Monder Law Group - News
Understanding The LeBron James Vandalism Hate Crime
LeBron James is a world renowned athlete that plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers is the NBA. Mr. James has won multiple NBA Finals and set numerous individual records. He is currently playing in the NBA Finals once more. Mr. James fame and popularity may be tied to the incident that took place at his Los Angeles home this past week. Someone spray painted the N word across Mr. James gate, which is the entrance to his $21 million-dollar home in the Brentwood neighborhood. The police are checking security cameras at the home and neighboring homes to see if they can get any leads to assist them in their investigation. LeBron James was not home when the vandalism took place.
This would obviously be a crime, but how serious of a crime would it be, and which crimes? It would seem as if the person who did this would be facing a vandalism charge. In addition, this could also possibly be a hate crime, which would increase or aggravate the seriousness of this crime. We will analyze the crimes to see what the perpetrator may be facing when they are charged for their actions.
When we are looking at vandalism the first element is that you maliciously “defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material,” damaged, or destroyed property. The second element is, that you did not own the property or owned it with someone else. The last element is the amount of the defacement, damage or destruction was either a. less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution or b. $400 or more in a felony prosecution. Cal. Penal Code Ann. § 594. All three of elements must be meant in order to be found guilty of vandalism. Thus, there are three elements applicable to vandalism.
Here, the first element would be meant because it is LeBron James’s home the first element would be meant in regard to the defendant not be the sole owner of the property that was damaged, defaced, or destroyed. Maliciously is the mental state requirement for vandalism. It is defined as “intentionally do a wrongful act, or act with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else.” Cal Crim 2900. Because of the racial slur that was spray painted it is easy to identify that the defendant had a malicious intent.
The next part of this element is that one defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material. Graffiti or other inscribed material includes an unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark, or design that is written, marked, etched, scratched, drawn, or painted on real or personal property. Cal Crim 2900. Because there was a word spray painted on the fence of Mr. James home this would be the basic scenario of what is required. In addition to the spray paint, it was on the fence, which is real property.
Lastly, it is also possible that the property is damaged or destroyed, and that would fulfill the first element. If the property is completely destroyed then it can still be vandalism even though it was defaced or marked. Though the fence is probably not destroyed, and just damaged it is worth mentioning.
The last part of vandalism has to deal with the cost of the damage on the property, so the fence in this case. If the damage is less than $400 it is a misdemeanor prosecution, however, if it is $400 or more it is a felony. Here, it is more than likely a felony. Because the fact that the residence is $21 million dollars it is more than likely that the gate is fairly expensive. We do not know the specifics of this gate but just repainting it can easily be $400, assuming it is good size based on the home size. Because it is probably $400 dollars in damage or more it would be a felony charge.
Therefore, because of the facts stated above, there is a case for vandalism.
Next, we will look at the hate crime aspect of the LeBron James case. A hate crime is where one commits a crime such as assault or vandalism, and one is motivated in part by the fact that the victim’s disability, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, your criminal offense will be considered a “hate crime” . . . and as a result, one may receive an enhanced sentence. California Penal Code 422.7. As discussed above there was a crime of vandalism so that is already meant.
The second part of a hate crime involves that a specific characteristic that motivated the suspect or that the suspect was biased against. There is a long list stated above of certain characteristics that would qualify. But the bias does not have to be the only factor motivating the alleged crime. If you had more than motivation, you can still face hate crime charges, as long as the bias was a substantial part of your motivation. Here, there is a possibility that the defendant did the act because he did not want Mr. James and the Cleveland Cavilers to win the NBA Finals, and that it did not have much to do with the Mr. James race. However, a vital fact is what the defendant spray painted on Mr. James fence, it was a racial slur, it was not saying that he hopes the team loses or something generic like that. With the racial slur being present it would show that race had some motivation for the crime. The defendant may argue that he was not motivated by race, however, it is likely that the Mr. James would prevail because the defendant addressed the Mr. James race in the commission of the crime.
Thus, for the reasons stated above it is likely that there is a hate crime present in The LeBron James case.
What kind of punishment will the defendant be facing for the vandalism and hate crime? Punishments always very but in regard to the vandalism we will assume that it is over $400 dollars and a felony and see what kind of punishment that entails. In addition, we will look to see what kind of influence the hate crime has over the defendant’s punishment.
For the vandalism punishment, it would a felony charge because the damage is at least or more than $400 hundred dollars. Cal Pen Code § 594. If the charge is a felony the max amount of time would be one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars. However, if the damage exceeded ten thousand, then the fine could potentially be up to fifty thousand dollars. Here, it would not exceed the ten thousand dollars so the fifty thousand dollar fine would not be applicable.
Next, we will look at the significance to the charge of the hate crime the suspect will be facing. The enhancement of punishment relies much on the underlying criminal charge. In relations to this case, it is likely that the suspect would have a felony hate crime charge because they caused more than $400 dollars in damage. If it is a felony hate crime charge the suspect could face anywhere from sixteen months to three years longer in prison. Plus, a fine up to then thousand dollars. The prosecution can use discretion in determining what punishment to pursue, thus it is possible in some case they charge a misdemeanor hate crime if the underlying crime was a misdemeanor. This is known as a “wobbler” because it can go either way.
Thus, it is possible that the defendant can spend up to four years in prison because of spray painting a racial slur on Mr. James gate entry to his Brentwood home.
In conclusion, with the limited facts given to us in the news article, it would seem as if the defendant here has a pretty strong case of a hate crime and vandalism against them. It is possible with the hate crime the suspect may face up to four years in prison. It shows that one act can be adjoined with multiple crimes and the punishment will be enhanced because of it.
If you have questions about the criminal process, feel free to contact San Diego Criminal Lawyer Vik Monder 619-405-0063 or visit San Diego Criminal Lawyer