person under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law in 2009 by former President Barack Obama. On Dec. 3, 45-year-old Ole Hougen was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison for viciously attacking a Black man in September 2020.

Hougen reportedly approached the 29-year-old male victim with a nine-inch knife as he walked across the street in Santa Cruz. According to The Department of Justice (DOJ), the hate crime offender slashed the man nearly 20 times in the head and chest during the brutal incident.

At the time, Hougen was on probation from another racially motivated attack that he committed in 2018 involving a different Black male victim. The DOJ noted that this was Hougen’s fourth attack against a Black person in the last seven years.

“Racially motivated crimes have no place in our society. This defendant has attacked at least four people because they are Black. For his most recent racially motivated attack of a Black man, the defendant has been convicted,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a statement. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute bias-motivated crimes to secure justice for victims of these crimes and the communities they are meant to target and intimidate.” Hougen will serve 82 months in prison with three years of post-release supervision.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act allows the federal government to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. The law also “ensures that crimes that target their victims because of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability are all covered by the law,” according to the ADL.

“Ole Hougen’s violent assault didn’t just attack an individual, he attacked the entire community associated with the victim,” Acting Assistant Director Jay Greenberg of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division shared following the news. “All crime is unacceptable, but hate crimes are particularly cruel. They strike at an unchangeable, fundamental, and defining part of a victim’s identity. In this way, they attack everyone who identifies with this victim. Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights Program because each crime threatens the freedoms and protections guaranteed to all our communities.”


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