July 31, 2023
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt today announced that Deputy District Attorney Charlie Weiss has been assigned as the bias crime prosecutor for the DA’s Office. The position is partially funded through a grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Program.
“Hate and discrimination have no place in our communities,” said DA Schmidt. “I am pleased that this grant award will allow us to dedicate a prosecutor to effectively address bias crimes, which have a disproportionate ripple effect on our communities. The grant allows for a more proactive approach to address community concerns and advocate for people who have been victims of bias crimes to come forward so that we can hold perpetrators accountable.”
Attorney General Elen Rosenblum said, “I am thrilled to learn about this federal grant and that the Multnomah County DA’ s office will be adding to the state’s ongoing anti-hate and bias efforts. I commend DA Schmidt for making outreach to victims and prosecution of bias crimes a priority, and in doing so, helping Oregonians of all backgrounds to feel like they belong here.”
As the bias crimes prosecutor, Deputy DA Weiss performs community outreach, connecting with culturally-specific and additional community partners to identify barriers to reporting and pursuing cases; helps connect victims to advocates and services; coordinates with law enforcement on bias crime investigations and referrals; and works with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) on issues related to bias crime reporting.
“It’s no secret that there’s been a surge in bias crimes and incidents across the country, and Multnomah County is not immune to that,” said Deputy DA Weiss. “It’s important that we meet people where they are, that we work with community partners to address bias issues head on, and that we stand together in saying that hate is not part of who we are as Oregonians.”
MCDA thanks the following partners that contributed to its grant proposal: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Muslim Advisory Council, Somali American Council of Oregon, Slavic Advisory Council, Asian Pacific Islander American Council, the Portland Police Bureau, and the Multnomah County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council.
Bias Crime Reporting
In January 2020, the Oregon DOJ launched the Bias Response Hotline, which has fielded over 7,300 reports of hate and bias throughout Oregon to date. The hotline was created to prioritize the needs of victims of hate crimes and bias incidents, to address the significant undercounting of bias incidents, and therefore to make it easier and safer for victims to provide reports and receive support.
To report bias incidents to a confidential advocate, contact the Bias Response Hotline at StandAgainstHate.Oregon.gov (a web report feature is available in 9 languages, and a new live chat/text feature will be available in four languages later this summer) or 1-844-924-BIAS (2427) to report to a confidential advocate. Community members can report in any language, and the hotline accepts all Relay calls.
Bias Crime Prosecution
The DA’s Office publishes a bias crimes dashboard that tracks cases involving at least one bias crime charge. From July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023, 189 bias crime cases were referred to the DA’s Office by law enforcement. Of those:
- Prosecutors issued charges in 159 cases (84%).
- Prosecutors were not able to issue charges in 26 cases because:
- There was insufficient evidence in 17 of those cases
- More follow-up was needed by law enforcement in 8 of those cases
- The grand jury did not indict in 1 of those cases
Deputy DA Weiss recently sat down with Oregon DOJ Civil Rights and Social Justice Director Fay Stetz-Waters for a conversation about bias crimes. A recording of that conversation is available here.