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Federal investigators say there is insufficient evidence of alleged hate crime in Althea Bernstein case

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Althea Bernstein 1

(UPDATE) -- Madison's Acting Police Chief Vic Wahl and Bernstein's family released statements about the case, with Wahl saying MPD would be closing it.

MPD also released case documents and photos, which can be found here.

Her family said:

"Althea Bernstein and her family appreciate the detailed investigative efforts by all involved in this case. Althea's injuries are healing and the support of our community has been invaluable in that regard. We continue to maintain our family privacy and will not be granting interviews at this time."

In a statement, Acting Chief Vic Wahl said MPD is closing the case.

"The Madison Police Department is closing the investigation into this case. After an exhaustive probe, detectives were unable to corroborate or locate evidence consistent with what was reported.

The Madison Police Department dedicated significant resources to this case. The investigation was led by the MPD Violent Crime Unit, with support from the Forensic Services Unit and Central District.

Detectives conducted numerous interviews, reviewed extensive video, and analyzed physical/digital evidence during the course of the investigation.

MPD was assisted in these efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).

Consistent with MPD’s Core Values, Code of Conduct, and Standard Operating Procedures, the victim was treated with dignity and respect at all times during the course of this investigation.

MPD, FBI and DCI personnel had regular contact with the victim and family, who were cooperative with investigators. The Madison Police Department is committed to thoroughly investigating alleged hate crimes and holding offenders accountable.

Case findings were also reviewed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin and the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Both independently evaluated the facts and reached the same conclusion as MPD.

MPD is releasing reports detailing the investigation due to the community interest this high-profile case has generated. While it is the department’s general practice not to include victim names in these releases, the reporting party’s name in this case is already in the public domain."


MADISON (WKOW) – Federal investigators say they have found insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges for an alleged hate crime from June 24 in Madison.

Althea Bernstein says four white men called her a racial slur, before attacking her, and setting her on fire with lighter fluid in downtown Madison. Bernstein is bi-racial.

The United States Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced Friday that a federal investigation found insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges for an alleged hate crime reported to have occurred on June 24, 2020, in Madison, Wisconsin.

After reviewing all available evidence, authorities could not establish that the attack, as alleged by the complainant, had occurred, according to a news release.

The federal investigation into this incident has been closed based on the lack of evidence.

Federal and local agents met with the complainant and her representatives to inform them of the findings of the investigation and the decision to close the federal inquiry.

A team of experienced federal prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division worked with FBI and state and local law enforcement agents to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the events of June 24, 2020.

The federal investigation sought to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of the federal civil rights statutes, including Title 18, United States Code, Section 249. Section 249 criminalizes willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of that person’s actual or perceived race.

After a thorough investigation into the events of June 24, 2020, including extensive interviews, exhaustive review of traffic and surveillance video, and expert review of digital and forensic evidence, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove that a violation of any federal criminal statute occurred.

The Justice Department is committed to investigations of allegations of bias-motivated violence and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that allegations of civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated. The department aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.



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