Person in a Gas Station
Defendants allegedly targeted Hispanic victims outside of grocery stores and gas stations Mclean

SOUTH CAROLINA - Two men in South Carolina are facing federal hate crime charges for allegedly targeting and assaulting Hispanic victims in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).

In an indictment released this week, the DoJ alleged that Charles Antonio Clippard, 26, and Michael Joseph Knox, 28, targeted Hispanic victims outside of grocery stores and gas stations and forcibly stole cash and cellphones. The indictment also alleges that in one instance the two men followed a victim home, held them at gunpoint and stole the victim's car.

The robberies took place between January and February 2021.

"The indictment alleges that the defendants committed three armed robberies as part of the conspiracy, including one carjacking, because of the victims' race and national origin and because those individuals were using places of public accommodation," read a news release from the Department of Justice.

The defendants are facing three counts of hate crimes, one count of conspiracy, one count of carjacking and three firearm offenses. If convicted, the men face a minimum of 21 years in prison for the firearm offenses, a maximum of 10 years in prison for each hate crime count and a maximum of 15 years in prison for the carjacking count.

U.S. Attorney General Garland
U.S. Attorney General Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington. Reuters

The Department of Justice defines hate crimes as crimes committed based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability; and have been increasing in recent years.

According to the FBI, between 2021 and 2022, anti-Hispanic or Latino hate crimes increased by 6% across the country. According to the data that was submitted, there were 738 reports of hate crimes committed against Latinos in 2022, when the figure in 2021 was 694.

A breakdown of the figures show that the reported crimes consisted of intimidation, simple assault, aggravated assault, destruction of property and robbery. The majority of the offenders were non-Hispanics, according to the data.

According to another study from the National Institute of Justice, anti-immigrant sentiment has been the biggest driver of Latino victimization in recent years, which could explain the uptick in anti-Latino hate crimes reported to the FBI.

Department of Justice says that one of the consequences of hate crimes against Latinos is that victims carry "significant mental health impact and mistrust of authorities."

Most states have individual hate crime statutes and enforcement. However, South Carolina, where the defendants reside, is one of three states that does not have hate crime laws; however, due to the charges stemming from the federal government, the defendants will still be tried in a federal court.

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