A Republican Minnesota Legislator Seeks to Increase Penalty for False Hate Crimes

Representative Nick Zerwas (R- Elk River) has proposed legislation that would expand the penalty for filing a false hate crime. The legislation is a response to Actor Jussie Smollett’s recent false hate crime and the 2017 St. Olaf College hate crime hoax.

Representative Nick Zerwas (R- Elk River) has proposed legislation that would expand the penalty for filing a false hate crime.

On Feb. 20, Representative Nick Zerwas (R- Elk River) said he would be introducing legislation to strengthen penalties for false hate crime reports. The notion comes as a response to Empire Actor Jussie Smollett’s recent fake hate crime. Smollett paid two men to carry out an assault on him, calling it a hate crime. He has recently been charged with a felony for orchestrating the false hate crime.

Rep. Zerwas says that this is a sensible step to help address this issue in Minnesota by “deter[ing] individuals from filing false police reports.” Filing a false police report is a misdemeanor in Minnesota, but Rep. Zerwas is proposing increasing that to a gross misdemeanor.

Minnesota is no stranger to false hate crimes. In 2017, A student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota fabricated a racist note, calling it a hate crime. Rep. Zerwas says that false hate crimes “huge rift and division within our communit[ies]” and take resources away from investigating and prosecuting legitimate bias-motivated crimes.”

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Megan Olson
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Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.