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defendant: I'm gay too

defendant: I'm gay too

One of three men on trial in the killing of gay New Yorker Michael Sandy dropped a bomb in Monday's opening arguments: He too is gay, according to a defense lawyer hoping to save his client from the enhanced penalties of a hate crime.

Defendant Anthony Fortunato, far from plotting to kill Sandy after he and three friends lured him last fall to a Brooklyn beach, said he had planned to come out to his buddies after smoking pot and having sex with the 29-year-old Ikea designer, thus ending what lawyer Gerald Di Chiara called his "secret life through the Internet."

"This man has been tortured by a secret that he has carried for a long time," the Gay City News quoted Di Chiara as saying in Brooklyn supreme court.

Fortunato, 21; John Fox, 20; and alleged ringleader Ilya Shurov, 21, are accused of targeting Sandy in an online chat room, luring him to the beach October 8 to rob him, and then pursuing him onto the nearby Belt Parkway, where Sandy was struck by a car and seriously injured. He was taken off life support five days later.

All three men face charges of felony murder--that is, murder in the course of an attempted robbery--as a hate crime. A judge ruled in August that hate doesn't need to be verbalized against gays for the enhanced charge to be made.

Fox's lawyer, John Patten, argued Monday that the robbery angle was concocted after the fact by prosecutors. Rather, "the plan was to scam Mr. Sandy to get his money," the Gay City News quoted Patten as saying.

No force (a required element of robbery, and thus of the murder rap) was contemplated, Patten argued, going on to say that it was Shurov who spoiled it all by throwing a punch at Sandy, prompting his flight onto the parkway where he was struck.

Shurov is being tried separately. A fourth suspect, Gary Timmins, 17, cooperated with prosecutors as part of a plea agreement and was offered a four-year sentence, The New York Times reported. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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