Readers Respond to the Quick Release of a Hate-Crime Suspect

“A pass-the-buck tragicomedy of bad judgment and people ‘just following the rules’ set against a loopy era of Oregon and national politics.”

Violent crime is the story of Portland’s summer. No incident grabbed the public attention like the racist assault of a Japanese American family over the July 4 holiday weekend. The suspect was released back on the streets for several days—and WW explored why (“Walk This Way,” July 13), revealing that a felony bias crime booking doesn’t trigger a night in jail. In follow-up coverage on wweek.com, we considered how much blame progressive reforms to the criminal justice system should bear for high-profile attacks. Here’s what our readers had to say:

SafeSpacer, via wweek.com: “This was an informative piece, thank you. A pass-the-buck tragicomedy of bad judgment and people ‘just following the rules’ set against a loopy era of Oregon and national politics which is simultaneously trying to elevate hate crimes to the highest tier of punishable offenses while at the same time trying to empty the jails based on the same underlying, insidious supposition, that systemic racism creates the atmosphere for many hate crimes AND results in people in prison simply because of the color of their skin. In this case, you’d have to place a good part of the blame on the arresting officer, who charged this POS with a non-jailable offense. The officer should have known better, that stupidity would rule the day once the case got into the hands of the ‘release assistance officer,’ who did, in fact, assist with this turd’s release.”

mostly_drunk_mostly, via Reddit: “Neoliberalism, police unions, an apathetic court system, and a shitty format of city governance are to blame from what I see.”

Erik Eklund, via wweek.com: “Not to say this guy should have been released, but I sure wish there was the same level of outrage over the fact that there are literally hundreds of people statewide awaiting trial who are not represented by lawyers as there is over one guy getting his ‘94 hours of freedom.’ These are our fellow citizens—people who are presumed innocent, and who qualify for court-appointed counsel, some of whom have been sitting in jail for months. The ‘tough on crime’ crowd continually sucks all the oxygen out of debates on criminal justice and dictate everything The Oregonian prints on the subject. I will give Willamette Week credit for being a little more nuanced on the subject. Because of this disparity, a significant portion of the community has been fooled into thinking our current urban decay is the result of two years of Mike Schmidt’s policies (which in reality are not that different from any of his predecessors’), rather than 40-plus years of Reaganomics.”

McScruffins, via Twitter: “What I’m hearing then is that the ‘criminal justice reform’ we were sold in 2020 can be back-burnered for the right kind of criminal. What’s the right kind? The court of public opinion will let you know.”

bojack, via wweek.com: “Why is the reducing the number of incarcerated people a goal unto itself? If there is more crime, shouldn’t there should be more punishment? Either we have a criminal justice system or we don’t.”

Agnes, via Twitter: “As a Japanese American member of the community, I truly appreciate WW’s straight-up reporting on this. “This article hits every single point: what happened/which entities were involved, background on Oregon’s hate crime laws and, most importantly, ‘How do we fix this?’”

BassmanBiff, via Reddit: “People wanted progressive reform, very little reform happened, and somehow the takeaway is ‘progressives ruined everything!’ instead of looking at, you know, everything else.”

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: PO Box 10770, Portland OR, 97296 Email: mzusman@wweek.com