A Utah hate crime case is drawing national attention after local authorities charged a young woman with a hate crime over allegedly defacing a “Back the Blue” sign in front of a sheriff’s deputy.
Utah is one of at least five states — along with Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Hampshire — that list law enforcement officers, along with race and gender, in their hate crime laws’ protected categories, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Lauren Gibson, 19, is said to have stomped on a “Back the Blue” sign while “smirking in an intimidating manner” at a Garfield County sheriff’s deputy. The deputy had pulled over a group of vehicles for speeding, the sheriff’s office says.
Sheriff James D. Perkins is defending the charges against Gibson, saying in a written statement, “We are greatly disturbed by the hatred shown to law enforcement officers for no apparent reason.” Alleging that the young woman was “extremely aggressive and violent” toward the deputy, Perkins said, “Ms. Gibson caused a public disturbance and purposely targeted the officer in a very unpeaceful manner.”
The sheriff added that despite stopping the vehicles for going 50 mph in a 30-mph zone and seeing tobacco products in the car, the deputy had issued verbal warnings rather than writing tickets. But Gibson was arrested after the incident with the sign, and she now faces nearly a year in jail if convicted on criminal mischief charges [NPR].
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
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