Bill proposed to make penalties harsher for crimes motivated by bias

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A panel of Minnesota lawmakers passed a bill that would increase penalties for crimes motivated by bias – such as a person's religion or race.

FOX 9 reports a Senate judiciary committee passed the bill proposed by Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), who said it was promoted by a case in October when Asma Jama was struck with a beer mug at a Coon Rapids Applebee's because she was speaking Swahili.

The woman who attacked her was charged with felony third-degree assault rather than a hate crime – which is classed as a misdemeanor – because the felony charge has a larger maximum penalty.

The Pioneer Press reports Sen. Latz said it's "incumbent" on lawmakers to change state law and under his proposal, the penalty for a felony assault charge would be increased by 25 percent.

"A crime that is motivated by bias is uniquely corrupting to our society," he told the newspaper. "It’s an offense not only against the individual victim of the physical assault, but it’s an offense against all of the community."

As well as race and religion, crimes motivated by a person's sexual orientation, disability or age would also be included in the proposal.

Jaylani Hussein with the Minnesota Council for American Islamic Relations, told KSTP Minnesota has been seeing more instances where people are targeted for their race, color "and especially their religion."

Of the proposed bill, which will have to go through the full Senate and the Minnesota House, she said: "I think it's a great message, especially right now where we see a great deal of anti-Muslim, anti-African American."

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