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'Knockout' assault elevated to hate crime

Many New Yorkers may be familiar with a recent and troubling trend that has made waves on city streets and online. The act is a type of random violence involving a person who punches an unsuspecting victim in a game referred to as "knockout." It has happened multiple times in New York, but is taking place elsewhere as well. No matter where the incident occurs, state and federal officials are taking the behavior very seriously.

Recently, a man in another state learned that he will be facing federal hate crime charges after his alleged participation in a knockout assault. Authorities have gathered evidence to support their claims that the man specifically targeted a black man as the person who he would punch in an extremely misguided attempt to gain national attention. But according to the man's attorney, there may be more at play than just a bad and dangerous decision.

According to his attorney, the 27-year-old man facing the criminal charges for punching a 79-year-old man suffers from bipolar disorder, a mental disorder which affects his decision-making abilities. However, that has not stopped federal officials from aggressively pursuing hate crime charges against the younger man. 

Reports indicate that the man laughed and sped away in his car after approaching the elderly man and punching him, breaking his jaw. He then showed the knockout video he had taken to two other people, who reported the incident. Police searched the man's phone and found other videos in which he is heard referring to black people in a derogatory manner. His assault charges were elevated to a hate crime. 

It is not always clear when or if a person will face charges related to a hate crime. Proving that a person targeted someone based on race or other bias can be quite difficult. But if a person is charged under a hate crime law, as is the case with this man, it can enhance the criminal penalties that a person is facing. In this situation, the penalties of a conviction for assault could be increased because it was allegedly motivated by race.

Getting charged with criminal misconduct can very quickly upset a person's entire life. One bad decision can turn into a potentially life-changing sentence and time spent in prison. That is why it can be crucial to defend yourself against the charges, no matter how minor they may seem at first. 

Source: NBC News, "Texan charged with hate crime for 'knockout game' hit denied bail," Erik Ortiz, Dec. 27, 2013

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