Is the Sarah Palin Effigy a Hate Crime?

Does seasonality determine intent? Here's what I mean. Earlier this fall, a likeness of Obama was hung from a tree at a college in Oregon. Now, a similar display of Sarah Palin in West Hollywood has been determined by the Secret Service to not be a threat. The display is apparently part of a Halloween decorative scene and shows the vice presidential candidate dangling by her neck from the rafters. The display also shows John McCain surrounded by flames coming out of the house's chimney.

The FBI in LA agrees saying, "It's clearly distasteful, but it doesn't appear to be a violation of federal civil rights statutes. Currently, we do not have an investigation open." The local sheriff's department says that it doesn't rise to the level of a hate crime saying, "I'm not defending this; I'm not criticizing it. It doesn't rise to the level of hate crime. Now, if there was a crime against bad taste . . . " The mayor of West Hollywood on the other hand wants it taken down right away. He says, "While these residents have the legal right to display Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin in effigy, I strongly oppose political speech that references violence — real or perceived."