Four suspects are facing hate crime charges after being arrested in connection to vandalism complaints in Arcade. On Sunday night, the suspects were charged on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a hate crime after several cars in Arcade were vandalized with swastikas and racial slurs. Street signs, a boat, and other property across the village were also vandalized. Criminal defense attorney Barry Covert spoke to WIVB about the vandalism and potential consequences. The full interview can be found here.
Misdemeanor vs. felony
Mr. Covert explained to WIVB that these charges would normally be considered class A misdemeanors but, because the vandalism “was motivated by some factor set forth in the statute—it could be gender, it could be race, sexual orientation—because it was motivated by a hatred of that or to somehow negatively impact on those beliefs, then it turns into one level higher offense. In this case, it goes from an A misdemeanor to an E felony.” When asked what kind of punishment the suspects could expect, Mr. Covert answered, “Because it was an A misdemeanor, it’s up to one year in jail. Here, it could be 1 1/3 to four years in jail if they charge it as a felony.” This means that the suspects could be “looking at state time.”
Admitting to role in vandalism
WIVB reported that, according to police, the suspects admitted their role in the crimes. Mr. Covert was asked how that admission could play into their potential punishment. “If this is all true,” Mr. Covert responded, ‘it really shows that they really were motivated by hatred—in this case racism—and, therefore, it really will be harmful at sentencing.”
“Obviously, the defense lawyer will try to undermine those arguments,” he went on, “but it could be very harmful.”
Mr. Covert told WIVB that, in his experience as a defense lawyer, “it’s not unusual for clients to admit to the police that they committed some type of an act.” He explained that this admission makes the case much more difficult to defend, but that it is not an unusual occurrence.
Further instances of vandalism
According to police reports, the suspects in question are also thought to have committed acts of vandalism in Orchard Park and Sardinia. In reference to these cases, Mr. Covert told WIVB, “I would expect that there’s going to be multijurisdictional charges for every instance that they engaged in this conduct.”
About Barry N. Covert
Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.