Hate Crime Charged in "Knockout Game" Assault

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 26 2013 3:22 PM

Hate Crime Charged in "Knockout Game" Assault of a 79 Year-Old Black Man

A Texas man has been arrested and charged with a federal hate crime for an alleged “knockout game” assault on an elderly black man, according to the Department of Justice. The case of the 27-year-old white defendant Conrad Barrett may become a rallying cry for right-wing bloggers who oppose hate crimes legislation.

The Associated Press cites authorities as saying the assailant hoped his videotaped assault would gain national exposure. A Department of Justice press release describes Barrett’s attack, which left his 79-year-old victim hospitalized for four days with a broken jaw, as premeditated and racially motivated:

Barrett allegedly recorded himself on his cell phone attacking the man and showed the video to others. The complaint alleges Barrett made several videos, one in which he identifies himself and another in which he makes a racial slur. In addition, Barrett had allegedly been working up the “courage” to play the “knockout game” for approximately a week.

For the uninitiated, the “knockout game” involves assaulting someone at random, and if you’re able to knock them unconscious with one punch, you win. But despite recent media hysteria, Slate’s Emma Roller has pointed out there’s no empirical data to support the conclusion — as some right-wing writers have — that the game’s reached epidemic levels, or that it’s played exclusively by black youths. According to the Department of Justice press release, “the conduct has been called by other names and there have been similar incidents dating as far back as 1992.”

A copy of the criminal complaint emailed by a Department of Justice official describes Barrett using the word “nigger,” and quotes him as saying African Americans “haven’t fully experienced the blessings of evolution.” Following the attack, the victim, referred to in the complaint only as “R.C.,” was diagnosed with two jaw fractures. Doctors inserted two metal plates in his jaw and removed three teeth, according to the complaint

Under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, federal prosecutors have jurisdiction over a racially motivated hate crime if the attacker caused bodily injury because of the victim’s race.*

*Correction, Dec. 26, 2013: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the qualifications for charging someone with a racially motivated hate crime. The crime does not need to have affected interstate or foreign commerce, or occurred on federal property.

John Kruzel is a Slate contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.