12-05-2016  10:35 am      •     

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ A Houston congresswoman has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the torture of a black woman by seven white people to determine whether federal hate crimes should be pursued.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, also said two defendants who were sentenced Thursday on state charges should not have the option of parole.
``I have asked the Justice Department to review the circumstances and determine whether there is a viable case under federal law,'' Lee told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday from her Washington, D.C., office.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia had announced in September that it would not pursue civil rights violations in the case.
The Justice Department's Public Affairs Office did not immediately return an after-hours message left Friday.
Lee noted that Logan County prosecutors have gotten one conviction on a state hate crimes charge.
Authorities say 21-year-old Megan Williams of Charleston was held captive for several days last summer at Frankie Brewster's trailer in Big Creek. In addition to beatings and assaults, authorities said Williams was forced to eat animal feces and was stabbed. She was rescued by sheriff's deputies on Sept. 8 after they received an anonymous tip.
Karen Burton, 46, was the only defendant charged with a state hate crime. She was sentenced Thursday in Logan County Circuit Court to 10 years for violating Williams' civil rights. She also received separate two-to-10-year sentences for assault charges.
Brewster, 49, received a 10-to-25-year sentence for second-degree sexual assault.
Lee said federal hate crimes laws fall short of deterring such crimes.
``That is our intent, to look at the hate crimes legislation, not to discriminate against people or indict people unfairly, but to make the law comprehensive enough to be a deterrent,'' she said.
``It is difficult when you can't prove it's interstate jurisdiction, for example,'' Lee said. `` ... It is difficult when certain groups are not protected by our hate crimes legislation.''
``Those are some faults that are really not acceptable.''
Lee said she also wants the laws revised to ensure people have the opportunity to petition the courts or the criminal justice system when a hate crime is committed.
``We must stand against the idea that it is OK to abuse, brutalize or kill someone because they are different,'' she said.

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