SALEM, OR (KPTV) - The family of a black teenager killed in a murder deemed a hate crime is hoping state legislators will get tougher on hate crime laws.
The Senate Bill 577 proposes renaming intimidation crimes to bias crimes.
It also would require better tracking of bias crime incidents in the state, consider a victim's gender identity and further define a suspect's motive.
In a recent letter to legislators calling on them to make the changes by passing the bill, the parents of Larnell Bruce Jr. argued the state's law on intimidation is antiquated and allowed the man convicted of killing their son to receive a lighter sentence.
Bruce Jr. was a black 19-year-old in Aug. 2016 when he was run down and killed by a man and his girlfriend.
At a trial earlier, this year, prosecutors said Russel Courtier, who was behind the wheel when the teen was killed, is a white supremacist.
Courtier was found guilty on charges of murder, hit and run involving injuries as well as second-degree intimidation.
The latter is a hate crime charge but currently, it's only a misdemeanor.
The Bruce family argued that meant a lighter prison sentence for Courtier.
Now, they're backing the bill in front of legislators for harsher penalties in other, future hate crimes in the state.
It would make a bias crime a felony.
“We’re hoping that if we could get this law changed, that another family whether it be brother, sister, son, husband, whatever it may be, would never have to deal with what we dealt with, which is that in the next 26 years, we'll be getting phone calls from parole hearings that we'll have to fight for him to stay in prison. He should be there for the rest of his life,” Natasha Bruce, mother of the victim said.
Courtier's prison sentence on the charges, in this case, is for a minimum of 28 years before he's eligible for release.
Prosecutors agreed to drop a hate crime charge against his girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, as part of a plea deal.
A public hearing on the bill that would make the changes was held in March.
It is currently still in committee.
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