Hate Crime for Jewish Threats in NH Upheld

     (CN) – A Nazi sympathizer who threatened to kill a “Jewish bitch” committed a hate crime, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled, finding his victim’s actual religion immaterial.
     Paul Costella brought his car to a Wal-Mart in Tilton, N.H., for an oil change in 2010.
     When employee Jane Sylvestre drove Costella’s car into the service bay, she noticed a photograph of Costella and his daughter “doing the heil Hitler” in front of a Nazi flag.
     Sylvestre, whose uncle was killed as a member of the French resistance, took offense. She told Costella she had the right to refuse service to customers with whom she was uncomfortable.
     Costella asked Sylvestre if she was a Jew, and Sylvestre responded, “What’s it to you?”
     Costella then told Sylvestre that he hoped her uncle – “that Jew bastard” – suffered when he died, that not enough Jews had been killed in World War II and that “a good Jew is a dead Jew.”
     Sylvestre told him that her uncle had been burned alive by the Nazis, and her mother had been forced to watch.
     Costella then repeatedly called her a “gypsy Jew” and said, “the worst thing in the world is a gypsy Jew.”
     He also asked if she had seen his “Jew-killing gun” in the car, and called it a “Jew-killing killer.”
     After another Wal-Mart employee completed Costella’s oil change, Costella asked Sylvestre while he paid his bill if she had seen his gun. On his way out, he said aloud that he was “getting his gun to kill the Jew bitch behind the counter.”
     He then ran into the store manager Jonathan Allard, whom he also questioned about being Jewish.
     Allard did not respond, so Costella said he was going to kill “both of you Jews” and then left the store. The police arrived shortly thereafter and promptly arrested Costella.
     A jury convicted Costella of criminal threatening, including a hate-crime enhancement for a crime motivated by hostility toward the victim’s religion.
     Costella appealed the verdict, arguing that he cannot be convicted of a hate crime when neither Sylvestre or Allard told him they were Jewish, nor was there any evidence at trial that they were Jewish.
     Affirming those convictions Friday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court said the victims’ religious beliefs are irrelevant to Costella’s motivation for making the threats.
     “Society is harmed by a bias-motivated crime regardless of whether the victim is, in fact, a member of the protected class that the defendant has targeted,” Justice James Bassett wrote for the court. “Indeed, in this case, the crimes committed by the defendant had a pernicious impact on the community independent of whether Sylvestre and Allard are, in fact, Jewish.”
     Adopting Costella’s interpretation would lead to an “absurd result” forcing the jury to determine a victim’s creed or race before ruling on the alleged crime, the opinion states.
     “What evidence would a jury consider in order to determine whether a victim is Jewish?” Bassett asked. “Would a jury consider how often a victim attends synagogue, or whether one or both of a victim’s parents were Jewish, or whether the victim’s grandparents were Jewish? How would a jury determine whether a victim is a Native American, or the race of a biracial victim? In contrast, requiring the State to prove that the defendant was motivated by his or her hostility towards a victim’s perceived religion leads to a straightforward and easy-to-administer process.”

%d bloggers like this: