Federal authorities are stepping up enforcement against hate crimes, filing charges in a racially motivated cross-burning and announcing the sentencing this week of a Massachusetts man for burning a predominantly African American church the morning after President Obama’s election, the Washington Post reports. Benjamin Haskell, 24, was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in torching a Springfield, Ma., church in 2008 motivated by anger over Obama’s election.
In Arkansas, three men were indicted on charges of burning a cross in the yard of a black resident of a rural area. The cases reflect heightened federal enforcement against hate crimes and other civil rights violations, a top priority of the Obama administration. “It’s extremely important,” said Cynthia Deitle, unit chief for the FBI’s civil rights program. “We are here to help people who have been the victim of an atrocious crime, whether it’s police brutality or a church arson. If we don’t do it, there’s no one else who will.” The FBI was given $8 million more by Congress last year for civil rights enforcement, and much of that money went to investigating hate crimes.