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Gay Defense Fails
in New York Hate-Crime Trial

Gay Defense Fails
in New York Hate-Crime Trial

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A man who tried to fend off gay-bashing charges by telling a jury that he is also gay was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime Thursday in an attack at a remote New York City beach.

A man who tried to fend off gay-bashing charges by telling a jury that he is also gay was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime Thursday in an attack at a remote New York City beach. Jurors deliberated several days before convicting Anthony Fortunato in the death of Michael Sandy, who was beaten and then chased into the path of a moving car on October 8, 2006.

The jury acquitted Fortunato of murder, which could have put him behind bars for life. He faces five to 25 years in prison instead.

Prosecutors said Fortunato and three other young men hatched a hate-inspired robbery scheme after they ran out of drugs and money on a weekend night. The group needed an easy victim, and Fortunato suggested they look for one in an Internet chat room frequented by gay men looking for sex partners, authorities alleged.

They logged on and found Sandy, lured him out to Brooklyn's Plum Beach with a promise of a date, and attacked him, prosecutors told jurors.

Fortunato testified that he had a role in the crime but said hate had nothing to do with it. The 21-year-old said he was also gay, or at least bisexual. Jurors also heard testimony from three men who told of one-night stands with Fortunato.

Prosecutors argued that under state hate-crimes law, they didn't have to prove that Sandy's attackers hated gay men, only that they picked their victim because of his sexual orientation.

Fortunato acknowledged that it was his idea to find a gay man to scam out of drugs or money, but he insisted he never meant for anyone to get hurt. The plan, he told the jury, was to get Sandy to share some marijuana voluntarily, or take money from him and run. Other members of the group attacked Sandy without warning, he said.

Fortunato's attorney, Gerald J. DiChiara, did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment Thursday.

A second man charged in the attack, John Fox, was convicted of manslaughter and hate-crime charges last week by a separate jury. Another attacker, Gary Timmins, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and testified for prosecutors. A fourth suspect, Ilye Shurov, is awaiting trial. (David B. Caruso, AP)

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