U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder highlighted case while testifying in support of hate crimes legislation last week
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today condemned the early release of Stephen Andrew Moller, who was convicted in June of 2008 in the death of 20-year-old Sean Kennedy. Sean's mother, Elke Kennedy, was informed of the release by automated message last night. Witnesses testified at trial that Kennedy's attacker shouted anti-gay slurs while punching Kennedy outside a Greenville, SC bar in May of 2007.
"This adds insult to injury. To release a man just one-year after his sentencing in this heinous crime and to inform the victim's mother through an automated recording is despicable," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Sean Kennedy was violently attacked for no other reason than his sexual orientation. This is a text book case of why we need to pass federal legislation that would bring stiffer penalties and provide local authorities with the full resources of the U.S. Justice Department to address vicious hate crimes."
"They say one thing and do something else," said Elke Kennedy, Sean's mother. "He should have served every single day of the already short sentence, instead he was released from prison one week early. Where is the justice?"
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. highlighted Sean Kennedy's case last week while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of federal hate crimes legislation. Holder, the first time an Attorney General has testified in favor of this legislation, said Sean's death was an example of an "appalling crime" where "state prosecutions may not always fully vindicate Federal interests."
Both Elke Kennedy and Joe Solmonese submitted written testimony at the hearing in support of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909). To read the testimony, visit http://www.hrcbackstory.org/. The legislation, which was passed in the U.S. House by a vote of 249-175 in April, would provide local police and sheriff's departments with federal resources to combat hate violence. The legislation is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate.
"Sean is among many American's who are targeted just because of who they are. These crimes not only harm individuals, they terrorize entire communities," said Solmonese. "After more than a decade and nine successful votes in Congress, there is no good reason for any delay on bringing hate crimes legislation to the President's desk. We must finally pass this bill and start the important steps to erasing hate in our country."
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), the Kennedy family's senator, recently wrote a shocking letter to local priests and pastors advocating against hate crime legislation. DeMint, who has regularly spoken out against the LGBT community, wrote the following in reference to hate crimes legislation: "Many pastors hesitate to explain that government policies have helped cause the decline of America's culture, morality and spirituality. ﾃ I am writing you today to remind you that religious principals and biblical teachings produced the values and polices that made America exceptional, prosperous, and good."
The Matthew Shepard Act gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.
To learn more about Sean Kennedy's story and HRC's working coalition to pass hate crimes legislation, visit http://www.fighthatenow.org/.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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