NY Terror Law Gets Test In Street Gang Prosecution


Edgar Morales, 24, a Bronx construction worker, will be the first person tried under New York state’s 2001 antiterrorism statute. The New York Times say that his case is being monitored by both conservative and liberal legal groups to see how the apparently novel use of the statute plays out. Bronx district attorney Robert Johnson says the law is an apt tool in his effort to prosecute violent street gangs. “The obvious need of this statute is to protect society against acts of political terror,” he said. “However, the terror perpetrated by gangs, which all too often occurs on the streets of New York, also fits squarely within the scope of this statute.”

At least 36 states approved antiterrorism laws after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks; Virginia prosecutors used that state’s antiterror law to get a verdict of death against John A. Muhammad, who was convicted of masterminding 16 sniper shootings that killed 10 people. Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the New York law “was really rammed through the Legislature without significant debate and without giving the public the opportunity to weigh in or to even know what was in the bill; this was pitched as something far narrower than what it really is.” It increases the penalty of a crime like assault or murder by one degree –the difference between a 15-year sentence and mandatory life in prison, for example – if the act is found to have been committed to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/08/nyregion/08antiterror.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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