Muslim Woman Investigated Her Own Hate Crime After NYPD Dismissed Her Case

A Muslim woman who was robbed and brutally beaten by a group of young people last month says the New York Police Department and the Bronx District Attorney’s office failed to properly investigate until she dug up video evidence proving the hate crime.

Fatoumata Camara, 22, said the authorities’ lack of investigation into the May 10 beating that sent her to the hospital with a broken nose and head injury forced her to do the investigative work herself uncovering surveillance video from a business near the crime scene. Camara, who lives in the Bronx and wears a hijab, said the NYPD reopened her case and is investigating the attack as a possible hate crime after she presented the footage this week.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to be one of those cases that got abandoned,” Camara told HuffPost. “I was going to get justice for what happened to me that night.”

Camara, who graduated from college with a degree in engineering on May 29, said a Bronx DA’s spokesperson told her earlier the case had been closed due to lack of evidence.

Authorities disputed the claim that they abandoned the case. The DA’s office said the case was not closed, but was referred to the NYPD. The NYPD said the investigation “is active and ongoing” by the 42nd Precinct detective squad. Police did not elaborate.

In recent years anti-Muslim hate crimes have soared in New York and in the U.S. The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations documented a 74% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the state since 2016. The U.S. saw a 17% rise in hate crimes last year, with Muslim individuals being the target of over 18% of religiously motivated hate crimes.

Women like Camara who wear hijabs face an increased threat due to their visibility as Muslims. The New York City Commission on Human rights found that black Muslim women living in the Bronx were at “notably high risk for bias motivated assaults,” with one in five women having experienced physical assault.

Camara was attacked on her way home from a New York City College of Technology award ceremony, where she was honored for her work as student government treasurer. She boarded a bus at the Grand Concourse and Van Cortlandt stop outside the college. 

Once seated, approximately 10 to 12 young men and women, including some teenagers, began to harass and taunt her, she said. They threw sunflower seeds, she said, and called her racial and sexist slurs, including “dumb, black bitch.” They also mocked her “stupid headwrap,” according to Camara.

The group followed her when she got off the bus at 168th Street and Third Avenue. The surveillance footage shows Camara being pushed, punched and kicked. One person pulled off her hijab.

It wasn’t until a bystander intervened that the attack briefly halted. But then the attack resumed and an individual is seen striking Camara again.

Police eventually arrived. Some of the assailants ran, but officers took three people into custody. They were later released without charges. 

Camara was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, where she was treated for a broken nose and a head injury. Her bag ― which included a tuition refund check for $500, her Social Security card, state identification and U.S. passport ― were stolen, according to her lawyer. Her engagement ring was damaged during the attack and her clothing was torn.

Later, Camara met with police officers at the 42nd Precinct, where she was shown photos of 18 people and asked to identify her attackers, including the three people taken into custody the night of the assault, according to her lawyer. Camara, traumatized and unable to clearly see the attackers during the assault, couldn’t pick anyone in the photos, so she said investigators told her they were closing the case.

“It was unfair for me. I’m the victim of this whole situation,” said Camara. “For them to just drop my case like that because I couldn’t identify these people through photos, I was very upset.” 

Ahmed Mohamed, Camara’s lawyer and the litigation director at CAIR-New York, said authorities weren’t taking the report seriously enough.

“We have such a clear case of not only a crime being committed, but of a hate crime taking place,” Mohamed said. “There’s clear evidence. Our client not only provided some of this evidence to the detectives, district attorney, but instead of investigating and doing their jobs, the NYPD, the district attorney, decided our clients, life just didn’t matter enough for them to take it seriously.”

On May 14, Camara went back to the precinct and requested a copy of the police report. Instead, she said an official gave her a letter from the legal department denying her access to the report because it had been sealed by court order. She said she twice since tried to meet with detectives handling her case, to no avail.

“I had to run after them every day just to get answers from them,” she said of the detectives. “It shows they don’t care. I have the right to be protected in this country.”

Not long after that, Camara noticed a business near the scene of the beating had surveillance cameras. She met with the business owners and obtained the footage, then forwarded it to the police and media outlets.

Camara said police finally reached out to her on Monday after media reports featuring the footage.

She said she hopes with the video, police can find the attackers. But she said the authorities’ lack of support has left her traumatized.

“I’m scared to go out by myself now. Because of this incident, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” said Camara. “I just hope this doesn’t happen to somebody else from my community.”

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Tiger Mom Amy Chuas Daughter Secures Clerkship With Kavanaugh

The daughter of Amy Chua, the Yale law professor who popularized herself as the “Tiger Mom” and spoke out in support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year, has secured a coveted clerkship with the controversial judge.

Several legal news outlets reported Monday that Chua’s oldest daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, would begin the clerkship later this year. The development raised some eyebrows, given that Chua, who helps place judicial clerks from Yale, wrote an op-ed last year defending Kavanaugh against accusations of sexual assault.

The headline that ran with it in The Wall Street Journal? “Kavanaugh Is a Mentor to Women: I Can’t Think of a Better Judge for My Own Daughter’s Clerkship.”

In it, Chua praised Yale Law School alumnus Kavanaugh and said the eight female law students she’s placed in clerkships with him all had positive experiences, offering a counterpoint to the three sexual assault allegations that faced him during his Senate nomination hearings.

“These days the press is full of stories about powerful men exploiting or abusing female employees,” she wrote. “That makes it even more striking to hear Judge Kavanaugh’s female clerks speak of his decency and his role as a fierce champion of their careers.”

Her support for Kavanaugh was selfless, she implied, because her daughter had accepted an appellate clerkship with him. If the Senate confirmed him ― which it ultimately did ― her daughter would have to look for a new position.

Critics of Chua quickly pointed out that she did, in fact, have a vested interest in seeing Kavanaugh confirmed to the court because her daughter would likely be first in line for an even higher-ranking clerkship with Kavanaugh if he were ― a maneuver straight out of the “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” playbook on fierce parenting made famous in her 2011 book.

Chua-Rubenfeld denied she would be applying for a Supreme Court clerkship “anytime soon,” though that was less than a year ago.

Accounts from other students seeking clerkship placements by Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, suggest the two saw Kavanaugh less as a “mentor to women” than as a man who liked to employ attractive young women. 

One of those students told HuffPost last year that Rubenfeld informed her that Kavanaugh liked to hire female clerks who had a “certain look.”

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" author Amy Chua, center, and daughters Louisa, left, and Sophia at the 2011 Time 100 gala i

“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” author Amy Chua, center, and daughters Louisa, left, and Sophia at the 2011 Time 100 gala in April 2011.

Students also told The Guardian that Chua privately told a group of law students in 2017 that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and that she would advise them on their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him. Chua denies she said that. 

U.S. Government Says Traveler Photos Were Taken In Data Breach

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday that photos of travelers and license plates the agency has collected have been “compromised” after one of its subcontractors was hacked.

The federal law enforcement agency said in a statement that an unnamed subcontractor had transferred copies of images the government collected to its own company network and then was hit by “a malicious cyber-attack.” CBP, which learned of the breach late last month, said its systems were not affected.

The agency did not reveal how many people’s data was affected by the breach, or if they were U.S. citizens or travelers from other countries.  

HuffPost reached out to CBP for further details but did not immediately receive a response.

The images taken may have been among those collected by a government facial recognition program to track people coming into and leaving the U.S, BuzzFeed News reported.

“This breach comes just as CBP seeks to expand its massive face recognition apparatus and collection of sensitive information from travelers,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement. “This incident further underscores the need to put the brakes on these efforts and for Congress to investigate the agency’s data practices.”

“The best way to avoid breaches of sensitive personal data is not to collect and retain such data in the first place,” Singh Guliani added.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer talks to a passenger at a face recognition kiosk at George Bush Intercontin

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer talks to a passenger at a face recognition kiosk at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston in July 2017.

While CBP said so far it hadn’t found any of the images or associated data online, last month British news outlet The Register reported that Perceptics ― a provider of license plate readers to the U.S. government for its border crossings ― was hacked and data was posted on the internet.  

CBP did not respond to HuffPost’s question on whether the two breaches were related. But The Washington Post said a document sent to its reporters with CBP’s statement was titled “CBP Perceptics Public Statement.” 

In the last few weeks, Congress has held two hearings on the use, and dangers, of facial recognition technology for surveillance by companies and government. In the first hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked how the technology can “exacerbate” racial bias in the criminal justice system.

In a second hearing specifically on government uses of facial recognition tech, House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said such technology was “evolving extremely rapidly without any real guardrails.”

“Whether we are talking about commercial use or government use, there are real concerns about the risks that this technology poses to our civil rights and liberties and our right to privacy,” Cumming said, noting the Transportation Security Administration had launched pilot facial recognition programs in U.S. airports.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said at the hearing: “This stuff freaks me out. I’m a little freaked out by facial recognition.”

“You should be freaked out, too,” the congresswoman followed up in a tweet. “The inaccuracy and threat to our privacy is real.”