One of two
suspects charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of
a gay man, which sparked fears the man was targeted
because of his sexual orientation, has pleaded guilty
to manslaughter. Adam Hernandez, 21, entered his plea
to manslaughter and felony theft in Montrose district
court in Colorado on Thursday, The Denver
Post reported. Hernandez and 24-year-old Jason Fiske
were charged in the death of Kevin Hale, who prior to
his slaying had already told police he had been
threatened because he was gay.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to
drop other charges, including first-degree murder, a
conviction that carries a mandatory life sentence. As
part of the plea, Hernandez will serve no more than eight
years in prison and could be sentenced to probation, the
"I just hope for the best," Hernandez said as he
left the courtroom with his family and Montrose
assistant public defender Harvey Palefsky.
Hernandez, Fiske, and Hale had been at a pub,
and Hernandez told investigators he wanted to beat up
Hale because Hale had made sexual advances toward him.
Hale's body was found in a Montrose park July 31.
Hale's cousin Stacy Scott spoke outside the
courtroom on behalf of half a dozen family members who
were there. "I hope he [Hernandez] gets what he
deserves," Scott said. "They both just need to be put behind
bars as far as I'm concerned. They still have their lives.
My cousin doesn't."
Hernandez will be sentenced May 24. Fiske is
scheduled to enter a plea on April 26.
"The D.A. definitely missed an opportunity here
to promote awareness around bias-motivated violence,"
said Veronica Garcia with the Colorado Anti-Violence
Program. "This leaves the door open to more crimes of
violence or homicide in the future in the community."
The day after the slaying, Fiske told police he
placed Hale in a choke hold while breaking up a fight
between Hale and Hernandez. The arrest affidavit said
that Fiske told police he thought Hale was unconscious
when they left him in the park.
An autopsy showed Hale died of strangulation. It
also showed that he was on epilepsy medication and had
methamphetamine in his system. (AP)