Hate crime charges likely in Charleston

Dylann Roof, the white suspect in the shooting deaths of nine congregants at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., will likely face federal hate crime charges, according to a Wednesday news report.

Those charges would be separate from the nine state murder charges he faces for allegedly killing the congregants during a Bible study last Wednesday night.

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Law enforcement officials told The New York Times that the FBI has confirmed that the website with Roof’s purported manifesto was registered by him in February and that it could be an important piece of a hate crime prosecution. In that manifesto, he repeatedly used racial slurs to refer to African-Americans and called them “stupid and violent.”

“This directly fits the hate crime statute. This is exactly what it was created for,” one official told the paper. Authorities also added that the agency is worried that prosecuting Roof only under murder charges wouldn’t adequately address the alleged racial motivations.

The Justice Department has not yet publicly announced the results of its hate crime investigation into Roof.

Hate crimes are any with an “added element of bias,” according to the FBI’s website, which adds that the statute includes any offense “motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias” against a certain group.

Federal hate crime laws allow any sentence up to life in prison for a hate crime that results in death and certain other scenarios. Roof’s murder charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.

The Times reports that Roof has been assigned federal public defenders, which could also suggest the likelihood of federal charges.