Twenty-one-year-old Anthony Fortunato, who hoped to fend off gay-bashing charges by telling a jury that he is also gay, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime for his role in the deadly robbery of the black gay man lured via an Internet chat room. Fortunato was acquitted of the more serious charge, murder as a hate crime, "which could have kept him behind bars for the rest of his life. At his sentencing, he will face a jail term of between five and 25 years."
Prosecutors says Fortunato, John Fox and two other defendants trolled the Adam4Adam message board for potential victims, selecting a gay man as a robbery target, recruiting his friends to participate, and, ultimately, chasing the 29-year-old Sandy into his death in traffic. A third man, Ilya Shurov, will be tried separately. The fourth defendant turned state's evidence.
During the trial, "Fortunato took the witness stand and admitted a role in the crime" and also "said he was also gay, or at least bisexual, and been having sexual thoughts about men since he was a teenager. Jurors also heard testimony from three men who had one-night stands with Fortunato." Surprisingly, some jurors were moved by this testimony. In an interview with The New York Times, the jury foreman criticized the state's hate crimes definition and defended Fortunato: "It didn’t matter that he was also gay."
Twenty-nine-year-old Michael J. Sandy, an interior designer from Williamsburg, was lured to a secluded lot in Sheepshead Bay on Oct. 8, 2006 after exchanging online messages with his would-be-killers on Adam4Adam. Sandy was led to a narrow beach, then attacked and chased into traffic on the Belt Parkway. He was struck by an SUV and later died of his injuries. The driver has never been identified.
Complete Michael Sandy coverage here.
First Conviction in the Michael Sandy Trial [R20]
News: Florida Dems, Michael Sandy [R20]
Don't Lock Me Up I'm Gay [Keith Boykin]
Michael Sandy Murder Suspects in Court [R20]
Murder Suspect: He Only "Arranged" the Crime [R20]
Bail for Sandy Murder Suspect? [R20]
Killer Took a Nap After Brutal Gay Bashing [R20]
Charges Upgraded in Sandy Case [R20]
Michael Sandy Taken Off Ventilator [R20]
Four Arrested in Internet Set-Up [R20]
Brooklyn Gay Bashing Update [R20]
Gay Man Beaten in Vicious Attack? [R20]