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Trial Begins in Brutal Anti-Gay Killing of Jose Sucuzhañay


The trial has begun in the December 2008 killing of Jose Sucuzhañay in Brooklyn

Sucuzhanay  You may recall that Sucuzhañay and his brother Romel, two Ecuadoran immigrants, were walking home arm-in-arm after a night of drinking in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn and were attacked because they were perceived to be gay, although anti-Hispanic slurs were also used during the assault. Sucuzhañay was beaten with a bottle and an aluminum baseball bat. He died days later.

NY1 reports: "Keith Phoenix, 30 (above left), and Hakim Scott, 26 (above right), face possible life sentences in connection with the death of Sucuzhañay, 31, who was killed in Bushwick in December of 2008. The trial is featuring two juries, one for each defendant. Both men are charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter as hate crimes. They are also charged with assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon."

Testifying yesterday were the first officer to respond to the scene and a cab driver who witnessed the beating, Gay City News reports:

“'I didn’t want to see the head explode when it was hit,' said Davi Almonte, who testified through an interpreter on April 20. 'I could hear the impact.' ... Almonte testified that he saw the brothers pause near a red SUV. José lifted his leg and 'he tried to touch the SUV,' Almonte said. He then saw a man exit the SUV and strike José with a bottle. 'The one that came out hit him with a bottle on the head,' Almonte said, adding that the man who was hit 'went down to the floor.' He then saw another man strike José 'around seven, eight times' with a bat. 'Did you see either brother fighting back at that time?' asked Josh Hanshaft, an assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case along with Patricia M. McNeill, also an assistant district attorney. 'No,' Almonte said."

The trial is ongoing...

Street Named for NYC Hate Crime Murder Victim José Sucuzhañay


You may remember the December 2008 murder of José Sucuzhañay on the streets of Brooklyn, by two men who yelled anti-Hispanic and anti-gay epithets as Sucuzhañay walked home from a night out drinking with his brother. Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott were charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault, all as hate crimes, for the attack.

On Saturday, the corner where the attack took place, at Kossuth Place and Bushwick Avenue, was given another name, José Sucuzhañay Place.

Watch the unveiling, and remarks from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn,

Continue reading "Street Named for NYC Hate Crime Murder Victim José Sucuzhañay " »

Attackers in Brooklyn Hate Crime Face 78 Years to Life


Two men accused of beating Romel Sucuzhañay (above, with brother Diego) and killing his brother Jose in December while yelling anti-Hispanic and anti-gay epithets were indicted yesterday, the NYT reports:

"The two suspects, Keith Phoenix, 28, and Hakim Scott, 25, are charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault, all as hate crimes, for the Dec. 7 attack on the immigrant, Jose O. Sucuzhañay, and his brother Romel, who survived. At a news conference in Brooklyn announcing the charges, the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, said that if the men are convicted, his office would push for the sentences to run consecutively. 'The acts which we charge this morning,' he said, 'are no less despicable because the victims Jose and Romel Sucuzhañay were not gay.' Mr. Hynes also issued the latest denial by a city law enforcement official of Mr. Phoenix’s claim that he acted in self-defense because he thought Mr. Sucuzhañay was reaching for a weapon in his waistband."

WNYC has audio excerpts of statements from Hynes and José Arrufat, an attorney for the Sucuzhanay family. (photo above via WNYC)

2 Indicted in Fatal Beating of Ecuadorean Immigrant [nyt]

Killer in Brooklyn Attack Says He's Not Anti-Gay, Acted in Self-Defense

Keith Phoenix, the 28-year-old man who was arrested last week in the brutal killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay in December, says he was pissed because Sucuzhanay and his brother walked in front of his SUV and kicked it after Phoenix blew the horn at them, according to the New York Daily News. He claims he was acting in self-defense because he thought Sucuzhanay had a gun:

Phoenix33 "So he grabbed a bat from the SUV and struck Jose four times, he said, and hit him twice more when he thought he was reaching for the gun again. Phoenix, a paroled robber, swore he had no idea he killed a man until cops told him. 'Dead? Dead? If I knew he was dead I would have been going crazy,' he said. 'I have remorse for the death.' He denied police accounts that he callously blurted, 'So I killed someone - that makes me a bad guy?' when nabbed. Police and the Sucuzhanay family scoffed at the account. What he said is 'insulting to the victims,' railed family lawyer Jose Arrufat Gracia.' His statements are contrary to the facts. Neither brother had a weapon,' Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said. Cops say he got out of his SUV spewing anti-gay and anti-Hispanic epithets. Phoenix, whose lawyer also claimed his client was acting in self-defense, said he was stung by allegations he targeted the brothers because he thought they were gay. 'I'm not a hateful person,' he said. 'I have nothing against gay people.' He also said he is part Hispanic. Asked about surveillance video that shows him laughing 20 minutes after the attack, he said he was bantering with a toll clerk"

Phoenix's lawyer told the court: "The deceased was the aggressor." He later told reporters: "To me, it is not a gay bashing or gay hate crime."

The NYPD and mayor's press conference from late last week, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Killer in Brooklyn Attack Says He's Not Anti-Gay, Acted in Self-Defense" »

NYPD Makes Arrest in Hate Crime Killing of Ecuadorean Man


Police say they have made an arrest in the murder of Jose Sucuzhañay, the Ecuadorean immigrant whose life was taken in a brutal anti-gay, anti-Hispanic attack in Brooklyn in early December:

 WCBS reports:

"The NYPD had been searching for three suspects in the attack, which drew outrage from the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other political leaders. The NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force was investigating what prosecutors called an appalling eruption of bigotry.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Wednesday night that police had arrested Hakeem Scott, 25, of the Bronx and were looking for a second suspect."

Phoenix There is a $22,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the second suspect, Keith Phoenix, who police say was behind the wheel of the van.

The NYT reports: "Mr. Scott was led from the 90th Precinct station house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to be booked about 9:30 on Wednesday night He kept his head down and his eyes closed and ignored questions from reporters. The night of the killing, several people reported the attack by calling 911, and as the attackers fled, a taxi driver wrote the license plate number of their vehicle on a napkin. It belonged to a woman who was later determined to be Mr. Phoenix’s companion, the police said. But detectives were unable to link Mr. Phoenix to the vehicle until they found that he had been involved in a crash with the vehicle on Oct. 20. Investigators then obtained background information on Mr. Phoenix, who fit the description given by witnesses, and learned that he had a criminal record. Detectives mapped “the most likely route of flight from the crime scene to the Bronx,” [Police commissioner Raymond] Kelly said, and surmised that Mr. Phoenix and Mr. Scott fled over the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Surveillance cameras from the bridge, formerly the Triborough, had video records of Mr. Phoenix driving the vehicle through a cash-only lane at 3:47 a.m., 19 minutes after the attack, officials said. The police then learned of Mr. Phoenix’s association with Mr. Scott. In fact, he had used Mr. Scott’s name as an alias in the past, they said. Investigators located Mr. Scott on Tuesday on East 161st Street in the Bronx near his home at 3204 Park Avenue...[Brookyln DA Charles] Hynes said a grand jury had been convened in the case and would decide the charges. 'The sad part of this case for me is that these two brothers were apparently caressing each other because they were cold on the way home and the cretins that were charged with the attack mistook them for gay people,' Mr. Hynes said."

Vigil Held In Brooklyn for Ecuadoran Hate Crime Victim [tr]
Brooklyn Man Dies as Result of Anti-Gay, Anti-Hispanic Assault [tr]

(top right image, NYT)

News: Rick Warren, Hung, Ecuador, PETA, Mickey Rourke, Tangier

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road.jpg Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa vows to fight homophobia in wake of NYC anti-gay murder: We will fight together ... to forever uproot these aberrations of certain maladjusted [individuals], uproot them from the face of the earth, from humanity: Xenophobia, homophobia and all kinds of discrimination, all kinds of violence."

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road.jpg The resurrection of Tangier: "In the heady years after World War II, when Tangier was still in diplomatic limbo as an International Zone, its craggy shores became a gay-friendly haven for spies, globe-trotting businessmen, beatniks in exile and eccentric foreigners. This is where William S. Burroughs wrote the bulk of 'Naked Lunch,' which marks its 50th anniversary next year, and where Paul Bowles completed his haunting and existential cult classic, 'The Sheltering Sky.' As recently as the last decade, Tangier was still considered a down-on-its-luck town riddled with drugs and hustlers. But while sleazy dives, decayed buildings and dark alleys can still be found, a stylish new Tangier has emerged, fueled by royal investments and a thriving arts community."


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