Governor will seek to increase penalties

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Gov. Gray Davis said Monday he will introduce a broad package of hate-crime legislation this week, including measures to increase prison sentences and extend the statute of limitations for civil suits from one year to three.

The proposed new laws come from recommendations by a panel on hate groups Davis appointed in August 1999, shortly after a white supremacist was accused of shooting up a Jewish center in Los Angeles and killing a Filipino-American mail carrier.

The panel's co-chairmen, former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and former California Gov. George Deukmejian, accompanied Davis for the announcement at the Museum of Tolerance.

''I believe there is never, never an excuse for violence against other citizens, but these kinds of savage attacks motivated by hate strike at the very ideals of our civilization,'' Davis said. ''Hate groups are the direct opposite of what it means to be an American.''

Davis said his legislation, which he said he expects to have bipartisan support, will incorporate nearly all the panel's recommendations, released Monday in a 66-page report. They include:

-Turning the violation of California's prohibition against paramilitary groups into a felony, instead of a misdemeanor.

-Making it a hate crime to attack a person because that person has associated with members of another protected group.

-Creating simpler ways for people to get rid of harassing liens. Hate groups sometimes attack their victims by swamping them with frivolous liens, Davis said.

-Lengthening the statute of limitations from one year to three for civil suits related to hate crimes.

-Adding hate crimes to the list of violent felonies for which an additional three-year prison sentence is imposed.

In addition to legislative recommendations, the nine-member panel recommended bolstering anti-hate education, curtailing hate speech on the Internet and increasing coordination of law enforcement efforts. California should develop a statewide database of hate-crime information, and law enforcement professionals should meet to establish common terminology and procedures, the panel said.

In 1998 there were 1,800 hate crimes in California, almost 70 percent of which involved a violent crime, according to the state Department of Justice.

Buford O. Furrow, the white supremacist indicted in the wounding of five people at the North Valley Jewish Community Center and the killing of the postal worker, is awaiting trial. Federal prosecutors announced last week their intention to seek the death penalty.


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