Paterson to look into hate-crime complaint in Suffolk

Paterson to look into hate-crime complaint in Suffolk

September 15, 2009 By KEITH HERBERT

Gov. David A. Paterson has

Photo credit: Patrick Andrade | Gov. David A. Paterson has announced that Richard Fife will take on campaign responsibilities.

Gov. David A. Paterson Tuesday indicated he’d speak to state and local prosecutors about an incident in Suffolk County in which a member of the Hispanic Advisory Board was allegedly discouraged from speaking out about hate crimes in the county.

Paterson held a closed-door meeting with Hispanic community and elected officials at Touro Law Center in Central Islip. He said he supported discussing the incident with state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, according to a spokeswoman.

A spokesman for Cuomo’s office said he was unaware of any request from Paterson to review the case, and a spokesman for Spota’s office didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

“I think his message was that this community is not isolated and that state officials are behind the community and willing to listen,” said Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), who said he attended the meeting.

Later Tuesday, Paterson, answering questions at an event in Nassau County, said he had discussed hate crimes, but also jobs, code enforcement and housing.

“If there is a silver lining around the dark cloud of those type of incidents, it is that leaders in a community are forced to come together,” he said.

Last week at a public hearing in Suffolk County, Francisco Hernandez of Patchogue said he and his family had been victims of hate crimes. A member of the Suffolk County Hispanic Advisory Board, Hernandez, 35, said at the hearing that when he was a victim of a crime, Suffolk police asked to see his driver’s license to “verify that I was an American citizen.”

After the hearing, Hernandez said a county official threatened he’d be removed from the advisory board if he spoke about being a hate crime victim at that hearing.

An official with County Executive Steve Levy denied he ever threatened Hernandez with removal from the board. Tuesday, a spokesman for Levy didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on Paterson’s visit.

Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for Paterson, confirmed the governor said he would discuss Hernandez’s allegations with both state and Suffolk County prosecutors.

Earlier this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report that concluded that Suffolk County was fertile ground for anti-immigration hate, and based its findings on a decade of reports that Latinos were the victims of crimes, ranging from low-level assaults to vicious attacks.

Levy and Police Commissioner Richard Dormer denounced the report, claiming its authors didn’t seek their input before it was published.


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