Hakim Scott, one of two men who beat José Sucuzhañay to death with a bottle and a baseball bat, was convicted yesterday of manslaughter. The trial has been closely watched, as Scott and Keith Phoenix were being charged with murder and with hate crimes. Prosecutors, as well as immigrant and gay watchdog groups, believed the attacks were directed at Sucuzhañay and his brother Romel because they were Ecuadorian immigrants and mistakenly thought to be gay.
Scott’s lawyer plans to appeal the verdict, as “hitting someone with a bottle should not rise to the level of a manslaughter conviction,” according to the Times. “This, ladies and gentlemen, is not hatred,” Phoneix’s lawyer said to the jury.
The attack took place in Bushwick on November 30 of last year. The two Sucuzhañay brothers had been walking arm in arm when Scott and Phoenix attacked them. Scott was convicted of breaking a bottle over José’s head, then chasing Romel with it. He stood by while Phoenix reportedly beat José with a baseball bat on the ground so hard, he cracked his skull open.
Scott and Phoenix left José to die. Minutes later, video showed Phoneix laughing and joking with a toll collector on the RFK Bridge.
According to the Times, Phoenix’s fate is being decided by a separate jury as he “faces 10 counts of murder, assault and deadly weapon possession, including second-degree murder as a hate crime.”
The verdict outraged groups like the Anti-Violence Project, who sent out a statement that read: “This verdict is a bold indicator of the lack of understanding of what hate crimes are, what they mean to victims and their loved ones, and to the effect they have on communities. Some of the last words Jose Sucuzhañay heard were full of vitriol and hate spewed by two men who targeted them based upon nothing more than their perceived identity.”
Christine Quinn, in a statement relayed by Joe My God, said “Justice was served with guilty verdicts on manslaughter and attempted assault charges. With these two charges combined, Hakim Scott faces up to forty years in prison. The fact is, however, that Mr. Scott has escaped serving any time for his vicious hate, hate that was at the heart of this horrible crime and murder.”
Originally debated online in gay media largely through the lens of LGBT violence, because of recent national events, the verdict is now being debated more in terms of anti-immigrant sentiment.
Phoenix’s sentence is expected to be handed down today.