A judge in New York has ruled evidence of “hatred” is unnecessary for a prosecutor to pursue a “hate crimes” case against three men arrested for the death of a homosexual man.
The written ruling came from Judge Jill Konviser of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, and concluded prosecutors only need to show that the man, who was beaten and then hit by a vehicle in a robbery attempt, was picked because of his sexual orientation, according to a report in the New York Times.
The judge said that is enough for prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties for the defendants, if convicted, under the state’s Hate Crimes Act of 2000.
That type of law, which as WND has reported now is being proposed at the federal level, allows for higher penalties – sometimes dramatically higher – for the same crime based on the characteristics of a victim, in this case his homosexuality.
The newspaper report said the case involves the death of Michael Sandy, 29, who allegedly was lured to a meeting place where he was abducted. He then was taken to another location, beaten, and when he tried to flee was chased into traffic. He died of his injuries after being struck by a car.
Prosecutors said the three defendants, Anthony Fortunato, 21, Ilya Shurov, 21, and John Fox, 20, found Sandy through a homosexual online chat room. Court documents allege they picked him because “this was an easy way to rob someone.”
But when they were charged with murder as a hate crime, defense lawyers argued the law was unconstitutionally vague and didn’t fit their clients’ actions.
Defense lawyer Gerald Di Chiara said lawmakers who wrote the Hate Crimes Act wanted the statute applied only to cases where hate actually was involved. He quoted a state Senate memo about a law “designed to ensure that only those who truly are motivated by invidious hatred are prosecuted for committing hate crimes.”
But Seth Liebeman, senior appellate counsel to the Brooklyn district attorney, noted the suspects “chose to go to a gay Web site, and there was a particular remark made by one of the defendants that this was an easy way to rob people.”
Konviser rejected the defense arguments.
“This is a case where the defendants deliberately set out to commit a violent crime against a man whom they intentionally selected because of his sexual orientation,” she wrote. “Thus, the hate crimes charges in this case are consistent with the intent of the Legislature.”
The state’s minimum sentence for a murder conviction is 15 years to life, but that rises to 20 years to life under the enhanced hate crimes designation.
Court records allege the three selected a homosexual because they believed he would be unlikely to offer resistance. The men, in a deposition, said they didn’t beat up the victim because he is homosexual. But they did say that’s how they chose him as a victim.
That counts as a hate crime, Konviser ruled.
Sandy died when his family instructed that he be removed from life support systems when he was hospitalized with massive injuries he suffered when he tried to flee, and ran into a road where a car hit him.
While New York and several other states have their own “hate crimes” legislation providing enhanced penalties for cases where someone is victimized because of their race, religion – or in some cases, sexual orientation, a similar plan has been pending in Congress for much of this summer.
The federal plan essentially would provide an enhanced penalty for a range of crimes if someone perceives they are being targeted for being part of a recognized population segment, such as the homosexual community.
As such, Christians fear simply expressing their biblical belief that homosexuality is immoral could be classified a “hate crime.”
Supporters say it would address only crimes, but opponents fear the actual results would be similar to Canada’s, where a printer was fined several years ago for refusing a pro-homosexual printing contract that he said violated his traditional Christian beliefs.
Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, has labeled such a provision a “Thought Crimes” plan.
WND columnist Janet Folger wrote the idea of arresting people for stating their religious beliefs that homosexuality is wrong is no longer something that “may” happen in the future.
“Here’s the Cliff Notes of what so called ‘hate crime’ legislation has already done IN AMERICA,” she wrote. “This is no longer up for debate. Here are the facts.”
- Madison, Wis. David Ott, a former homosexual, was arrested for a “hate crime” for sharing his testimony with a homosexual at a gas station. He faced a $10,000 fine and one year behind bars. Seven thousand dollars in legal fees later, [he] was ordered to attend re-education classes at the University of Wisconsin conducted by a lesbian.
- St. Petersburg, Fla. Five Christians including two pastors were arrested at a homosexual rally for stepping onto the public sidewalk instead staying caged in their officially designated “free speech zone.”
- Elmira, N.Y. The Elmira police arrested seven Christians for praying in a public park where a homosexual festival was getting started.
- Crystal Lake, Ill. Two 16 year old girls are facing felony “hate crime” charges for the content of their flyers.
- Philadelphia, Pa. Arlene Elshinnawy, a 75-year-old grandmother of three, and Linda Beckman, a 70-year-old grandmother of 10 (along with nine others), were arrested for sharing their faith on the public sidewalk.
Folger said the testimony from the grandmothers can be seen and heard at the Stop Hate Crimes Now website.
“Just how many cases do we need to cite before America stands up and stops the bill that will criminalize Christianity?” she asked.
Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy for the Family Research Council, said even with the pending U.S. version and its “speech protections,” there are grave dangers.
“We’ve seen it in states, with the Philadelphia 11, where they used ethnic intimidation laws. Intimidation is a broad term, it does not require any act of violence and intimidation is included in the definition of hate crime,” he told WND.
The American Family Association earlier issued an “Action Alert” about the pending proposal.
And the Alliance Defense Fund, a leading advocate for freedom of speech in the U.S., analyzed the proposal and concluded “it is entirely constitutional for a person’s speech to be used to prove a crime was committed.”
“And one’s speech (including reading materials, websites visited, sermons heard and preached) is particularly relevant when a component of the crime itself is politically incorrect motive,” the analysis said. “The chilling of speech that may result from such a regime is self-evident, whether the First Amendment is implicated or not.”
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