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Hate crime prosecution historic for East Feliciana Parish

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CLINTON- A hate crime arrest in Clinton Tuesday, is the first of its kind in East Feliciana Parish according to District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla.

Ronnie Barnes, 54, was arrested accused of pulling a child's pants down and calling him the "n word." It happened at a gas station in Clinton on Saturday.

"That's the first time we've encountered a hate crime in our jurisdiction," D'Aquilla said.

Although the waters are unchartered with this type of prosecution, D'Aquilla said it will be handled just like any other case.

Jeania Jackson said her 12-year old son, Jarvis Smith was standing in line trying to pay for gas when the assault occurred. Barnes had questioned Smith about whether he was a boy or a girl, according to Jackson. Witnesses corroborated her son's story.

"My son doesn't have look like a girl, but has long dread locks," Jackson said. "I feel like he was stereotyped racially profiled, because to his hair."

Investigators said the attack was unprovoked. Numbers show hate crime arrests happen, but aren't too common.

According to statistics obtained by the Investigative Unit there were 22 hate crime arrests in 2013, only four such arrests in 2012 and five in 2011.

Nationally, statistics show half of all hate crime arrests were racially motivated.

"The elements of a hate crime are you select your victim," D'Aquilla said. "The victim was selected based on race. Instead of a disability. You select a victim and it has a crime involved in it too."

As the investigation continues, Jackson is trying to support her son as much as she can. She says she's trying to teach him that most people don't condone Barnes' actions. If Barnes is listening tonight, this is what she would tell him.

"I hope he doesn't get hatred in his heart to white people because everybody is not like you," Jackson said.

If convicted, Barnes faces up to six months in prison and a $500 fine.

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