Michael Sandy Hub

Anthony Fortunato Convicted of Hate Crime in Michael Sandy Death

Anthony Fortunato, whose attorney tried to convince a Brooklyn jury that his client could not be guilty of a hate crime in the death of Michael Sandy because he too was gay, has been convicted of manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime as well as petty larceny.

Sandy_fortunatoThe jury deliberated for four days.

Fortunato, Fox, and two others lured Michael Sandy via an internet chat room to a beach near Brooklyn's Belt Parkway, where a botched robbery led to the victim being forced into traffic where he was hit by a car. Sandy fell into a coma and later died of his injuries. Fox was convicted of manslaughter and attempted robbery as a hate crime last Friday.

According to Gay City News, the deliberating was contentious in Fortunato's case, with many objecting to the hate crime charges. Said one juror: "By the letter of the law Fortunato was guilty, but no one felt he had any hatred or animosity toward homosexuals. It was incredibly hard and I know that the other jurors felt a lot of sympathy for Anthony Fortunato. No one thought he was a bad kid."

Another juror, with whom the judge had reported many of the other jurors were having conflicts, reiterated those thoughts: "They pounded down my throat that he was reckless, that he was negligent. Nobody believed that hate crimes should have been on the table."

Fox is scheduled to be sentenced on October 24. Fortunato is to be sentenced four days earlier, on the 20th.

A memorial and vigil are scheduled for Sandy on the anniversary of his death. Details are here.

Guilty Verdict Reached In Brooklyn Hate Crime Killing [ny1]
Man guilty of hate crime in death of gay victim at Brooklyn beach [newsday]
Jury Convicts Second Sandy Defendant of Manslaughter, This Time Reluctantly [gay city news]

Defendant in Michael Sandy Murder Convicted

John Fox, one of four defendants accused in the October 2006 death of Michael Sandy, was convicted of manslaughter and attempted robbery as a hate crime on Friday. He was acquitted of the charge of murder. Sentencing is set for October 24.

FoxFox 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 the victim being forced into traffic where he was hit by a car. Sandy fell into a coma and later died of his injuries.

Fox's father John, who was a high-ranking battalion chief in the New York Fire Department honored as a hero for saving a fellow rescue worker in the dangerous smoking pit at the bombed World Trade Center parking garage in 1993, spoke to the press after the conviction.

Said the elder Fox: "He didn’t murder anybody. If I could arrange for their son to be alive and me to be dead, I’d do so."

Fox Sr. had reportedly expressed the sentiment to Sandy's parents in the courtroom earlier, in addition to making a special request: "'I'm very, very sorry,' he said, resting a hand on Denise Sandy's shoulder and adding that he would trade his life for her son's. 'My son is not a bad kid. I would appreciate it if you could ask the judge for mercy for my son.'"

MichaelsandyThe jury foreman talked to media outside the courtroom as well, the NYT reports: "Outside the courthouse yesterday, the jury foreman, Jason Linetsky, 29, said the hate crime charges were the source of some debate. 'We needed clarification of: how much do we bring of our own personal feelings?' Mr. Linetsky said. On a more basic level, the jury’s verdict included apparent contradictions, endorsing the elements of causing a death in the course of a robbery but rejecting the felony murder charges. Asked about that, Mr. Linetsky posed his own question: 'Were we about to send somebody to life when he wasn’t the direct cause of it?' Without the element of a hate crime, manslaughter is a Class C nonviolent felony carrying a minimum penalty of 1 to 3 years and a maximum of 5 to 15. As a hate crime, the charge is a Class B violent felony carrying a sentence of 5 to 15 years, according to the district attorney’s office."

The paper adds: "The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, made no comment on the jury’s application of the hate crime law, but Christine C. Quinn, the first openly lesbian City Council speaker, said, 'Today a Brooklyn jury sent a powerful message that hate crimes of any stripe have no place here in New York City.'"

A second jury is considering the case of Anthony Fortunato. They are still deliberating.

Conviction in Death of Gay Man in Traffic [nyt]
Cohort faces 25 years in case of gay man hit by car in Brooklyn [nydn]
Brooklyn Man Convicted of Gay Attack [ap]

Defendant's Confession Challenged in Michael Sandy Trial

While the main focus of the Michael Sandy case has been on Anthony Fortunato for the past week, attention has now turned to defendant John Fox, and prosecutors believe that Fox could be convicted of murder as a hate crime based on his videotaped confession alone.

FoxFox's lawyer John Patten is trying to make the argument that Fox's confession was coerced: "They were putting the heat on this kid. This young man has been broken .... There was nothing voluntary about that statement."

Jurors are expected to get the case this morning, according to the New York Daily News, and could throw out the confession if they believe Patten's argument to be valid.

Fox's father, incidentally, was a high-ranking battalion chief in the New York Fire Department who was honored as a hero for saving a fellow rescue worker in the dangerous smoking pit at the bombed World Trade Center parking garage in 1993.

Closing arguments in Fortunato's case are expected this afternoon.

Prosecutor Cross-Examines in Michael Sandy Trial

Anthony Fortunato, whose lawyer has been trying to build a case casting doubt on hate crime charges in the Michael Sandy trial by asserting that his client is gay, has chosen to testify in his own defense.

Sandy_fortunatoThe assistant district attorney Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi had her turn with him yesterday. The New York Times was clearly impressed with her performance:

"Working from a typed outline organized by category, she asked yes-or-no questions and cut off elaboration. Over and over, she confronted Mr. Fortunato with his own words, taken from direct testimony and online messages, asking, 'That was another lie, yes or no?' Mr. Fortunato watched her ask each question, then turned to the jury. As Ms. Nicolazzi led him through a binary narrative of the attack, he began to contest small details, to change the subject and to resort to sarcasm. Asked if he had thought someone on a gay Web site would be easy to manipulate, he said, 'It was consensual.' Asked if he had planned to meet the gay man for sex, he said, 'It was a possibility.' Asked if the beach had been dark, he said, 'Fairly dark.' Asked if the beach consisted of sand alongside the ocean, he said, 'As most.' At midafternoon, the judge sent the jury out, then warned spectators against giving Mr. Fortunato hand signals or whispered cues. 'I understand tensions are running high,' said the judge, Jill Konviser-Levine. 'That’s understandable.' When the jury returned, Ms. Nicolazzi stood. She was pacing now, three steps left and three back right, raising her voice a notch to confront Mr. Fortunato with his statements to the police. 'So what you chose to tell them was a lie, or leaving things out,' Ms. Nicolazzi said. 'Yes or no?' Mr. Fortunato considered that for a moment, then said: 'Leaving things out.'"

Defendant in Hate Case Is Examined by Prosecutor [nyt]

In related news, there is a memorial service and vigil planned for Michael Sandy on the one-year anniversary of his death. Details after the jump....

Continue reading "Prosecutor Cross-Examines in Michael Sandy Trial" »

Defendant's Kinky Gay Liaisons Revealed at Michael Sandy Trial

Anthony Fortunato, on trial in the Michael Sandy case, had his covert sex life put on display before the courtroom as the defense called three witnesses intended to solidify its argument that Fortunato is gay and therefore could not have committed a hate crime.

FortunatoTwo of the three witnesses testified that not only did they meet Fortunato on the internet for sex dates, but that Fortunato showed up at their door wearing women's lingerie.

One witness, Henry Rudolph, testified: "To my shock he was wearing ladies' undergarments, he had a bra, if I remember correctly, and a G-string."

Another witness "said Fortunato showed up on his doorstep last year wearing panties and a bra" according to the New York Daily News.

Fortunato himself took the stand as well.

The New York Times reports: "When Mr. Di Chiara asked him his sexual orientation, he responded, 'I don’t know.” Asked what he meant, he said: “I could be homosexual. A homosexual. Bisexual.'...Mr. Fortunato testified that since age 13, he had hidden homosexual impulses and eventually encounters from his friends. Luring Mr. Sandy, he said, was intended to gauge their opinions of homosexuality. 'I might someday be able to reveal to a heterosexual group of friends that I was gay,' Mr. Fortunato said, adding, 'I was living two complete double lives.' To his friends that night, he said, he explained his knowledge of gay Web sites by saying he had used them to meet gay men and steal from them. But what, his lawyer asked, did he plan to do when Mr. Sandy arrived that night? 'To get high,' Mr. Fortunato said. He paused, then added: 'With him.'"

MichaelsandyAccording to Gay City News, "He first started feeling attracted to men when he was 13 and masturbated with a male friend. At 15 or 16 he began exploring gay chatrooms and having cyber sex and phone sex with men. He was looking for 'somebody that would be discreet that wouldn't share any of the friends that I had.'"

It has been nearly a year since Fortunato, John Fox, Ilya Shurov, and Gary Timmins 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 courtroom also heard the 911 calls made the night of Sandy's death: "'I'm on the Belt Parkway on Long Island,' said one caller, Susan Vaillant, who testified for the prosecution. 'There's boys fighting on the highway. This kid just got hit by a car and they're leaving him there.' Another caller, who was not identified, said she saw two white kids attacking a black kid on the parkway. 'One of the kids pushed him into the left lane,' she said. 'The white kid pushed the black kid down towards the left lane.'"

Sandy's parents reportedly wept silently as the calls were played.

Murder Defendant Speaks of His Hidden Double Life [nyt]
'I was leading double lives,' says Brooklyn slay suspect [ny daily news]
A Sandy Defendant Testifies, Says He's Had Gay Sex [gay city news]

For all our Michael Sandy coverage, click here.

"Gay" Defense in Michael Sandy Trial Hit by 'Girlfriend' Details

Defense lawyer Gerald di Chiara's attempt to cast doubt on hate crime charges in the Michael Sandy trial by asserting that his client, Anthony Fortunato, is gay, "took a hit" yesterday, according to Gay City News, as one witness spoke to the court about Fortunato's girlfriend:

Fortunato"Testifying for the prosecution, 17-year-old Richard Folio said that on October 9, one day after Sandy was struck and killed by a car during an alleged robbery attempt, he, Fortunato, and another defendant in the case, John Fox, went to a restaurant near Fortunato's home where they met 'Nato's girlfriend,' whom Folio identified as Donna."

Evidence of gay porn images on Fortunato's computer was also presented. Defense lawyer Di Chiara attempted to use them as further evidence of his client's sexuality.

However, di Chiara's assertions were dampened by some questioning by Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, the prosecutor in the case, who noted that the photographs could have been used solely for the purpose of luring gay men (such as Sandy) with the intent to rob them, since explicit photos of women were present on the computer as well:

"'Were there pictures of naked women on the computer?' Nicolazzi asked. 'From what I recall there were a couple of images and numerous videos of men and women,' [detective Christopher] Wachholtz said. Nicolazzi has asserted that Fortunato used gay chatrooms to invite gay men to supposed sexual encounters at a local motel where he then stole their belongings when they used the bathroom. That activity could explain the e-mails with attached explicit photos of men."

Folio, the witness, testified that he and the accused had committed crimes together, and told the courtroom about conversations the killers had regarding the attack, soon after it had occurred, in which they used anti-gay slurs and joked about being called "thugs" in media reports about the incident.

'Gay' Defendant in Sandy Murder Trial Has a Girlfriend [gay city news]
Brooklyn: Defendant Cites Gay Pornography [nyt]

Fourth Suspect Fingers Friends in Michael Sandy Trial [tr]
Jurors Hear of Instant Messages in Michael Sandy Trial [tr]
Defense: Screen Names, Sexuality, Suicide at Michael Sandy Trial [tr]
Michael Sandy Trial Shocker: Killer Says He Too is Gay [tr]


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