If you've followed Rod 2.0 for several years, you undoubtedly recall the tragic story of Michael Sandy. In October 2006, the black gay Brooklyn interior designer was targeted online, lured to a botched robbery attempt, chased onto a busy highway and fatally struck by a motorist. The driver has never been identified. Four men were sentenced for the hate crime-related homicide. As previously reported two of the convicted killers are appealing their convictions.
The attorney for Anthony Fortunato said the evidence at trial showed his client never formed the legally required state of mind to find him guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime and his 2007 conviction on that charge should be overturned. “The key issue in this case is whether or not the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to prove manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Richard E. Mischel, Fortunato’s attorney, at a June 3 hearing before four state appeals court judges.
The testimony at trial was that Fortunato suggested the plan for the crime to his co-defendants, but that it was John Fox, 23, and Ilya Shurov, 24, who chased Sandy onto the highway. There was conflicting testimony about Fortunato’s involvement in the later robbery. ... Mischel said the verdict by Fortunato’s jury showed that they did not believe he participated in the robbery, the act that drove Sandy to the highway and requires intent to forcibly steal. Manslaughter requires that a defendant act recklessly, but, in this case, that state of mind is predicated on first trying to rob Sandy, Mischel said. “As a consequence of the intentional act, there was a reckless act,” he said. “My client had no violent intentions at all and so the jury found.”
Fortunato hoped to fend off manslaughter charges by telling the jury he is also gay and was afraid to come out. The jury did not buy it. The accused ringleader, 22-year-old John Fox, is also seeking to overturn his convictions for manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes. Fox argues his attorney was incompetent.
The Sandy case remains one of the very few successfully prosecuted anti-gay hate crimes where the victim was black and the offenders were white. Complete background on the Michael Sandy case is here.