A man who repeatedly berated a woman for wearing a Puerto Rico T-shirt in a Chicago-area park is among the first to come up against Illinois’ new hate crime statute.
Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed video of the June 14 incident, and on Friday approved two felony hate crime charges against Timothy Trybus, 62.
In response to an uptick in hate crimes nationally and statewide, Illinois state lawmakers introduced a bill last year to expand the list of offenses that could be charged and prosecuted as hate crimes, which included acts of intimidation, cyberstalking, and sending obscene messages. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan championed the bill, which was a component of the state’s bipartisan Holocaust and Genocide Commission, formed before the violence at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.
“Hate crimes have increased at an alarming rate over the past year,” Madigan said. “We must not tolerate crimes committed by individuals who are motivated by hatred or bias against others based on their race, religion, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
It passed both chambers unanimously and became law in January. Illinois is one of 45 states plus Washington D.C. that have hate crime statutes. The strength of those laws, and who they protect, vary dramatically between states. Illinois has one of the strongest hate crime statutes, because it protects people from discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability, and national origin. Indiana, just east of Illinois, has no hate crime statute whatsoever.
For first offenders, a felony hate crime in Illinois can result in a prison term of one to three years and a fine of up to $25,000.
Illinois U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat and a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, applauded the decision by the state’s attorney to pursue hate crime charges. “There should be consequences. People have to learn there are consequences, especially in the era of Trump,” Gutierrez told the Chicago Tribune. “I really do believe there are people who say to themselves, ‘If Trump can do it, I can do it. Why can’t I go out there and say the things the president says?’”
The president’s critics have linked his rhetoric, especially on immigration, to a recent string of racially charged incidents.
Video of the Chicago-area incident, at Caldwell Woods Park, which went viral this week, shows Trybus verbally accosting a young woman in a T-shirt with the Puerto Rican flag on it. “Why are you wearing that?” he asks. “You’re not gonna change us, you know that! No, the world is not going to change the United States of America. Period!”
A police officer stood nearby and observed the exchange, as the woman, who was recording the whole thing on her phone, asks for his help.
“Can you please get away from me,” the woman says repeatedly as Trybus approaches her. “Officer, I feel highly uncomfortable. Can you please grab him?”
She also explains that she was setting up for her birthday party in Caldwell Woods, for which she had legally obtained a permit for.
Officer Patrick Conner, of Cook County Forest Reserve District, did not intervene and has since been placed on desk duty while his conduct is reviewed.
Cover image: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan outlines a federal lawsuit her office filed against Champaign, Ill.-based Suburban Express Inc., and owner Dennis Toeppen accusing it of discriminating and harassing customers and their families during a news conference in Chicago, April 23, 2018. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)