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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Authorities Decided not to Pursue Hate Crime Charges against Suspected Torturers

NYTimes.com: Authorities decided Wednesday not to pursue hate crime charges in the kidnapping and weeklong torture of a black woman, instead going after the suspects, who are white, on state charges that carry stiffer penalties.

While federal civil rights or state hate crime charges remain an option, a state kidnapping count that carries a sentence of up to life in prison will provide the best chance for successful prosecution, officials said.

''As a practical matter, sentenced to life, what else can be done?'' U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller told The Associated Press.

Six people face charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault and lying to police in the torture of Megan Williams, 20, at a remote hillside home in Big Creek.

State hate crime charges, which carry a sentence of 10 years, could come later, prosecutor Brian Abraham said. State sexual assault charges carry a penalty up to 35 years in prison.

The woman's captors forced her to eat rat droppings, choked her with a cable cord and stabbed her in the leg while calling her a racial slur, according to criminal complaints. They also poured hot water over her, made her drink from a toilet, and beat and sexually assaulted her during a span of about a week, the documents say.

Williams was not a random target, prosecutor Brian Abraham said Wednesday. She had a ''social relationship'' with one of the suspects, he said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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