Utah anti-gay attack can’t be charged as hate crime because state law doesn’t address sexual orientation

Utah anti-gay attack can’t be charged as hate crime because state law doesn’t address sexual orientation
Carlo Alazo, 22, was only charged with misdemeanor assault despite being caught on video specifically asking his victim if he was gay before assaulting him. (Source: KUTV/CNN)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (KUTV/CNN) – A Utah district attorney says he is unable to charge a 22-year-old man with a hate crime, in an assault in which he was caught on video asking the victim if he was gay before hitting him, because the state’s current hate crime laws don’t even address sexual orientation.

On Friday the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office charged 22-year-old Carlo Alazo with three assault charges, all misdemeanors.

The LGBTQ community said it’s not enough. The district attorney, Sim Gill, agreed.

The video captures Alazo assaulting Salvador Trejo. Court documents say Alazo was making homophobic comments before hitting a phone out of Trejo's hand. They also said Alazo had a knife.

"The assailant is not being charged with a hate crime,” said Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah. “Because Utah’s current statute isn’t working. It’s broken. It’s unenforceable.”

Gill, the Salt Lake district attorney, said the current law doesn’t address specifics like sexual orientation, so he can’t prosecute an attack on those grounds.

"It's frustrating to us as public prosecutors,” he said.

Gill said in 20 years, there hasn’t been a successful state prosecution of a hate crime, despite hundreds of allegations in that time period.

"Even if we wanted to apply it, it’s not a statute that we go to or would be applicable,” he said.

There is a bill in the state legislature that could finally correct this. Senate Bill 103 has cleared its first legislative hurdle at the capitol and could soon get a vote.

The bill provides for “an enhanced penalty for a criminal offense committed against a victim who is selected because of certain personal attributes.”

Those “certain personal attributes” are final being specified in the law, and include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as other attributes like race and religion.

"If there's something good that can come from this assault, it’s that we can mobilize our community, and mobilize multiple communities to come together and pass a comprehensive, inclusive hate crime statue this legislative session,” Williams of Equality Utah said.

Trejo said in a statement that he hoped his case would spur passage of the law, as well.

"This week I was a victim of a hate crime. Who's next? The time for lawmakers to take action and protect Utahns from hate crimes is long overdue,” he said.

Copyright 2019 KUTV via CNN. All rights reserved.