As the trial of defendants in the October killing of Michael Sandy continues, the defense, prosecution, and judge are deliberating over whether or not Sandy’s killing can actually be called a hate crime, as Sandy’s killers claim they chose their victim because he was gay and therefore an easy target — not because he was gay and therefore someone to whom they should do harm.
Last October, the three men, along with 16-year-old Gary Timmins, who has yet to be charged, lured Sandy via an internet chat room to a parking lot on the Belt Parkway where he was robbed, and, following a scuffle, forced into oncoming traffic. He was then hit by a car and sustained injuries that would keep him in a coma until his family later made the choice to remove him from life support. Sandy died October 13.
The New York Times reports: “The defendants — John Fox (pictured), 20; Ilya Shurov, 21; and Anthony Fortunato, 21 — have been charged not just with murder, but with murder under the state Hate Crimes Act of 2000, which provides longer prison sentences for crimes motivated ‘in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person.’ Prosecutors and defense lawyers have presented contrasting interpretations of that phrase, the words it includes and the words it omits. In court documents, a defense lawyer has asked Justice Konviser-Levine to dismiss the enhanced murder charges against all three defendants because ‘the crimes alleged are not crimes of hate but rather crimes of opportunity.'”
Asked the judge, “Bottom line, is animus an element of the crime?”
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