The deadly Georgia spa shootings could mark the first time a new hate crime law has been implemented in the state. Kate Brumback, an Associated Press reporter, joined CBSN’s Tanya Rivero to learn more about what this could mean.

Video transcript

– – Last week’s spa shootings in Georgia could mark the first time the hate crime law has been enforced in the state. A white man is accused of shooting and killing six Asian women and two others in spas in the Atlanta area. The suspect says the attacks were not racially motivated. And that he suffered from a sex addiction.

But authorities say it is too early to rule out a hate crime. This means that if this happens, a new hate crime law that was introduced in the state last summer could potentially apply. To learn more about this, I would like to include Kate Brumback. She is a reporter for the Associated Press covering the story. Kate, welcome. Tell us what exactly the hate crime law in Georgia is and how it differs from the hate crime laws in other states.

KATE BRUMBACK: Georgia’s hate crime law was enacted last year. And rather than providing for a stand-alone crime, it provides for an enhancement of sentencing when a person is convicted of an underlying crime. If a jury determines that a crime is motivated by race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender, or mental or physical disability, the crime can be improved. Other states also have laws against hate crimes that only improve conviction. But then some states and the federal government envision a stand-alone crime where bias alone is enough to be a stand-alone crime.

– – Gotcha, so this is just an improvement on the condemnation. Well, Kate, as you know, the suspect himself told the police that the attacks were not racially motivated. He claimed to be a sex addict. And so he says he struck the sources of temptation.

But of course the authorities say they are still investigating his motive. In this case, how could they go about enforcing the hate crimes law because even if they couldn’t prove the part of it that was a hate crime against Asian American citizens, it seems they have, according to the suspect’s own words surely done a lot of evidence of a hate crime against women? And gender, you said, is one of the factors.

The story goes on

KATE BRUMBACK: Yes, I mean, the investigation is still at a very early stage. Investigators didn’t say much about what they found. You’re still investigating his motive. But yes, Georgia’s hate crime law not only provides for crimes motivated by race, as I said, but also crimes that are gender motivated. So it seems that this is also a path that could be followed.

– – And of course, it’s also worth noting that many in the Asian-American community are still looking at the outline of this case and seeing a very strong argument for a hate crime against Asian-American citizens. I just want to point this out.

This could be the first time the Georgia hate crime law has been applied. What caused it to be created in the first place? And what impact could this have if used in this case?

KATE BRUMBACK: The Georgia hate crime law was examined last year. But it had stalled. But right after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was killed in coastal Georgia while on the move, he was followed and shot by three white men. After this murder and during the national unrest last summer, Georgian lawmakers rushed to pass the hate crime law. And then it became law.

But it hasn’t been used yet because we were in the middle of the pandemic when the law was passed and enacted. And so the courts have largely stalled. So it hasn’t had a chance of being used yet.

– – All right, we’re all going to watch the fate of this case and this law after that terrible spate of gunfights in the Atlanta area. Kate Brumback, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.