PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha issued the following statement following the decision reached by the court in State v. Longo:
"First and foremost, I am thankful to the Akpabie family, who endured an event that no one in Rhode Island – regardless of the color of their skin – should ever have to face.
"Criminal misconduct that is motivated in any way by bigotry and or hate merits the strongest possible response from the law enforcement community. All it takes is to place yourself in the shoes of the Akpabie family to understand why the reprehensible conduct of the defendant warranted this Office's pursuit of an enhanced sentence under Rhode Island's Hate Crimes Sentencing Act. The family, like so many Rhode Island families, was simply seeking to enjoy a meal together. The defendant, because she did not like the color of their skin, decided to make sure that didn't happen.
"We are grateful for the court's verdict finding the defendant guilty of disorderly conduct, which is entirely warranted based on the evidence we presented at trial. We respectfully disagree with the Court's narrow reading of Rhode Island law regarding whether the hate crime sentencing enhancement applies to the crime of disorderly conduct, the misdemeanor of which the defendant was justifiably convicted. In this Office's view, the plain language of the sentencing enhancement statute demonstrates otherwise: that the law applies to all crimes – felonies and misdemeanors alike – of any kind. We will continue to take that position on appeal in the Superior Court and, if necessary, seek legislative change.
"It is a privilege to fight on behalf of Rhode Islanders who are subject to this kind of hateful conduct. We will continue to do so, on behalf of individual victims and on behalf of all the people of Rhode Island, because when one Rhode Islander is targeted because of the color of their skin, it affects us all."