The New York Times has reported that the U.S. Department of Justice will most likely file federal hate crime charges against Dylann Roof, the suspect of the shooting that occurred this week at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof is currently facing nine counts of murder and may face the death penalty in South Carolina state court. However, the Department of Justice and the FBI have agreed that the shooting was racially motivated and that federal charges must also be brought.
FBI analysts have established with “a high degree of certainty” that Roof created a website where he posted a racist manifesto. It was established that the website was initially registered under his name, but that he removed his name and made the registration anonymous the next day.
Generally, when a case involves violations of both state and federal laws, federal charges are not brought. The case against Dylann Roof is unique because South Carolina does not have any law prohibiting hate or racially motivated crimes. The Department of Justice is choosing to step in here because if Roof faced only murder charges, the hate crime component would not be addressed. One Department of Justice Official said that “this directly fits the hate crime statute. This is exactly what it was created for.” The charges are not yet official, as many details of the case have yet to be resolved. Though the federal charges are not yet official, Roof has been assigned two federal public defenders, in addition to the state public defenders assigned to defend him on his pending state charges.