A Republican Minnesota Legislator Seeks to Increase Penalty for False Hate Crimes

Representative Nick Zerwas (R- Elk River) has proposed legislation that would expand the penalty for filing a false hate crime. The legislation is a response to Actor Jussie Smollett’s recent false hate crime and the 2017 St. Olaf College hate crime hoax.

Representative Nick Zerwas (R- Elk River) has proposed legislation that would expand the penalty for filing a false hate crime.

On Feb. 20, Representative Nick Zerwas (R- Elk River) said he would be introducing legislation to strengthen penalties for false hate crime reports. The notion comes as a response to Empire Actor Jussie Smollett’s recent fake hate crime. Smollett paid two men to carry out an assault on him, calling it a hate crime. He has recently been charged with a felony for orchestrating the false hate crime.

Rep. Zerwas says that this is a sensible step to help address this issue in Minnesota by “deter[ing] individuals from filing false police reports.” Filing a false police report is a misdemeanor in Minnesota, but Rep. Zerwas is proposing increasing that to a gross misdemeanor.

Minnesota is no stranger to false hate crimes. In 2017, A student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota fabricated a racist note, calling it a hate crime. Rep. Zerwas says that false hate crimes “huge rift and division within our communit[ies]” and take resources away from investigating and prosecuting legitimate bias-motivated crimes.”

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