In Queens, N.Y., at least five people have been convicted of “hate crimes” for singling out elderly victims for nonviolent crimes like mortgage fraud because they believed older people would be easy to deceive and might have substantial savings or home equity, reports the New York Times. This approach, which is being closely watched by prosecutors across New York State, has won prosecutors stiffer sentences, including prison for criminals who could otherwise go free, even after draining an elderly person's savings. Without a hate crime, theft of less than $1 million carries no mandatory prison time; with it, the thief must serve for a year and could face 25.
The legal thinking behind the novel method is that New York's hate crimes statute does not require prosecutors to prove defendants “hate” the group the victim belongs to, merely that they commit the crime because of some belief, correct or not, they hold about the group. “Criminals that prey on the elderly, they love the elderly – this is their source of wealth,” said Kristen A. Kane, a Queens assistant district attorney. The efforts have made the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, a leader in finding new uses for hate crime laws.