An Oklahoma man was charged Friday with a state hate crime for hitting a woman he mistakenly thought was a Muslim, perhaps because she was wearing a headscarf.
But the woman is actually a Christian. And that fact tangled up the case for weeks as police tried to figure out if they could charge the man with a hate crime against someone he presumably didn’t really hate!
Stuart David Manning, 43, was charged Friday in Tulsa County District Court with committing the misdemeanor crime of “malicious intimidation or harassment” on December 13.
Manning was arrested January 2 on accusations that he hit the woman in the forehead and stuck a knife in her vehicle’s tire while repeatedly calling her a “Muslim b——,” his booking report says.
The document describes the victim as being from Lebanon and says she “has a thick Middle Eastern accent and speaks and writes fluent Arabic. At the time of the assault she was wearing a head wrap. She has the appearance of someone that typically is of the Islamic faith.”
But, like about a quarter of Lebanese, she is a Christian.
Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said Friday evening that “it is our opinion that the statute only requires the defendant have the malicious intent to intimidate or harass a person because of their perception of their race or religion” and is still applicable even though the woman is not actually Muslim.
“The law is in place to protect innocent victims from being targeted because of their race or religious beliefs,” Drummond said.
The Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the US Department of Justice on January 3 to file a federal hate-crime charge against Manning.
Assistant US Attorney Joseph Wilson, chief of the Criminal Division of the Northern District of Oklahoma US Attorney’s Office, said Friday night that no decision has been made regarding whether to file federal hate crime charges against Manning.
Wilson said federal prosecutors are still “reviewing the reports” and discussing options with their law enforcement partners. He said filing the charge — which is a misdemeanor — in Tulsa County District Court would not preclude eventual federal charges, which he said would not be double jeopardy due to the “dual sovereignty doctrine.”
The dual sovereignty doctrine refers to a legal principle that more than one sovereign entity—in this case Oklahoma and the United States—may prosecute an individual without violating the US Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy—trying a person twice for the same crime—if the individual’s act breaks the laws of each sovereignty.
Wilson has previously said federal hate crime charges also would not be barred if the woman is not actually Muslim because the relevant law covers acts that are motivated by the “actual or perceived” religion of any person.