Judge Ponders “Hate” in Michael Sandy Killing

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.

Sandy_killerLast 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?”

To Commit a Hate Crime, Must the Criminal Truly Hate the Victim? [nyt]

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  1. woodroad34 says

    Oh, come on , now! A crime of opportunity would be someone walking down a dark alley where gang members are. These people plotted and deliberately set out to get someone specifically because he was gay and to do harm to him specifically because he was gay; whether is was robbing or physical harm. Did they go after a woman, or an asian, or an illegal immigrant, or a disabled person? No, they went after a gay man because he was gay. How outrageous and heterocentric of them; and just a tad desperate.

  2. says

    not really much room there for debate.
    seems that if a gay website was utilized for their crimes, then indeed the crimes are hate motivated… same as if a jewish site was used and saying they thought jews are easy targets.

  3. secretagentman says

    The defense lawyer should be ashamed for even trying to get around it. I can’t see any judge falling for that logic though so hopefully the little fuckers will be locked up for good. Once they are in the big house then we will see whose ass is an easy target.

  4. Derrick from Philly says

    Not such an easy call, y’all. When a clear message of hatred for “all those like the victim” is not a clear aspect of the crime.

    What do you do when a gay criminal specifically targets other gay people for robbery, and that crime ends up with the victim’s death? Can that be a hate crime?
    I still want the bastards in jail for life, but how does this robbery turned murder fit the definition of a hate crime?

  5. Crixi Van Cheek says

    So, by the defenses reasoning it is not a hate crime because they simply percieved the victim as an easy target for robbery. By that reasoning it could be argued that the accused must have established a habit or tendency for attacking ‘easier’ targets, such as women, disabled and elderly who might be percieved as physically weaker than they. In the absence of any evidence to support the attackers claim of choosing the victim by level of weakness, they must be able to establish that they either investigated other victims and choose their gay victim soley on the basis of percieved ease of attack. By those standards alone, the defendants may have to show that they gave consideration to specific other targets and then settled on this particular victim as the weakest. I doubt they could do that. It will be interesting to see how far the Prosecutor will push their reasoning.

  6. nycredneck says

    Derrick –

    This is the problem with the label “hate.” the old word “bias” made it much clearer media wise, but didn’t change the legal definition. If the victimization of the person is motivated in part or in full because of their known or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc., then there is a bias against that person based on that perception.

    Crimes motivated by a sexual orientation bias have at their heart the belief that those people are easy targets because they won’t go to police (fear of secondary victimization), won’t fight back (wussy girlie men), and might even garner the offender praise for beating up a “dirty” homosexual. If that isn’t the definition of bias/hate, I don’t know what is. Hate crimes are not just incidents undertaken by organized hate groups to send messages to entire groups of minorities.

  7. yoshi says

    While it is most likely a hate crime – lets be clear here: gaving hate crime laws on the books did -nothing- to prevent this awful act. The courts arguing over this is a complete waste of time and dollars.

  8. Hater Hater says

    “… seems that if a gay website was utilized for their crimes, then indeed the crimes are hate motivated”

    Your reading comprehension and/or critical thinking skills need work. The argument being advanced here (correctly or not) is that the criminals choose a gay male victim because he could be lured from the internet. Willie Sutton famously quipped that he robbed banks, “because that’s where the money is.” Women aren’t hanging out on the web looking to hook up in parking lots with strange men. Straight men would flee upon seeing a guy and not a woman at a parking lot meeting. No hate is required for these thugs to be targeting gays.

  9. Derrick from Philly says

    NYCREDNECK: Thanks for the explanation. It helps me to understand the issue of defining what is a hate/bias crime.

    There are those of us who’ve been victims of gay bashing where our status as “gay” was obviously the attacker’s reason for committing violence against us. Then we’ve also had the experience of being robbed while being called “faggot” by criminals who deliberately seem to choose gay people to rob , or chose to victimize in a location where gay people hang out. The first crime is obviously a hate/bias crime (perpetrated against me because of what I am). The second is definitely a crime against me, and the perpetrator sought out people like me; but I’m not sure that his hatred towards people like me was his primary motivation. Is a violent robbery combined with verbal gay bashing (or black bashing, or white bashing, or Asian bashing)automatically also a hate/bias crime?

  10. woodroad34 says

    Sorry, but women do hang out on the internet and just because Sandy was willing to meet someone in a parking garage doesn’t mean that the guys involved wouldn’t have suggested a place a woman would have been comfortable to meet at. Targeting gays for crimes is hate-based pure and simple.

  11. Hater Hater says

    “Sorry, but women do hang out on the internet”

    Don’t be so obtuse. Women are far less willing than gay men are to arrange to meet strange men in parking lots for sex. And the point of arranging the meeting in a parking lot alongside a parkway (rather than in a coffee shop or an apartment) is to be able to carry the assault out with little chance of bystanders and to make a quick, anonymous get-away.

    Do you know nothing about how women (or thugs) think??

  12. Bob Zuley says

    The Sandy case proves the absurdity of Hate Crime laws. Victims of interpersonal criminal violence should be prosecuted by the standing criminal statutes (in this case, 1st Degree Murder), and not some emotionally-based public reaction by elected officials who wish to be seen doing something. Sandy (and others) was chosen by criminal predators because he was available, vulnerable, and an easy victim unlikely to effectively resist or perhaps even report a strong-arm robbery to the police. To establish a protected class of victim with enhanced penalties for predators is unwise, un-American, and probably unconstitutional.

  13. woodroad34 says

    Hater Hater

    What a big word for a three-year-old. The art of discussion seems to elude you. Just because women may be less likely to meet some guy they met on the internet, doesn’t mean they don’t. And there are guys out there who are capable of picking up clues a naive woman can give off. You’re lack of sophistication and information makes you obtuse. Go see a shrink about your obvious sociopathology.

  14. Hater Hater says

    “Just because women may be less likely to meet some guy they met on the internet, doesn’t mean they don’t.”

    So you agree that it would be easier to lure in a gay man than a woman. That is my point. Criminals are lazy but not stupid. They want to play the best odds. They will go after gay guys on the internet because there is a huge pool of them who are willing to meet up under shady circumstances. They could lure 20 gay guys in for every woman. So there is no reason to assume that the criminals hate gays. They are just looking for an easy target. That is the context of this discussion. It is not necessarily a “hate crime” just because gays were specifically targeted. Sorry if this is too nuanced a distinction for you to grasp.

  15. david says

    All crime is hate crime. Every criminal act shows some form of contempt on some level. Even “victimless” crimes. Clearly, when a victim is involved, such as in this case, there is no regard for his/her rights. Murder is, in an of itself, a hateful act. The whole idea of trying to assign some form of superlative to the act is absurd. Does it really matter that the victim was gay? If the victim were straight would that make it any less tragic? Would it make it more acceptable to take a life?
    “Hate crime” legislation, while well intended, only serves to divert focus from combatting crime and administering justice. It ends up turning the judicial and prosecutorial process into protracted debates about the defendant’s impetus and intent, based on some pigeon-holed view of who the victim is/was. Why does it matter that the victim was gay? or black, or Jewish, or straight, or white… NO ONE deserves to be murdered.
    Categorization of the victim DOES NOT HELP. In fact, what if the victim does not belong to a pre-described group? Does that somehow lessen the crime? Does the law have to be ammended then to include all categories of victims? Why can’t murder just be murder?
    Why can’t the trial be about the crime and not about who the victim was, but instead about the fact that a life has been taken and that justice must be served?

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