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Hate crime victim commits suicide

A teenager whose testimony helped pass hate crimes legislation strongly backed by Jewish groups killed himself. David Ritcheson, an 18-year-old Mexican-American, committed suicide Sunday night by leaping off a cruise ship bound for Mexico.

After being beaten and sodomized last year by two teens who shouted racial epithets, Ritcheson testified in Washington on behalf of hate crimes legislation. The Anti-Defamation League paid for Ritcheson’s trip to the capital and also awarded the teen a full college scholarship.

“He seemed to be a great kid who just wanted to take something very, very bad that had happened to him and make something good out of it for other people,” said Dena Marks of the Anti-Defamation League Southwest Regional Office. “He worked very hard toward that.”

The hate crimes legislation, known as “David’s Bill,” is backed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women, Agudath Israel of America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in addition to the ADL. Advisers to the president have recommended a veto in deference to Christian conservatives who oppose its expansion of hate crimes victims to include gays.

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