SAVE Florida executive director Tony Lima, who celebrated four accused gay bashers at the group’s annual Equality gala last week, has been fired by the organization as video surfaced confirming Lima had told attendees the four were “wrongly accused.” Lima had said the four were wrongly accused not only of a hate crime, but the attack itself, despite it being caught on video,” according to South Florida Gay News.
Wrote the SAVE Board of Directors in a statement: “The SAVE Board of Directors has made the unanimous decision to terminate Tony Lima’s employment as executive director of the organization following the events that transpired around this year’s Champions of Equality Gala and thereafter. We deeply regret the damage this has caused the LGBTQ+ community in South Florida, particularly during a time when the country was reflecting on the riots at Stonewall, as well as the many other hardships and abuses that our community continues to endure. These actions have been incredibly upsetting to the community and most of all, hurtful to the victims of this terrible crime. We deeply apologize for the pain that has been reignited. The community can rest assured that this incident is not reflective of the mission of SAVE. As we move forward, we will work hard to regain the trust of our supporters, our allies, and the public at large.”
Terry Gonzalez-Chaveza, a spokesperson for the Office of the State Attorney, had disputed Lima’s claim: “We are aggressively pursuing the prosecution of the case. We believe we have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against them: Aggravated Battery with Prejudice/Weapon or Bodily Harm, Aggravated Battery, Assault with Prejudice/or on Religious Institution Grounds, and Assault. If that were not the case, the charges would have been dropped in the past.”
As we reported in June 2018, hate crime charges were added to aggravated battery charges following the assault, and mean the men would face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov, the couple, and Helmut Muller Estrada, a good samaritan who stepped in, were violently attacked by the four men. The victims said they were targeted because of their sexual orientation. They said their attackers used gay slurs while assaulting them.
The suspects, who attended the SAVE gala, are (clockwise, from top left) Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa, 21, Luis Alonso-Piovet, 20, Juan C. Lopez, 21, and Adonis Diaz, 21. The perps turned themselves in after being seen in video and surveillance photos widely shared on social media.
Lopez’s lawyer said there was “clearly” not gay animus because Lopez’s father is gay: “These kids grew up with their friend Juan – their father has been in a gay relationship the last 15 years. These kids have participated in that – that’s at issue.”