FBI Investigating Possible UVa Hate Crime

The FBI is now part of the investigative team into last week’s attack on student government president candidate Daisy Lundy. The attack, because Lundy says that her assailant was white and threatened her on the basis of her race, has been classified as a hate crime under federal law. The story was in Saturday’s Washington Post.

14 Responses to “FBI Investigating Possible UVa Hate Crime”

  • Isn’t this an easy way for the UVA administration/UVA Police to "wash their hands" of having to look into this?

    How much time do we really expect the FBI to spend on this (a woman being pushed and slurred) during today’s "terror" climate?

    Today’s (March 3rd’s) Washington Post has an article entitled "FBI Leaving Some Cases Untouched — Many D.C. Area Agents Moved to Terror Fight"


    According to the article:

    "The FBI’s emphasis on terrorism has prompted the agency to scale back investigations of other once high-priority crimes throughout the Washington region, including white-collar offenses, housing fraud, drug trafficking and street violence, according to local and federal law enforcement officials and investigators.

    The number of violent drug cases referred to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington dropped 41 percent in fiscal 2002 from the previous year as agents shifted to anti-terrorist duties. Federal prosecutors in Alexandria and Baltimore said they are getting fewer criminal case referrals from the FBI’s field offices.

    As FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III reshapes the agency to deal with the terrorist threat, field offices across the nation have redefined how agents go about their everyday duties. Nationally, the FBI has assigned more than 2,500 of its 11,500 agents to work on anti-terrorist assignments, including surveillance, background checks and wiretaps of people suspected of having ties to terrorist groups.

    The impact of the shift has been felt keenly in Washington, where authorities repeatedly have warned of a terrorist strike.

    Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, more than half of the 300 FBI agents in the Washington field office assigned to criminal cases have been transferred to the counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence squads. With 700 agents, the field office is the second largest in the country.

    Overall, the field office — which is responsible for investigating an array of crimes in the District and Northern Virginia, including public corruption, kidnapping and drug trafficking — is devoting roughly 65 percent to 75 percent of its resources to terrorism and counter-intelligence matters, compared with about 40 percent before Sept. 11.

    One senior law enforcement official said that the field office has either "walked away" from some non-terrorism cases or closed them prematurely and that other investigations were never launched.

    Some cases in the District are languishing, according to law enforcement sources, including cases concerning a number of mortgage scams involving Nigerian nationals, some which have resulted in losses to the government or mortgage firms of $1 million or more.

    The shift in emphasis has been noticed not only by the law enforcement community but also by lawyers who specialize in cases involving white-collar crime. Kerry A. Scanlon, a Washington lawyer, said he represents a national health charity, which he declined to disclose publicly, that lost roughly $200,000 through theft. Even though an employee was fired in April for stealing the money, Scanlon said authorities told him that a criminal probe stalled as agents were redeployed.

    "It’s frustrating," said Scanlon, a former deputy assistant attorney general. "It’s taken an enormous effort just to try to get to first base."

    FBI officials said their first priority must be domestic security, even if other cases must suffer.

    "We have not been able to work the other crimes in a sense that we used to," said Van Harp, who heads the FBI’s Washington field office. "The threats are coming in daily. This is war, simply put, and we’ve got to do our best with everything we have."

    Many of the agents now tracking terrorist leads came from the Washington field office’s white-collar squad, which went from about 115 agents to about half that. The drug unit, which has helped develop some of the District’s biggest cases involving multiple homicides — often by using wiretaps in investigations that took years — has about 10 agents now, down from roughly two dozen before the shift. Another unit that handles a wide range of cases involving violent crimes has shrunk from about 70 agents before September 2001 to roughly 14.

    At the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the overall change in the number of FBI-referred cases since Sept. 11, 2001, has been negligible in key areas other than drugs. But the consequences in those other areas are starting to be felt across the board, and a pattern is emerging, authorities say.

    "No doubt, cases that were worked in the past aren’t getting worked," said Roscoe Conklin Howard Jr., the U.S. attorney in Washington. He declined to provide examples but said agents are aggressively working on non-terror investigations within their limitations. "Clearly, work is getting done. Naturally, you prioritize with what you have."

    The FBI has continued to spend time on many white-collar and public corruption cases, as well as investigations in such cases as the slaying of former intern Chandra A. Levy. Agents also have worked on raids, audits and other facets of the investigation into the alleged theft of millions of dollars from the Washington Teachers’ Union.

    Paul J. McNulty, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, emphasized that "prosecutors are still busy" and white-collar criminals shouldn’t get the message that it’s a "free day. There’s still a real risk of being caught and prosecuted."

    Still, McNulty said, "no question, there’s been some effect" on the non-terror caseload, including delays in investigations because agents were temporarily shifted to terrorism duties, he said.

    In Maryland, U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio recently wrote to the director of the FBI’s Baltimore field office complaining about the impact the shift has had on federal efforts to curtail white-collar crime and public corruption. DiBiagio wrote that agents have been "almost useless as they try to figure out how to address terrorism."

    DiBiagio later issued a statement saying that his office wholeheartedly supported the FBI’s anti-terror efforts.

    Gary Bald, special agent in charge of the Baltimore field office, which covers Maryland and Delaware, said that counter-terrorism remains a top priority and that significant non-terror cases continue to be pursued but that all matters "have to be prioritized."

    Bruce Ash, a former assistant special agent in charge of the Baltimore field office, put it like this: "I think there are voids where you shift resources. Something is going to have to give. You just don’t have the people to fill the vacancies."

    Other federal law enforcement agencies, local police and inspectors general have stepped in to take stronger roles in such areas as public corruption and health care fraud, officials said. The U.S. Marshal’s Office is forming a regional task force in the Washington area to help track fugitives.

    The FBI field office in Washington is considering creating another violent-crime squad to deal with narcotics rings and violent gangs, although it is unclear from where the staff would come.

    For now, gaps remain.

    "We lost a lot of people who work with us who went over to terrorism," said Sgt. John Brennan of the D.C. police’s major narcotics unit.

    "We’ve got to set priorities in cases, which ones you’re going to work. There may have been a case in the past we may have looked at but now we can’t," Brennan said.

    The shift has triggered a broader debate about the FBI’s mission. The FBI’s Harp insisted that no agency is better equipped to do counter-terrorism in the United States than the FBI. But some in Congress have advocated that the FBI should hand over terrorism duties to a new agency — akin to a domestic CIA — and concentrate on its more traditional cases.

    Some law enforcement officials have contended that the FBI should be given enough money to go full throttle at all kinds of cases. Others said the FBI needs to do a better job of handing off investigations of bank robberies, narcotics violations and street violence to other federal and local law enforcement agencies.

    Some critics inside the FBI say the agency has devoted too many resources to counter-terrorism, contending that some investigators at times have had too little to do.

    "I’m not saying we didn’t need to change," said one Washington area FBI agent who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "But did they go completely overboard? Yes."

    Harp said he strongly disagrees.

    "We’re faced with a fanatical enemy dedicated to attacking us again," he said. "I’d rather be over-committed than under-committed."

  • While it is true that the local police are reluctant to prosecute a student for a false crime report–the Feds are another matter. The Justice Department routinely prosecutes people who lie to the FBI.

    If this was a hoax as it appears, Ms. Lundy is now facing serious consequences. Trully a sad situation.

  • Don’t you think you’re going a bit far in presuming this is a hoax?

    I agree that that’s always a possibility worth looking into, but I think we should give her the benefit of the doubt until there’s evidence to the contrary. A little confusion about the exact sequence of events is not evidence to the contrary. If you got roughed up and threatened in the middle of the night, you might get a little confused about the exact sequence of events too.

  • I don’t know how many resources the FBI will spend on this case, but for Robert Mueller it may take on a personal context. To my knowledge he was never an undergrad here, but Mueller is a graduate of UVA Law School, so he does have connections to UVA. Might this make him dedicate more resources than he otherwise would?

  • I’ve got to believe she’s smarter than that (making this thing up) I mean she’s not Tawana- she’s running for Student Council president at UVA!- hopefully that still means something. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt. Though, if this is a hoax, I think its just as dispicable of a crime. Is not one who falsely invents a racist scenario a racist him/herself?

  • Although this may not have been your intention, I must take exception to this:

    “I’ve got to believe she’s smarter than that (making this thing up) I mean she’s not Tawana- she’s running for Student Council president at UVA!- hopefully that still means something.”

    One of the silliest notions out there is that people of ‘stature’ or ‘power’ or ‘higher position’ are somehow not willing to be untruthful. So, if she were a UVA janitor – and not a UVA hopeful – she can’t cheat and lie and manipulate? Power, or the reach for power, is the ultimate corruptor, lest people forget.

    I do not know whether Ms. Lundy fabricated this, or is truly a victim of some nutcase out there, but please do not suppose anything based on her position.

  • They won’t find the attacker. Either because he/she doesn’t exist, or because there is no evidence. She had no information to give the police about who did it. If she looked at a lineup she’d have no idea who to pick. Even the FBI can’t do anything to help this kind of situation.

    An interesting thing to note is that the FBI doesn’t even investigate murder. But a girl who gets yelled at is their top priority? Just goes to show the weight that UVA has to swing around.

  • The FBI investigates crimes that are within its jurisdiction, not the most "important" crimes. Murder is not by itself a federal crime, because while it is serious there’s no reason competent state authorities can’t handle it. Civil rights violations are federal crimes investigated by the FBI because the experience shows that local authorities have often not been willing or able to investigate or prosecute them.

    If this assault did actually occur, it is a much more serious matter than a simple assault or a "hate crime", it is an attempt to suppress political participation by a minority group – although I doubt a student council election would technically fall under the Voting Rights Act.

  • Simply put: Feds investigate a violation of Federal Law. That is the criterion. Upon invitation from local jurisidctions they may investigate other crimes as they see fit .

  • They won’t find the attacker. Either because he/she doesn’t exist, or because there is no evidence. […] Even the FBI can’t do anything to help this kind of situation.

    Couldn’t the local/FBI detectives investigate the phone calls?

    Lundy reported that sometime after 10 PM on Sunday the 23rd she began to receive telephone threats — some just annoying hang-up and heavy breather calls, but one including intimidating language, profanity, and direct reference to the run-off election. She reported the latter to the police (the UVa cops, I assume). She continued to receive the calls through at least Tuesday. The calls came from an "outside" (non-UVa?) phone line, which reportedly makes it difficult determine who was making the calls. At some point, as a precaution, Lundy decided to no longer sleep in her own room. (source 1; source 2; source 3)

    Can’t the Feds just type a keys on their fancy computers to locate the source(s)? And from that compile a list of possible suspects to investigate for the assault?

  • "Can’t the Feds just type a keys on their fancy computers to locate the source(s)?"

    Nope, UVA has a crappy phone system. There is no way to find out who is calling you from within the university. It’s a rathar common hobby among students to prank other students.

    Also, calling someone to threaten them doesn’t mean you’re guilty of battery. It just means you’re an asshole.

  • Nope, UVA has a crappy phone system.

    I’m confused about the role of the UVa phone system here. Certainly students, like Lundy, don’t have UVa (i.e., 924-) numbers.

  • I’m confused about the role of the UVa phone system here. Certainly students, like Lundy, don’t have UVa (i.e., 924-) numbers.

    Lundy says she received the harrassing phone calls at her on-campus room, which would have a UVa number (like 924-, but in this case 243-). I assume UVa is still using an IBM/Siemens ROLM phone system. I believe that most, if not all, ROLM CBX’s and phones can be made compatible with CLID (which would probably be the relevant type of caller identification for tracking these phone calls). I would guess that UVa’s ITC may not have ROLM there CLID capable, and probably don’t keep records of inbound calls to student residences (but who knows). In any case, it certainly should be possible to monitor the inbound calling line for any future harassing calls Lundy might receive.

  • I wrote: ‘Certainly students, like Lundy, don’t have UVa (i.e., 924-) numbers.’

    Empty writes: ‘I assume UVa is still using an IBM/Siemens ROLM phone system.’

    Goodness. I suppose I just dated myself with my assumption (as im, ‘back when I was a student, we had to arrange our own telephone service, and bring/rent our own phones’).

    Empty is correct (scroll down on page). Students living on-Grounds find telephone receivers and service already in their rooms, and the system is ROLM. (And they have cable TV, too?!)

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