WICHITA – Questions still remain about the charges filed against a man accused of kicking a toddler and yelling racial slurs while in a Dillon’s store in December.
The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office said the case will not be investigated as a hate crime because the state of Kansas doesn’t have a hate crime statute.
On the surface, it may seem like a hate crime, but criminal defense lawyer Dan Monnat, with Monnat & Spurrier Chartered, said it’s not that cut and dried.
“The first question to ask about a proposed hate crime is: were such factors as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation really the motivation for the crime,” said Monnat. “Or, was the crime just motivated by such extraneous things as alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness — the usual motives for crime?”
While the statute may not exist in Kansas, there is a federal law on the books.
“If a hate crime escapes state prosecution, the person may also be prosecuted federally,” Monnat said.
The local branch of the NAACP has stated publicly that it wants the case investigated as racially motivated.
“There were the reports of racial epithets being spoken by this guy,” said Larry Burks, president of the Wichita branch of the NAACP. “He had self-proclaimed to be a white supremacist. On the surface, that seemed like an incident that was fully uncalled for.”
Burks said that even though Riff has been charged with attempted aggravated battery, disorderly conduct and interference with law enforcement, the NAACP is keeping tabs on the case.
“We’re going to be supporting the family and stay in close touch with the DA’s office and our police department to make sure things work the way they’re supposed to work,” said Burks.
Riff will be back in court on January 24.
Monnat said in cases like these, if the federal government seeks its own hate crime charges, it will investigate independently but will consult with the state regarding jurisdiction.
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