The Civil Rights Bureau investigates and prosecutes crimes committed by members of law enforcement against civilians. The Hate Crimes Unit within the bureau investigates and prosecutes crimes motivated by a victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

Prosecuting Hate Crimes

In September, 2014, DA Thompson established the Hate Crimes Unit, a specialized unit within the Civil Rights Bureau, to focus on bias-motivated crimes, committed because of a perception of the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, age or sexual orientation.

This past December, the unit secured its first conviction at trial when a 26-year-old man was found guilty of firstdegree assault as a hate crime for a vicious attack on a transgendered woman in Bushwick just over a year earlier. A jury found that Mashawn Sonds was with a group of friends who hurled anti-gay epithets at the victim as she walked in the street with a gay male friend. The defendant then threw a piece of plexiglass at the victim, striking her in the head and causing a traumatic brain injury that required surgery to her skull. The defendant is facing a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

“This was a cowardly, unprovoked and brutal attack on a person who was targeted merely because of her appearance,” DA Thompson said. “Hate crimes are an attack against all of us no matter who we are.”

Unfortunately, the experience of the victim in this case is not uncommon. Of the 30-plus active cases handled by the Hate Crimes Unit, nearly half involve incidents wherein a member of the LGBTQ community has been targeted. Other prosecutions include anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab attacks as well as crimes against other ethnicities.

We have a diverse and vibrant borough and the DA’s Office is committed to protecting the people of Brooklyn from all aspects of hate and violence.


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