It was not the first time violence erupted between Rawls and Owens. Levy said the 2 traded racist epithets in July 2009 and that Rawls assaulted Owens. While a witness initially told police that Rawls had used a baseball bat, Levy said the suspect denied that, insisting he had only used his hands. The witness later said he could not be sure a bat was used, Levy said.
At any rate, Levy said, the District Attorney’s Office reduced the charge to third-degree assault and dropped it when Owens declined to pursue it.
Is it a hate crime?
[Police spokeperson]Levy [said] police have set up a meeting to present information about the incident to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which have jurisdiction over federal hate crimes. But Levy reiterated today that police are convicted that the Martin case did not motivate Saturday’s incident. Instead, he said, the assault resulted from long-simmering bad blood between Owens and Rawls.
I'm not sure it is a hate crime, partly because I am not sure what constitutes a hate crime (other than political incorrectness or a current fad). I don't think this mob was looking for any random white person to whom they could deliver a beating; they picked Owens for other reasons. OTOH, I don't think he would have gotten that beating if he were black.
I am a lot more confident in saying that Eric Holder's people won't see a hate crime here.