Even worse than the “gay panic” defense

The murder of Michael Sandy in Brooklyn last year was heinous. A group of thugs arranged on the Internet to meet him for sex, then attacked Sandy, who fled into traffic on the Belt Parkway and was hit by a car. Four were involved, with the youngest assailant, who was only 17; he has since flipped on the rest of his friends.

Now one of the defendants, Michael Fortunato, is on trial for the murder and is claiming that he's gay, and that the rendezvous with Sandy was a ploy designed by Fortunato to out himself to his friends. This is sick BS. (NYT):

All along, homosexuality has defined the case. Prosecutors have used it as a sword, seeking heavier sentences for a hate crime.

As the trial began in Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday, Mr. Fortunato’s lawyer, Gerald J. Di Chiara, sought to use sexual orientation as a shield. Without much explanation of how he planned to introduce this fact or turn it to his advantage, Mr. Di Chiara offered it to the jury in his opening argument. Not only was Mr. Fortunato gay, Mr. Di Chiara said, but so was the main prosecution witness, Gary Timmins, 17, who has pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in exchange for his testimony.

In fact, Mr. Di Chiara continued, Mr. Fortunato had planned to tell his friends of his sexual orientation on the night in question. Luring a gay man out to a secluded lot in Sheepshead Bay was part of that plan, Mr. Di Chiara said.

…Mr. Fortunato, he said, might have planned to smoke marijuana with Mr. Sandy as a means of testing his friends’ sentiments about homosexuality. Or, he said, perhaps Mr. Fortunato had wanted to swindle a gay man, to see how his friends reacted to a gay person. Or, he said, perhaps Mr. Fortunato had simply wanted to rob somebody.

According to the New York Daily News, investigators recovered a cache of homoerotic images and messages from Fortunato's computer.

If anyone had any doubt that the closet can kill, here we see the answer that blows doubt away. This young man thought that he could prove his machismo to his friends by fag-bashing and robbery. Nothing could be worse than being gay.

The prosecutor, Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, said the plot was hatched by Fortunato, who told his friends, "You could always get a gay guy to meet you," and trolled a chat room called "Brooklyn Man 4 Man" for a victim. Fortunato boasted he had ripped off a gay man he had lured to a motel in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, she said.

Only when faced with additional jail time because of the status Sandy’s murder as a hate crime was Fortunato ready to come out of the closet. I seriously doubt that he would have told his friends that he was gay if they had been successful in simply robbing or beating up Sandy that night. The self-loathing obviously ran deep. In the end, this defense cannot possibly succeed in deflecting the fact that it’s a hate crime. As a reader aptly pointed out, the basis for the assignment of a charge of a hate crime is the intent of the accused, not the identity/orientation of the accused.

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