Understanding Hate Crime Prosecution in Illinois: A Comprehensive Guide

The Tragedy That Took A Young Boy Life

Joseph M. Czuba, a 71-year-old landlord from the Chicago area, has been arrested and charged with a series of crimes, including murder and hate crimes, following a brutal attack on a Muslim woman and her 6-year-old son. The incident occurred in unincorporated Plainfield Township, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago.

The victims were identified as Hanaan Shahin and her son, Wadea Al-Fayoume. Czuba, their landlord, allegedly attacked them due to their Muslim faith. The authorities believe that the victims were targeted by Czuba due to their religion and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.

On the tragic day of the incident, a distress call was made by the woman, claiming that her landlord had attacked her. When the authorities arrived at the scene, they found Czuba sitting on the ground near the home’s driveway. The victims were discovered in a bedroom, each suffering from multiple stab wounds. The boy, unfortunately, succumbed to his injuries after being stabbed 26 times, while the mother, who sustained over a dozen stab wounds, was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) revealed that the family had been living in the house for two years without any notable issues with Czuba. However, on the day of the attack, Shahin reported that Czuba knocked on their door, and when she opened it, he attempted to choke her and then attacked her with a knife, shouting, “you Muslims must die”.

This horrifying incident has left the community in shock and sorrow, with many condemning the act as evil and expressing their sympathies and support for the victims and the Muslim community. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker expressed his condolences and condemned the act, stating that taking a child’s life in the name of bigotry is nothing short of evil.

The case against Joseph M. Czuba is currently ongoing, and he has been transported to the Will County Adult Detention Facility, awaiting his initial court appearance.

Hanaan Shahin and Wadea Al-Fayoume       

The victims of this tragic incident were a mother and her young son, Hanaan Shahin and Wadea Al-Fayoume. They were the tenants of Joseph M. Czuba, living in unincorporated Plainfield Township, approximately 40 miles southwest of Chicago.

Wadea Al-Fayoume was a 6-year-old boy full of life and love. He had recently celebrated his birthday before the unfortunate incident. Wadea was described as a boy who loved everyone and everything around him. He was particularly fond of toys, sports involving balls like basketball and soccer, coloring, and swinging. Wadea was also very close to his parents, family, and friends. He was a child looking forward to a long, healthy, and prosperous life, unaware of the larger global issues that, tragically, came to affect him so personally.

Wadea’s parents, including his mother Hanaan Shahin, had moved to the United States seeking a better life. Hanaan had been in the United States for 12 years, while her husband had been in the country for nine years. They originally came from a village in the West Bank. Their son, Wadea, was born in the United States, symbolizing their hopes and dreams for a peaceful and prosperous life in their adopted homeland.

Hanaan Shahin, the mother, survived the brutal attack but not without sustaining severe injuries. She was found with over a dozen stab wounds but is currently recovering in the hospital and is expected to survive. After the attack, from the hospital, she communicated that the landlord, Czuba, had knocked on their door, and when she opened it, he tried to choke her and proceeded to attack her with a knife, expressing his hateful intention that “you Muslims must die”.

The family had been living in the house for two years, and according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), there had been no previous notable issues reported with the landlord, Czuba. The sudden and violent nature of the attack has left the community in shock, trying to make sense of the horrifying incident and offering support to Hanaan Shahin and her family during this incredibly challenging time.

The loss of young Wadea and the severe injury to Hanaan Shahin is a stark reminder of the impact of hate crimes on individuals, families, and communities. It reflects the broader societal issues related to intolerance, prejudice, and violence that affect innocent lives, leaving communities in mourning and in search of justice and peace.

First Degree Murder In The Illinois Penal Code

In Illinois, the punishment for first-degree murder is severe and varies based on the specific circumstances of the crime. Here is a summary of the penalties for first-degree murder under the Illinois Penal Code.

Certain aggravating factors, such as the murder of specific categories of individuals (e.g., peace officers, firefighters, teachers, or persons under 12 years of age), can lead to a sentence of natural life imprisonment.

Although the death penalty was abolished in Illinois in 2011, the statutes still contain provisions for it. The death penalty could be applied if the defendant was over 18 at the time of the crime and the crime involved specific aggravating factors, such as the murder of a peace officer or firefighter in the course of performing official duties, or the murder was committed in a particularly heinous manner.

In cases where neither the death penalty nor natural life imprisonment applies, the defendant may face a range of other penalties, including a determinate prison sentence, which could be enhanced based on specific factors related to the crime.

It’s essential to note that the application of these penalties depends on various factors, including the presence of aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the defendant’s criminal history, and other legal considerations.

What Is A Hate Crime?

A hate crime is a prejudiced-driven offense that targets victims due to their affiliation, or perceived affiliation, with a particular group. This grouping can be based on race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other similar factors. Hate crimes encompass a wide range of malicious activities, ranging from verbal harassment and online trolling to vandalism, physical assault, and even murder. They are distinct because the perpetrators are motivated by bias, seeking not just to harm the individual victim, but also to propagate fear and insecurity within the entire community that the victim represents.

The origins of hate crimes can be traced back to deeply ingrained societal biases, prejudices, and stereotypes. These divisive beliefs can be perpetuated by various factors such as ignorance, misinformation, historical conflicts, and socio-political ideologies. Hate crimes are consequential, leaving a profound impact that transcends the immediate act of violence or vandalism. For the victim, a hate crime is an atrocious violation of dignity and personal safety, often leading to severe psychological trauma and distress. Such crimes resonate within the targeted community, amplifying feelings of vulnerability and exclusion.

Legal approaches to hate crimes vary worldwide, with different jurisdictions establishing specific laws and penalties to address and curb such offenses. In the United States, hate crime laws entail enhanced penalties, making the punishment more severe for crimes motivated by bias. Such legal provisions underscore society’s condemnation of bigotry and discrimination, aiming to deter potential offenders and uphold the principles of equality and justice.

Effective addressing of hate crimes requires multifaceted strategies that go beyond law enforcement and judicial processes. Community education and awareness are critical in dismantling stereotypes and promoting inclusivity. Schools, media, and community organizations play pivotal roles in shaping societal attitudes, promoting empathy, and challenging divisive narratives. In parallel, support structures, such as helplines and counseling services, are vital in aiding victims, facilitating their recovery, and ensuring that they don’t suffer in silence.

In a broader socio-political context, hate crimes reflect the underlying tensions, prejudices, and disparities that persist in societies. They are indicators of the prevailing climate of intolerance and discrimination that certain groups may endure. Thus, addressing hate crimes is also a call for introspection and reform in societal attitudes and institutional practices. Combating hate crimes necessitates the collective responsibility of societies to foster environments where diversity is respected and where all individuals can live without fear of persecution due to their identities or affiliations.

How Is A Hate Crime Prosecuted In Illinois?

In Illinois, hate crimes are prosecuted under specific statutes that address the nature and severity of these offenses. A hate crime is committed when, by reason of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin of another individual or group of individuals, a person commits assault, battery, aggravated assault, misdemeanor theft, criminal trespass to residence, misdemeanor criminal damage to property, criminal trespass to vehicle, criminal trespass to real property, mob action, disorderly conduct, harassment by telephone, or harassment through electronic communications.

Charges and Classification

Hate crimes can be classified as a Class 4 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense.

If committed in specific places such as a church, synagogue, mosque, cemetery, mortuary, or other facilities used for religious worship or other specified places, it is a Class 3 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense.


The penalties for hate crimes vary based on the classification of the felony. A Class 4 felony may include a prison term of one to three years, while a Class 2 felony may result in a prison term of three to seven years.

Fines and restitution may also be part of the penalties, ensuring that the victims are compensated for any damages or losses.

Restitution and Community Service

The court may order the offender to pay restitution to the victim, which could cover property damages, medical expenses, and other related costs.

The offender may also be required to perform community service that is culturally or racially diverse, aiming to foster understanding and tolerance.

Civil Liability

Victims of hate crimes can also pursue civil remedies and may be entitled to damages, attorney’s fees, and other litigation costs.

Enhanced Penalties

The law allows for enhanced penalties if the hate crime was committed in specific locations such as parks, schools, or places of worship, recognizing the severe impact of hate crimes committed in these places.

Investigation and Prosecution

Hate crimes are thoroughly investigated by law enforcement agencies, and the prosecution is handled by state attorneys who specialize in prosecuting these types of crimes.

The prosecution of hate crimes in Illinois is comprehensive, ensuring that the offenders are held accountable for their actions and that the victims receive justice and compensation for their suffering. The legal framework aims to deter hate crimes by imposing severe penalties and fostering understanding and tolerance through community service requirements1.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not forget that when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge, you have us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case for you. We will work and be in your best interest for you and we will obtain the best possible outcome that can benefit you. We can explain everything you need to know about your trial and how to defend your case best. We can help you step by step through the criminal process. 

Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know that is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain the result of the charge to you and guide you in the best possible way.

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense case for you that suits your needs for the best possible outcome that can benefit you.  

Also, here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, you are given a free consultation at your convenience. You may choose to have your appointment via Zoom, google meet, email, or an in-person appointment; and we will provide you with as much advice and information as possible so you can have the best possible result in your case. 

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Hate Crime Prosecution in Illinois FAQ

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