FBI helps with hate crime investigation

September 9, 2009 1:15:05 AM PDT
The FBI is investigating a possible hate crime in the East Bay. A cross with "KKK" written on it was found in front of a Moraga home where interracial couple often visits.

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The FBI has a lot of work to do before deciding if a crime has been committed. For the couple, there's no question.

San Francisco residents Tni and David Newhoff go to his parent's home in Moraga often. They love it there, but Monday morning, they found a token of hate left out front.

"A friend of mine and myself walked out to look at it and turned it over and that's when we saw 'KKK' written on both sides of the cross bar," says David.

"There really aren't words to describe what something like that feels like," says Tni.

They've been together for 10 years, married more than five, and never had an experience like this.

Neighbor Dave Roberson across the street came over right away when Dave called him yesterday morning.

"You never think of that happening in a sleepy town like Moraga. Sure it can be a bit conservative in some areas. I'm as conservative as you can get, but this is sickening," says Roberson.

They notified the Moraga Police and the FBI has opened an investigation.

"Federal law makes it unlawful for someone to willingly injure, interfere with or intimidate someone while they participate in a federally protected activities simply because of their race, color, national origin or religion," says FBI special agent Joseph Schadler.

The FBI says it's a hard crime to prove. For example, burning a cross at a KKK rally is legal, protected hate speech.

"It's one thing to deal worth some who's racist, who's ignorant, or whatever. It's another thing for it to be an actual hate crime," says Schadler.

"Well it certainly wasn't an invitation like I should come visit Moraga more often. It felt like a threat," says Tni.

The Newhoffs want to turn this ugly episode into something positive. A friend started an email fundraising campaign for the NAACP and has raised a couple thousand dollars so far.

"The intention that was behind that cross was completely ineffective because instead is what they've done is empowered us and they are funding an agency, one of the oldest African-American in the country," says Tni.

Whether intended as a prank or with more sinister intent, the Newhoffs say it makes no difference -- the gravity of the offense is the same.

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