King County prosecuting attorney praises hate crime bill

Earlier this year, the state House and Senate passed a series of legislative fixes to laws that today prevent prosecutors from seeking accountability for some hate crimes.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed ESB 5623 into law on April 6, earning plaudits from King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion, who backed the hate crime bill.

“This bill,” said Manion, “takes the common sense step of recategorizing hate crimes as crimes against a person and also provides our communities with the justice they deserve in the wake of these traumatic crimes.

“I am grateful to Governor Inslee and our legislative leaders for their support of this important legislation,” Manion added.

The bill reclassifies hate crimes as a crime against a person – empowering courts to impose community-therapeutic-treatment – a common request of victims and survivors – in addition to jail time. In addition, the bill expands the universe of possible hate crimes to include assaults that do not result in physical injury.

In late 2022, King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Yessenia Manzo testified before the Senate Law and Justice Committee on SB 5623, sharing a firsthand account of why this bill is so important.

“To give an example, there was a case where a Mexican woman was in line at a business and was speaking in Spanish on the phone,” said Manzo. “The defendant in this case became upset because the woman was speaking in Spanish ,and without provocation approached her, started to yell racial slurs at her, and told her to go back to her country.

“He escalated to the point where he spit in her face, and some of the spit landed in her eye. This criminal conduct should absolutely be considered a hate crime, but it is not in the current law,” Manzo said.

ESB 5623 is among a suite of bills Manion endorsed this year, among them policies aimed at providing greater accountability on sexual assault, mental health treatment, and catalytic converter theft.

Below are some overall hate crime stats:

Between 2018 and this week, King County prosecutors filed 270 hate crimes cases.

Of those, the most common type are hate crimes that target individuals based on race/ethnicity. There were at least 141 cases involving anti-race/ethnicity, including 9 so far this year and at least 19 last year. There were at least 31 in 2021 and at least 41 in 2020.

Anti-Black are the most common type of anti-race-ethnicity-related hate crimes – including 2 this year. Anti-Asian crimes are the second most common – including 4 this year.

The second most common type of hate crime involves cases involving anti-sexual orientation. There were at least 49 of those between 2018 and this week, including 2 filed this year.

At least 23 cases between 2018 and this week involved anti-gender or gender expression.