Schaer and Vainieri Huttle Bill to Expand Crime of Terrorism Approved by Assembly Panel

The crime of terrorism would be expanded under New Jersey law to include crimes committed to influence or incite an act of terror against a person or group of people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or creed under legislation approved Monday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

Under the current law, a person is guilty of terrorism if or she commits, attempts, conspires or threatens to commit certain crimes to:

  • Promote an act of terror
  • Terrorize five or more people
  • Influence the policy or conduct of government, or
  • Cause, by an act of terror, the impairment of interruption of public communications, public transportation, public or private buildings, common carriers, public utilities or other public services.

This legislation (A-3087) would broaden this definition to include an act of terror committed against a person or group because of one or more of their characteristics.

Bill sponsors Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Hutttle (D-Bergen) released the following statements:

Assemblyman Schaer: “White supremacist violence is on the rise across the country. In Charleston, Dylan Roof shot nine African American members of Emmanuel AME as they prayed. In Charlottesville, James Fields Jr. drove into a crowd of protestors, murdering an innocent bystander. In Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue and massacred eleven worshippers. In Poway, John Earnest killed one, when he open fired within the Chabad synagogue during Passover. In El Paso, Patrick Crusius slaughtered twenty-two people shopping for school supplies in a Walmart. Each of these acts was done to sow fear within marginalized communities, and to inspire more acts of violence. There is only one word for all of these acts: terrorism.”

Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle: “There were 569 bias incidents reported in New Jersey in 2018, marking the third straight year that the number of incidents went up. We also know that there are 18 active hate groups in New Jersey as of 2018, and there has been a reported increase in recruitment by white nationalist groups. We’d all like to think that the hate-induced tragedies we’ve seen across the country could never happen here. But if one ever does, we would need to be prepared to hold individuals accountable and bring them to justice. By redefining the crime of terrorism under the law, a person who commits a hateful act will receive a much harsher punishment.”