Michael Sandy Hub

NYC Hate Crime Victim Michael Sandy to Get Memorial

Those of you who have been reading this site for a while will remember 2007 NYC hate crime victim Michael Sandy, who was targeted online, and then after a botched robbery near a beach off the Belt Parkway, was killed after being chased into oncoming traffic.

Sandy  Community Board 15 voted unanimously on Tuesday to erect a memorial in his honor, proposed by his parents and the Michael Sandy Foundation:

"Since its establishment shortly after Sandy’s death, the Michael Sandy Foundation serves to identify and support tolerance education, raise awareness of hate crimes, and provide emotional and other assistance to victims and their families. They hope an engraved stone will give potential perpetrators of hate crimes reason to ponder the consequences of their actions...The group ramped up its efforts, spurred on by Sandy’s parents, about six months ago. Both the community board and Councilman Lew Fidler told the group they’d need to raise the funds themselves, as such memorials can be difficult to accomplish on taxpayer dollars. Months later, the foundation returned with $5,000 and plans for the memorial."

They hope to have the unveiling on October 8, near the anniversary of Sandy's death.

Sentences Come Down for Michael Sandy's Killers


Three defendants, Anthony Fortunato, John Fox, and Ilya Shurov, were sentenced yesterday for their convictions in the hate crime death of Brooklyn interior designer Michael Sandy, whom they lured to a parking lot near the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn and after a botched robbery attempt, chased him into traffic where he was killed.

FortunatoNewsday reports: "Anthony Fortunato, 21, who had told jurors they shouldn't convict him of a hate crime because he's gay, too, was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and attempted petit larceny. John Fox, 20, was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and attempted robbery as a hate crime. Ilya Shurov, 21, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and attempted robbery as a hate crime."

According to Gay City News, however, the prison terms could be much shorter: "Fortunato received seven-to-21 years for manslaughter as a hate crime. His first parole hearing will come after he serves six years...According to the state corrections department, Fox's first parole hearing will come after he serves 11 years. If he is not paroled, he will get a conditional release at 14 years if he participates in programs mandated for him and does not violate prison rules...[Shurov] avoided a felony murder conviction and will get a conditional release after serving 15 years if he follows prison rules."

Sandy's parents were present at the sentencing, the paper reports:

"Sandy's parents spoke at the hearing with Denise saying she had forgiven the three, but that she missed her son. 'I am so unhappy now without my son,' she said. 'Holidays are empty for me.' Ezekiel noted that while the three would go to prison, they would some day be released. He would never again see his son. 'Yes, they will go to an institution, but they will have birthdays, they will have holidays, they will have their families,' he said. 'What do I have? I have a dead house. I have a cemetery.'"

As Little as Six Years for Sandy Ringleader [gay city news]

Letters of Support Come in for Michael Sandy's Killer

The judge in the Michael Sandy hate crime murder trial has received a letter from the jury's foreman, playwright Eric Zaccar, renouncing his decision to convict Anthony Fortunato: "I never, at any time, believed, stated or wanted to vote that Anthony Fortunato was guilty of manslaughter two, much less a hate crime."

Sandy_fortunatoNine other letters have been received urging leniency, according to Gay City News: "Other letters seeking leniency came from Di Chiara, Fortunato's mother and other relatives, a professor and the dean of students at St. Francis College, where Fortunato was once a student, from the head of a Brooklyn recreational facility, and from State Senator John L. Sampson who wrote that he had known the Fortunato family for many years. 'I know the difference between a criminal and someone who gets wrapped up in a bad situation," Sampson wrote in a letter on his official stationary. 'In my opinion, and I hope your honor will agree, Anthony Fortunato falls into the ladder (sic) category.'"

Fortunato is due for sentencing on November 20th. According to Gay City News, Fortunato "faces a maximum sentence of eight-and-a-third to 25 years and would get his first parole hearing after serving just over seven years if he receives that sentence."

Final Defendant Pleads Guilty in Michael Sandy Case

In a plea bargain, Ilya Shurov, the last man to be tried in the death of Brooklyn interior designer Michael Sandy, pleaded guilty yesterday to manslaughter and attempted robbery as a hate crime. Shurov, 21, will serve 17 1/2 years in prison.

SandyIn exchange for the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the charge "felony murder as a hate crime" which could have carried a life sentence. Shurov and three others lured Michael Sandy via an internet chat room to a beach near Brooklyn's Belt Parkway, where a botched robbery led to Sandy being forced into traffic where he was hit by a car. Sandy fell into a coma and later died of his injuries.

The New York Times reports: "Of the four defendants, only Mr. Shurov was accused of physical violence. In the first trial, witnesses said he had hidden behind a dune, run out, thrown punches, chased Mr. Sandy in front of a moving car on the Belt Parkway and then rifled his pockets."

Defense lawyer Hermann P. Walz told the paper: "He might have had a reasonable chance of beating the hate crime, but he had less of a chance of beating felony murder. He’s definitely culpable of the actual death. His actions, more than anybody else, caused this person to die."

Earlier this month, John Fox was convicted of manslaughter and attempted robbery as a hate crime, and a fourth accomplice, Gary Timmins, was sentenced to four years for attempted robbery as a hate crime and offered a plea deal to testify against the others.

Yesterday, New York magazine published a lengthy piece on the case and its attendant hate crime charges.

For all our Michael Sandy coverage, click here.

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.

At Plumb Beach, a Vigil for Michael Sandy

A vigil was held for slain Brooklyn interior designer Michael Sandy on Sunday at Plumb Beach, near the rest stop off the Belt Parkway where a year earlier Sandy was killed after a botched robbery and subsequent chase sent him running into traffic on the busy freeway.

SandySandy's parents apoke at the event, the New York Daily News reports: "'He was something special,' Sandy's father, Ezekiel Sandy, 65, told the crowd of friends, family and officials gathered on a peaceful patch of sand at Plumb Beach. 'There are many nights I don't sleep, many days I walk around, but you give me a lot of strength.' Michael Sandy's mother, Denise Sandy, 53, said she hopes her son's death is the last of its kind. 'Justice is being done and I'm thankful for that,' she said. 'We don't want this tragedy to happen to anybody else again.'

Just three days earlier, Anthony Fortunato, one of Sandy's attackers, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime and petty larceny for his role in Sandy's death. A week earlier, another attacker, John Fox, received a similar conviction. Sentencing is set for later this month.

The New York Times made a return to the scene as well. They report:

"A year after Mr. Sandy’s death, little seems to have changed at Plumb Beach. On Friday, just before 6 p.m., more than 20 cars were bunched in the eastern end of the lot. While Manhattan has its openly gay neighborhoods, in the rest of the city and its suburbs, gay men — some married and with children — may choose to be more circumspect. Cars with tinted windows provide relative safety and anonymity, while a parking lot far from home protects them from becoming the subject of neighborhood rumors. In most of the cars, a single man sat behind the wheel, usually smoking a cigarette. When a reporter approached a white sedan that had been parked for 35 minutes, the silver-haired driver said he had heard of Mr. Sandy’s death and the reputation of the rest stop. 'I’m not here for that,' he said."

PlumbbeachOne thing that should be pointed out is that Sandy, as far as I know, did not frequent Plumb beach. He was lured there by his attackers, according to reports. So for the piece to associate Sandy with the men hanging out in the Plumb beach parking lot seems misguided.

The piece has echoes of one the Times wrote two years ago that painted gay men as lonely, isolated social outcasts. Given the time that has passed and thanks to the Larry Craigs and the Bob Allens of the world, I hope it's now possible for people to see the phenomenon in a broader social context in which it's more about the shame of the closet than anything else.

Memorial held for Michael Sandy, victim of gay-bias slay [ny daily news]
A Man’s Death Shines a Light on a Shady Parking Lot [nyt]


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