Laws against hate crimes don’t exist in Kansas

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A Kansas man is in jail after being accused of kicking a black toddler and yelling racial slurs, but he won’t be charged with a hate crime.That’s because there are no hate crime statutes in Kansas. 

The mother of the toddler said a Sedgewick County man, Trace Riff, kicked her one-year-old at a local Dillons last month. She said Riff was drunk and yelled racial slurs at her. 

Criminal defense lawyer Dan Monnat said there are a lot of factors that determine whether an incident like this can be classified as a hate crime. 

“The first question to ask about a proposed hate crime is factors such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, the motivation for the crime,” said Monnat. “Was the crime motivated by such extraneous things as alcoholism, drug addiction; usual motives for crime?” 

In states like Kansas where hate crime laws don’t exist, there is another option to prosecute hate crimes. 

“If a hate crime escapes state prosecution, the person may also be prosecuted federally,” Monnat said. 

Local NAACP President Ben Scott said that isn’t good enough. 

“You’re never going to do away with discrimination, that’s always going to be there,” Scott said, “But I think there are strides that can be made that make people of color feel more a part of Kansas.”

Scott is a former state representative, and he said he tried and failed to get hate crime bills passed, but said he and other advocates will keep pushing lawmakers until it happens. 

“If someone has never been victimized by a hate crime, they really don’t know the magnitude of it,” Scott said, “For those people, African Americans and many other minorities that have fell victim to those kinds of things, they know what it’s like, so we’ll keep fighting for it and hopefully Kansas will come around.” 

While prosecutors can’t charge people in Kansas with a hate crime, there is a statue that allows the sentencing judge to incorporate a hate crime into their sentencing.

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