Is the 'Knockout Game' a Hate Crime? Is It Even a Game?

Marajh, the 28-year-old accused of sucker-punching Shmuel Perl, a
24-year-old Orthodox Jew, in the side of the head on Friday in the
Borough Park neigborhood of Brooklyn, has been
with assault, which makes sense, and aggravated
harassment as a hate crime, which is harder to figure out. Leave
aside the question of whether a criminal should be punished extra
severely when he is motivated by bigotry. (He shouldn’t.)
According to
ABC News
, Perl said he “heard his alleged attackers daring each
other to punch him out minutes before one actually assaulted him.”
Hence the assault has been described as the latest example of “the
knockout game,” a pastime supposedly sweeping the nation in which
young assailants dare each other to knock out randomly selected
targets with a single punch. But if the victims are picked at
random, as the knockout game supposedly requires, can they also be
selected based on their ethnicity or religion? ABC does not
mention any anti-Semitic slurs or other evidence that Marajh
was looking for a Jew to attack, and neither do the accounts in

The New York Times
, the New York
Daily News
, or
The Jewish Press
. So why the hate crime charge? The
Daily News story suggests that Perl just happened to
be walking down the street at the wrong moment:

Amrit Marajh, 28, had just left a bar on McDonald Ave. on Friday
with four friends and was talking about boxing when the knockout
game came up, police sources said. 

“You can’t do that,” one member of the group said as they came
upon Shmuel Perl, 24, according to a source.

Marajh allegedly said, “Yes I can, I’ll do it to this guy right
now!” before punching Perl in the face, leaving him bruised.

Marajh’s lawyer, by contrast, told the Daily News “this
had nothing to do with the knockout game.” Also in dispute: whether
the knockout game is actually a thing. “Police officials in several
cities where such attacks have been reported said that the ‘game’
amounted to little more than an urban myth,” the
Times reports,
“and that the attacks in question might be nothing more than the
sort of random assaults that have always occurred.” For

Much news coverage of reported knockout
attacks includes 2012 footage from a surveillance camera in
Pittsburgh of James Addlespurger, a high school teacher who
was 50, being swiftly struck to the ground by a young man
walking down an alleyway with some friends. Yet the Pittsburgh
police said the attacker insisted the assault was not part of any
organized “game.”

“This was just a random act of violence,” Police Commander Eric
Holmes said in a televised interview last year. “He stated that he
was just having a bad day that day.” The assailant saw Mr.
Addlespurger, the commander said, “and decided this was a course of
action he was going to take.”

Once such crimes are relabeled, of course, young thugs who are
inclined to attack people for no particular reason may start using
the new terminology, thereby retroactively validating it. If Marajh
and his friends really were talking about “the knockout game,” they
were probably discussing what they’d heard from news outlets hyping
this supposedly new trend.

from Hit & Run

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