On March 17, 2021, Jung Kim, the owner of Uptown Beauty Supply No. 10 north of Houston, TX, was assaulted inside her store. Two women, Keaundra Young and Daquiesha Williams, were caught committing the crime on the store’s video surveillance.
According to Kim’s son, Sungjun Lee, the women dropped wigs inside the store and when Kim went to pick them up, the women began hurling racial slurs. When Kim told the women to leave, the women responded by destroying the wig aisle and punching Kim.
Kim was left with a bloody face, a broken nose and bruises. Her 2 sons received scratches as they tried to protect their mom.
As if that wasn’t enough, when one of the women left the store, she allegedly attempted to strike Kim with her vehicle. Young has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is a second-degree felony in Texas. Williams was charged with misdemeanor assault.
A grand jury in Harris County has since enhanced Young’s charge. She now also faces a hate crime enhancement. If found guilty, Young could face a year in jail. Williams has not been charged with a hate crime.
What is a hate crime in Texas?
The term “hate crime” isn’t as universal as you might think. While the term is used universally across the U.S., the legal definition of a hate crime depends on the state and/or jurisdiction where you live.
In Texas, for example, a hate crime occurs when one person commits a crime against your person, arson, criminal mischief and/or graffiti on the basis bias or prejudice due to your:
- National origin/ancestry
- Sexual preference
- Status as a peace officer or judge
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 created a federal criminal law which criminalizes willfully causing bodily injury (or attempting to do so with fire, firearm, or other dangerous weapon) when the crime was committed because of one of these perceived or actual characteristics.
There are 2 categories of hate crimes: crimes with bias elements and bias incidents.
Crimes with bias elements
Crimes with bias elements are crimes in which direct or indirect comments are made against the person from one of the above categories while the victim is assaulted, experiences property damage, is robbed or threatened.
By comparison, bias incidents are situations that are not criminal that don’t meet any of the above criteria. More specifically, bias incidents occur when someone uses offensive words at someone else (or a group) in the course of free speech and the speaker doesn’t make direct threats or contact with the individual.
In other words, crimes with bias elements involve an act of violence, while bias incidents do not.
For example, in the recent hate crime case involving Ms. Kim, both assailants may accused of a crime with bias elements since they caused property damage, violent assault and one women attempted to hit Ms. Kim with her car.
How common are hate crimes?
The rate of hate crimes has reached levels that we haven’t seen in nearly a decade. According to data gathered by the Associated Press, there were 51 murders attributed to hate crimes in 2019. Additionally, there were 7,314 hate crimes in 2019. This number is up by nearly 200 from the previous year.
What are the penalties for hate crimes in Texas?
Typically, hate crimes aren’t filed alone. Chances are those who face hate crime charges have been charged with other crimes as well. In Texas, when you’re charged with a hate crime, the original charges you face will be elevated to the next level of severity.
Listed below are the categories of crimes in Texas by severity, starting with least severe:
- Class C misdemeanor
- Class B misdemeanor
- Class A misdemeanor
- State jail felony
- Third-degree felony
- Second-degree felony
- First-degree felony
- Capital felony
If you’ve been accused of a hate crime in Texas, it is imperative that you seek help from an experienced defense attorney. Texas tends to be a punitive state where judges and juries often judge harshly. It’s best to never assume that you can get the sympathy vote. Your best bet is to ensure that you have a strong criminal defense attorney.