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Letter to Criminal Justice Advisory Committee regarding bias crimes

Letter to Criminal Justice Advisory Committee regarding bias crimes

August 2022

In solidarity with 15 other Asian American organizations, Portland JACL submitted this letter on August 15 to the Oregon Chief Justice’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee urging them to begin discussions on the inclusion of bias crimes in the hold until arraignment category.

It was written in response to the July attack on a Japanese family on the Eastbank Esplanade in Portland. The family was visiting from their home in California with this horrific hate crime occurred. Initially, the suspect was arrested and released on the same day. It is our belief that the policy that allowed this to occur does not take seriously enough the impact and threat posed perpetrators of bias crimes.

Here is the full statement:

Chief Justice’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC)

We, a coalition of Asian American organizations in Oregon, respectfully implore that the Chief Justice’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC) immediately recommend modification of Chief Justice Order No. 22-010 to include all bias crimes in the hold until arraignment category.

We believe that the Constitutional principle of an accused’s presumption of innocence must be balanced by the concerns of victim and public safety. While the right to physical liberty is significant, people deserve to feel safe in their own communities. By definition, perpetrators of bias crimes have an animus against individuals because of their actual or perceived membership of a particular group–race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin. Accordingly, it is the particular group that drives the perpetrator’s animus, even when an individual of that group has done nothing to the perpetrators. They just happen to be from a particular group.

A victim’s safety is the appropriate concern in any domestic violence situation, which justifies why, in general, perpetrators in Oregon charged with any felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence are held until arraignment. The same should be true in bias crimes. Currently, Oregon’s criminal justice system overlooks the valid concerns of public safety by releasing accused perpetrators of bias crimes back onto the streets before arraignment. Released perpetrators are then able to act, yet again, on the animus against a particular group of people.

Unquestionably, hate crimes against Asians are on the rise. Many members of our community are afraid to venture out from their own homes out of fear for their own safety because of their race or skin color. Compounding the problem is that many hate crimes within the Asian American community may go unreported for fear of retaliation or to avoid bringing unwanted attention to themselves or their families. As a result, the occurrence of bias crimes is much more widespread and prevalent than reported. This underscores the real threat to public safety.

For example, media reports show that before Dylan Kesterson’s alleged brutal attack on a Japanese family out riding their bikes, Kesterson appears to have been involved in two prior racially motivated attacks. One involved Kesterson allegedly screaming, “Are you Filipino?” to a woman before he then grabbed the back of the Asian woman’s head, ripping strands of her hair, and throwing her on the back of her car where she fell to the ground. The second involved Kesterson allegedly yelling at a young Japanese college student, who did not hear him because he was wearing ear buds. The Japanese student said that Kesterson, without provocation, slapped him in the face outside a downtown grocery store. This all allegedly took place before the Japanese family was attacked. The Japanese father suffered more than 50 hits to the head and his five-year-old daughter was also hit multiple times.

Accordingly, we call on our courts to take bias crimes and public safety seriously. Communities should no longer constantly feel threatened by the “catch & release” of such perpetrators. Our children deserve to ride their bikes without fear. Our seniors deserve to leave their homes without fear of their physical safety. Our community deserves to feel safe. We respectfully request the CJAC subcommittee to urgently recommend the inclusion of all bias crimes in the hold until arraignment category.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns and our request,

In solidarity,

Portland Japanese American Citizens League

Chinese American Citizens Alliance Portland Lodge

Council of Filipino American Association

Filipino American National Historical Society

Gresham-Troutdale Japanese American Citizens League

Henjyoji Shingon Buddhist Temple

Japan-America Society of Oregon

Japanese American Museum of Oregon

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Nichiren Buddhist Temple of Portland

Oregon Hiroshima Club

Oregon Rise Above Hate

Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon

Portland Taiko

The Asian Reporter

Veleda Club

Letter to Criminal Justice Advisory Committee regarding bias crimes