Georgia high court throws out hate-crimes law
The Georgia supreme court, in a 7-0 decision, threw out the state's hate-crimes law Monday, calling it overly broad and "unconstitutionally vague." The law, in place for just four years, had called for stiffer criminal penalties for crimes in which a victim is chosen because of "bias or prejudice." But, unlike similar laws in other states, the law did not specify which groups might be victims. The ruling came in the case of a white man and woman convicted of an assault on two black men in Atlanta's Little Five Points neighborhood.
Angela Pisciotta and Christopher Botts were accused of beating two brothers, Che and Idris Golden, in 2002 while screaming racial epithets. The two later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. The trial judge sentenced them to six years in prison, plus an additional two years under the hate-crimes law, which allowed up to five years to be added to a sentence because of bias or prejudice. Pisciotta and Botts appealed to the state's highest court in April. Their lawyers argued that the hate-crimes statute should be struck down because almost any crime involving prejudice falls under its scope.