(WXYZ) — Later today, lawmakers in Lansing are expected to vote on the Michigan Hate Crime Act. The bill aims to strengthen and expand the state's existing laws against hate crimes. This move follows the arrest of a man in the Upper Peninsula who police say threatened a mass killing at a synagogue in East Lansing.
The updates to the bill would make it illegal to target protected classes such as religion or cultural properties. Sponsoring this bill is State Representative Noah Arbit who believes hate crimes victimize entire communities.
"Hatred against Jewish people is real. It is real. It is dangerous, and it's often the gateway drug to much worse," he said.
According to the police report, 19-year-old Seann Pietila sent direct messages through Instagram talking about getting guns and how many people he planned on killing.
Arbit believes the current laws on the books aren't strong enough and wants to strengthen the existing laws and make it known that hate crimes in Michigan carry strong consequences.
"Right now, in the state of Michigan, hate crimes against gay people, against disabled people, against the elderly, cannot be prosecuted, so making sure we're expanding it and strengthening penalties," he said.
Arbit's bill will be voted on later today. As for Pietila, he will be in federal court this Thursday. If convicted, he could face up to 5 years in federal prison and 3 years on supervised probation.