Inside the Hate Crime Killing of Michael Sandy


New York Magazine talks to Anthony Fortunato at Riker’s Island prison about the death of Michael Sandy, for which Fortunato was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime as well as petty larceny.

In the most detailed account of Sandy’s murder published to date, the magazine looks at Fortunato’s I’m-gay-so-it-couldn’t-have-been-a-hate-crime defense, and asks if the state’s hate crime laws are flawed:

Michael_sandy“Does the perpetrators’ gayness make their crimes any less horrible? Should it even be considered a mitigating factor? Since Michael Sandy was black, why weren’t Fortunato and his friends charged with hate crimes against blacks? The New York State hate-crimes law has been controversial since it was passed seven years ago. At issue is the question of motive versus deed. An original version of the bill in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly had required that both factors be considered—that to be convicted of a hate crime, the criminal must demonstrate ‘invidious hatred, prejudice, and bias’ and single out the victim based on his race, religion, sexual orientation, or the like. But the final version, a bill that came out of the Republican-controlled State Senate, made motive almost irrelevant. All that mattered was the selection itself…The trouble with that law, critics say, is that a hate crime doesn’t even have to involve hatred. ‘What if a black person decided to prey upon another black person out of a perception that black people are weak, more susceptible to crime?’ asks John Sampson, an African-American state senator from Brooklyn who helped pass the law but now believes the way it’s being applied has exposed its loopholes. Is that a hate crime? He doesn’t think so. ‘With examples like that,’ he says, ‘we’re moving away from the spirit of the law.'”

When Is a Hate Crime Not a Hate Crime? [new york magazine]

Anthony Fortunato Convicted of Hate Crime in Michael Sandy Death [tr]
Defendant in Michael Sandy Murder Convicted [tr]
Defendant’s Confession Challenged in Michael Sandy Trial [tr]
Prosecutor Cross-Examines in Michael Sandy Trial [tr]
For all our Michael Sandy coverage, click here.


  1. Derrick from Philly says

    It shouldn’t be so difficult to apply the “hate crime” factor in a violent offense. The motivating factor in the assault has to be the hatred for a certain group of people. A hatred for their race, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or GENDER–yes, most men who commit rape against women hate women (and men who rape gay men/boys hate gay males). I was never sure whether the “hate crime” statutes applied to the Sandy case. I still want the filthy motha’ fuckas to go to jail and pay for their crime, but I had my doubts as to whether their botched and brutal robbery was technically a hate crime.

    The attack on Kevin Aviance was definately a hate crime. Those bastards wanted to do violence against a gay person. Robbery didn’t even enter their depraved minds.

  2. Sisko says

    As usual Derrick you miss the larger issue of what it means to be a Black man in America (gay or straight). In fact, what difference does it make if it’s a “hate” crime. A black man was killed by a group of white boys. Why is it necessary to put a label on it in order for people to sympathize with what happened or to even admit a crime was committed. While we “debate” the label of what happen to Michael Sandy or what label to use for Anthony Fortunato (gay, straight, bi-sexual) what is lost is that a group of white men thought to take the life of another Black man with impunity. I could care less about any other label they used to identify themselves. They killed a black man. And in my book that’s the most heinous of crimes.

  3. nita says

    gay white boy kills gay black man because black man was black — hate crime. charge the bitch.

    was there ever a question about a hate crime being perpetrated against matthew shepard’s murderers because the boys who killed him were also white?

  4. nita says

    sisko, it makes a big difference. if somebody is killing and raping people that’s bad enough. when somebody is killing and raping a specific ethnic group or religious group or sexual orientation because the killer has a special hatred towards the group — that’s a hate crime.

    if fortunato and his crew killed sandy because he was black, that’s a hate crime. if the killed him and his race never entered the picture for them, not a hate crime.

  5. Sisko says

    Derrick your answered proved my point, at least about YOU. No doubt you thought your answer was “cute” and meant to be sarcastic. Unfortunately, humor although there is truth in it, doesn’t always get EXACTLY to the point. But, that’s a discussion for another time.

    Nita … You also proved my point. People murder because they hate (themselves or other people) all murder is a hate crime. Or don’t you see that?

  6. Derrick from Philly says

    Sisko, my answer was meant to be cute and most definitely true. Sarcastic? I’m not sure.

    I have no doubt that Michael Sandy’s murderers have no respect for black people or black people’s lives. That’s a given for any thinking person. The question is what was their motivation when they killed Mr Sandy. Was it a hatred for black people? Was it a hatred for gay people? Was it robbery? From what we’ve been told the thug who chased Mr Sandy into the highway was probably motivated by racial and anti-gay hatred. But if the words “nigger” or “faggot” or some racial/anti-gay comments are never uttered by the killers, then how do you prove it is murder and also a “hate crime” as defined by New York law.

    As far as my “black faggot” status. Yes, it defines who and what I am. The faggot part is just as important to me as the black part. You and I don’t share that, and that’s all right. All black homos don’t like each other.

    We don’t owe each a damn thing, Sisko.

  7. SISKO says

    This will be my last response to anything YOU on this matter. If you noticed, no one else has responded, because my point was made. You’re babbling or not reading what I wrote. What matters motivation when the crime is “murder”. As if we knew WHY there murdered would be less tragic.

    Now, to the more personal issue. Derrick you don’t know what we share. All you know is that you are a BLACK FAGGOT and you want that to mean something to YOU and mainstream acceptance. I’ve read your posts for months now, and while you have flashes of brillance and definite insight into african american history (and American history as well) you are incredible myopic and continue to fester a self-fulfilling prohpesy about your OWN personal experiences as a member of the black “homo” community. When your real issue is one of “gender” … again, if you want we can talk about this.

    Finally, who said anything about “owing” anyone anything. And I might be wrong about this, but perhaps you need to stop telling people that YOU don’t owe anyone anything and start looking at “responsibility”.


  8. Derrick from Philly says

    Myopia is a harmless condition, Sisko… so is narcissism. I can live with them.

    Still, the issue of how to prove a hate crime continues to puzzle me.

  9. Derrick from Philly says

    Sisko, you know what’s funny: I shouldn’t have been offended by your initial comment.

    You go to the keyboard too often, you’re bound to get “read”, and if you can’t take it–stay off the blogs. I keep telling myself that.

    But “…mainstream acceptance.” Oh, no–not now, man.

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