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La Crosse District Attorney’s Office Adds Hate Crime Charge to Attack Against Transgender Teens

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The La Crosse County District Attorney’s Office has now filed hate crime charges against the man who allegedly assaulted two transgender teens in a public park.

Officials added improving hate crimes to crime battery charge against Travis Crawford of La Crosse on Thursday. He also faces felony bail charges.

The criminal complaint said Crawford approached a teenage couple in Copeland Park on Tuesday, July 20 and started yelling at them. The complaint said Crawford called them anti-gay insults before punching one of the teens in the face and kicking him while he was on the ground. The report identifies the victim as a young transgender boy. The responding officer noted in the report that the victim’s girlfriend was also transgender and that Crawford referred to the couple as “queer” when speaking with the officer.

The original charges did not include the hate crime charge, allowing prosecutors to seek harsher sentences. This prompted La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds and LGBTQ community groups to demand a change in state law to include gender identity as a protected class.

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Skemp said prosecutors have discussed whether the improvement would be appropriate in the case, but have decided to file the initial complaint without her as they are able to amend the charges. .

“A lot of times when we assess the charges, we know that we have to initiate a process and that there are certain decisions that we can defer until later,” Skemp said. “It gave us more time to really take the time to do legal research, I think in this case we spoke to the victims and made a more reasoned decision while not delaying the process of the case.”

Skemp said the use of an anti-gay slur does not automatically mean that an attack can be charged with a hate crime and that prosecutors must be able to show the accused was motivated by prejudice.

But she said prosecutors were confident, after reviewing the case, that they could show the assailant’s motivation was based on his perception of his sexual orientation.

“In this particular case, it was more about the person’s subjective beliefs rather than the real facts of how these victims identified themselves,” Skemp said.

Alesha Schandelmeier is Executive Director of The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection in La Crosse. She said she was happy to see the updated fees.

“We are really delighted that the prosecutor’s office has listened to the community and what these children need,” said Schandelmeier. “I don’t think that without people speaking out and speaking out, this would have happened.”

Schandelmeier said she hoped the community’s response to the incident and calls for a change in state hate crime laws would help members of the LGBTQ community feel they can trust the system. judicial process to protect them.

“I would love to see people start reporting (this kind of attack). Things can’t keep changing if we don’t know what needs to change, and I’m really proud of the kids who have come forward,” said Schandelmeier. noted.

La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds said he was pleasantly surprised by prosecutors’ decision to pursue hate crime charges. But he said that doesn’t take away from the need to change the statehood to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people.

“It doesn’t change the fact that there is a lot of leeway here for our state lawmakers to adjust our archaic and obscure hate crime statutes, just so that there is protection for all. who are attacked for who they are, ”Reynolds said.

After Reynolds’ initial call for a change, State Representative Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, and State Senator Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, issued statements supporting the addition of protections. for gender identity. But Reynolds said he wouldn’t be happy until lawmakers changed the law.


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