Alumna faked hate crime, charged with two felonies
On March 9th of this year, 1998 University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law graduate Kerri Dunn vandalized her own car and reported the incident as a hate crime.
On Aug. 18, Dunn was charged with two felonies for attempted insurance fraud and a misdemeanor for a false police report.
Dunn will be sentenced on Sept. 17 and faces up to five years in prison.
A psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. at the time, Kerri Dunn had spoken publicly to a large group of students on topics such as hate crimes and racial tolerance prior to vandalizing her car.
According to police reports, the damages included broken windows, slashed tires and spray-painted anti-Semitic slurs. Personal property was also reported stolen from her car. She proceeded to file insurance claims for the damage.
Although an electrician at the college claimed he had witnessed a mysterious man with a toolbox crouched down by her car on the same day, Dunn became a suspect when two witnesses later reported seeing Dunn herself damaging her own vehicle.
Furthermore, conflicting stories produced by Dunn caused investigators to question the credibility of her statements.
Samuel Walker, a professor from the University of Nebraska at Omaha Department of Criminal Justice said legitimate hate crimes are difficult to distinguish.
"In order to distinguish a hate crime, investigators require special training," he said. "They must investigate the facts of a case to determine if the crime was motivated by a biased person. They must know how to ask the right questions."
Walker continued on to say, "Pseudo hate crimes undermine the credibility of legitimate hate crimes."
As upsetting as staged hate crimes may be, hate crime-eliminating organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League refuse to be discouraged by such occurrences.
Steve Freeman, director of the Legal Affairs Department for the Anti-Defamation League said that incidents such as Dunn's do not discourage the goals of the league.
"We must remind the community that the majority of hate crimes are serious and significantly impact the victims," he stated. "This incident is an exception but does not minimize the importance of true hate crimes. It is unfortunate that these things happen, yet fortunate that they only happen rarely."
Freeman said pseudo-hate crimes are usually rare.
"The FBI has 91,000 documents of hate crimes since 1991," he said. "Only a handful of those, maybe even as few as ten, have been fake."