Murder Trial of Gay Black Man Takes Surprising Turn

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Oct. 5, 2007 – In an unexpected twist, one of the four men charged in connection with the robbery and death of a gay Black man in New York, in court, revealed that he himself might be gay. 

The alleged attacker, Anthony Fortunato, 21, who claims he’s gay, testified that he came up with a plan to target a gay male because he thought it would be an easy mugging, The Associated Press reports. On a Web site for gay men, Fortunato admitted he convinced 28-year-old Michael Sandy, an interior designer at Ikea and nephew of famous Trinidadian singer Calypso Rose, to meet him for a date at an isolated New York beach in October 2006.

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Fortunato, according to AP, originally wanted to just scare Sandy, pictured above, into giving them money and weed, until one of the accused decided to violently rob him. When Sandy tried getting away, he was chased into traffic on the Belt Parkway where he was hit by a car and suffered critical injuries. He died a week later after his family ordered doctors to take him off life support.

The jury, who heard closing arguments Wednesday and Thursday, have the options of convicting Fortunato, and his co-defendant John Fox, 20, of murder or manslaughter - or simply of robbery and assault. They could each face 25 years if convicted of murder and a hate crime count would add even more time, AP reports.

Could Fortunato’s revelation that he might be gay change things?  See what his attorney hopes to prove and how the judge responded on page 2.

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Prosecutors have filed hate crime charges – which could add years to a sentence, if convicted – against the accused attackers, who are all White. However, Fortunato’s revelation that he might be gay could change things.

His attorney, Gerald Di Chiara, hopes that fact proves that he does not hate gays, so he won’t be charged with a hate crime.

“I was living two complete double lives,” Fortunato said of his life on the down low. “I could be homosexual. Bisexual.”   

He claims he had secretly been meeting men online to have sex with and that he has been hiding his homosexual feelings for years, reports the AP.

And to back him up, three men testified they’d had sex with him.

Prosecutors, however, say that the fact that Fortunato is saying he might be gay now does not make any difference and that he should still be charged with a hate crime.

And, the judge agrees.

“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,” Supreme Court Justice Jill Konviser wrote, reports AP.

The other defendents, Ilye Shurov, 21, will be tried separately later, The New York Times reports.. Gary Timmins, 17, already pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and testified for the prosecutors.

Should Fortunato face hate-crime charges?  Click "Discuss Now," to the right to post your comment.

Written by BET-Staff

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