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Hate crime charges withdrawn following Saratoga assault

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Albany/HV: Hate crime charges withdrawn following Saratoga assault
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One day after arresting two men involved in a downtown assault, Saratoga Springs Police and the county District Attorney decide to withdraw hate crime charges. As YNN's Matt Hunter explains, while the suspects allegedly used racial slurs, prosecutors say more evidence is needed to warrant a hate crime charge.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- After a Monday morning meeting between Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch and District Attorney Jim Murphy, authorities have withdrawn hate crime charges against Luis Garcia, 23, of Brooklyn and Shayne Richardson, 21, of Saratoga Springs.

"When we look at these facts at this time, it doesn't appear to be the appropriate charge under the statute," Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said Monday.

"Whenever you get into hate crime allegations, it's a very sensitive area just because of its nature with the protected classes," said Lieutenant Robert Jillson, public information officer for the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

The two men were arrested early Sunday near D'andrea's Pizza on Pavilion Place. They're accused of using racial slurs while assaulting two Hispanic men, causing facial fractures to one of the victims and knocking him unconscious.

"We believe that it may have resulted from an altercation where they had run into each other earlier in the evening at a bar downtown,” Murphy said. “We don't know whether, in fact, it is racially motivated."

Under New York State law, the use of racial slurs is not enough to warrant hate crime charges. There must be additional evidence the attack was motivated by race, gender or sexual orientation. That's the reason hate crime charges against a Skidmore student were dropped three years ago, two months after an assault at Compton's Restaurant.

"Meeting that threshold is more complicated than that," Jillson said.

"It’s certainly offensive, inappropriate, all of those things, but without separate independent evidence, it's not necessarily rising to the level of a hate crime," Murphy said.

Garcia and Richardson are now facing second degree assault causing serious physical injury, a felony.

The investigation is ongoing and it's possible the two could be re-charged with a hate crime in the future following a grand jury hearing.

"We want to make sure we get it right," Jillson said.

"We are making sure we don't overcharge someone,” Murphy said. “I think that's just as important as getting it right, that's what we are here to do."

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