Williamsburg, New York – A gang of Hasidic Jews, some identified as members of the Satmar Hasidic Shomrim (Safety Patrol), shouted homophobic and racial slurs as they brutally beat a gay black man in Williamsburg on December 1. The victim, 22-year-old Taj Patterson, suffered multiple injuries including a crushed eye socket, a torn retina, and cuts to his right knee and hip. This week, five hasidim were arrested for the attack by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force. They have been charged with Gang Assault in the First Degree and a variety of other charges, though at this point a hate crimes charge has not been lodged, even considering the report of witnesses that a barrage of homophobic slurs accompanied the assault. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years for each assailant proved guilty. Failed Messiah, a blog covering news in the Hasidic community since 2004, identified those arrested as Pinchas Braver, 20, Aharon Hollender, 28, Abraham Winkler, 39, Mayer Herskovic, 21, and Joseph Fried, 25. Two of the alleged assailants fled from the United States to Israel immediately following the incident, but were apprehended there.
The five suspects and a number of other hasidim who allegedly participated in the attack are all members of the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community, a large and influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect with pre-World War II roots in Hungary. According to A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, the Satmar Hasidim number at least 45,000 in Williamsburg today. The Shomrim is a volunteer neighborhood watch drawn from the Satmar community. Activists in Williamsburg quickly denied the involvement of the Shomrim in the attack, but according to the Brooklyn Paper, the denials left room to conclude that some of the attackers were indeed members of the watch group. An Orthodox rabbi who decried the attack did not mention the participation of the Shomrim in the December attack. Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, said, “The bedrock of the Williamsburg community is tolerance for one and another. Any act of violence by any individual, against anyone, for whatever reason, is condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
EDGE on the Net reports that Patterson is a fashion student studying at the New York City College of Technology. While he says he does not remember much from the attack that occurred with swift savagery, he clearly recalls at least one of his assailants shouting, “Stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down,” as he kicked Patterson in the face. Since the horrific incident, Patterson has undergone surgery to repair his torn retina.
The true heroine of the whole bloody affair was the driver of Bus 57 who slammed on her brakes and stepped out of her bus snapping pictures of the assault with her cell phone, according to the New York Post. The NYPD say that the attacking gang fled the scene when they realized she was taking their pictures.
Brooklyn, New York – A straight resident of the Williamsburg section of greater New York City was viciously beaten by a man yelling homophobic slurs, adding to the alarming number of hate crime attacks in the Big Apple. David Jimenez, 40, who identifies as a heterosexual man, told reporters from the Brooklyn Paper that the assault seemed to come out of nowhere as he walked his two Boston Terriers back to his apartment at about 11:30 p.m. on September 25. Jimenez says he had just escorted a group of his friends to a cab. As he passed a group of men sitting on a stoop on South Third Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, he said he heard slurs being hurled at him, which he tried to ignore as he continued down the street toward his home. The next thing he knew, a brutal punch struck him in the face out of nowhere. “Someone started screaming, ‘Hey you, faggot,” said Jimenez. “I turned around and gave him a look like, ‘What the hell?’ and the next thing I know the guy starts punching me in the face.”
Jimenez could not successfully defend himself as he struggled to hold onto the leashes of his dogs as blows rained down on him. The assailant, who remains unnamed as of this report except for his being a 35-year-old man, broke his victim’s nose in four places, bruised his jaw. blacked both his eyes, and shattered the bones in one of his eye sockets. The attack was bloody, leaving copious stains of blood on the sidewalk that remained there for days after the crime. Though Jimenez is a straight man, NY1 reports that authorities are now investigating the attack as a bias-motivated hate crime. A witness to the crime called police who found the attacker still at the scene soaked in his victim’s blood. Officers arrested the assailant, and charged him initially with assault and possession of a controlled substance, and resisting arrest. Jimenez, now recuperating at home in preparation for reconstructive surgery to his face, says the wounds he suffered go far beyond the physical ones on his body: “My head, it cannot comprehend how this is the case, where you literally catch someone with blood in their hands, because when he was taken in, his fist was full of blood, and he’s out here walking while I’m in here locked in my house because I’m afraid of going outside.”
As EDGE On The Net reports, the hate crime attack on Jimenez adds an alarming new dimension to the rising epidemic of violence against LGBT New Yorkers in recent months, since even heterosexual people who are merely mistaken for being gay are now being targeted. During the summer, two alleged anti-gay hate crimes were investigated in Williamsburg by police, and in Manhattan, a gay man was fatally shot to death in the Chelsea/Greenwich Village area of the city, one of the queer-friendliest sections of the Big Apple, and the cradle of the modern LGBTQ Rights Movement. Jimenez told CBS 2 New York that coping with the crime against him will be a longtime struggle. “That’s the most difficult part — waking up every morning and trying to live my life like normal,” he said.
Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence
Brooklyn, New York – Since Sunday of last week, there have been two anti-gay bias attacks reported in Brooklyn, and another hate crime assault in Queens, according to various news sources. On Wednesday night, openly gay Kevin Kiadii, a 25-year-old freelance makeup artist and a male friend were assaulted in Prospect Park, CBS 2 reports. Kiadii, notable for lodging a sexual misconduct suit against ex-Elmo voice artist, Kevin Clash (see NewsOne story), was randomly chosen for harassment and assault by a group of five teens who were allegedly drunk and/or high. When the most aggressive of the teenagers, the one also displaying the most intoxication, confronted Kiadii with homophobic slurs, the gay man offered the youth a soda as an attempt to diffuse the situation. Undeterred, the assailant took a “fighting stance,” in Kiadii’s words, and when Kiadii told him to back off, the youth jumped at Kiadii and said “‘I’m going to [expletive] you up’ and do this and ‘you F and [expletive].'” Kiadii took a perfume bottle from his bag and wielded it like a can of pepper spray to back off his attackers. “One of the dudes tried to kick me in the face, but just missed and he got me in my shoulder,” Kiadii said. Kiadii managed to get off a 911 call to police, handed his phone to a bystander, and wrestled with his main attacker, who left Kiadii with an injured hand, cuts and bruises. Speaking to the New York Post, Kiadii said his ploy with the spray bottle of perfume may have prevented something much worse from happening to him. “If it wasn’t for my Dior bottle, I’d be in so much damage,” he said.
The police responded quickly, arresting four youths ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age, and a fifth suspect who is 21. Charges have been filed against the teens and the 21-year-old for harassment as a hate crime, and the prime assailant faces charges of aggravated assault as a hate crime, according to The Advocate. Expressing his appreciation for the swift action of the police, Kiadii is thankful that he was not more seriously hurt. Still, the assault has left him shaken but determined to broadcast what he had to face, so that others will not have to endure an anti-gay attack like his. “I’m appalled. I’m in awe,” Kiadii told CBS 2. “I just really want my story told because I know there a lot of people in the city who deal with stuff like this.”
Police are also searching for an unidentified Brooklyn suspect who punched a 27-year-old gay man twice in the face on the J Train at approximately 11:45 p.m. last Sunday, May 26. The assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at his victim as he carried out the attack, according to DNAinfo. The suspect fled out the back of the subway car to escape arrest. Police described the suspect as a man in his mid-to-late-20s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair tied in a bun. He was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, police said. The New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force is carrying out the investigation. The subway assault and investigation were announced by the New York Police Department on Friday of this week. Also reported this week was an earlier bias-related attack upon a woman in Queens on March 17 of this year. Police say that the suspect approached a 49-year-old woman, cursed her with homophobic epithets, and punched her in the face before fleeing the scene. He is described as between the ages of 20 and 25, five feet four inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. At the time of the assault, the attacker was wearing a small mustache. The suspect reportedly has been sighted in the area of the 115th Police Precinct. No explanation has been given for the lateness of the report on the Queens attack as of this report.
Anti-gay violence is spiking alarmingly throughout New York City. Better than 30 incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes have been reported this year, one of them a fatal shooting, easily doubling last year’s statistics for anti-gay attacks during the same time period.
Brooklyn, NY – Keith Phoenix, alleged murderer of Ecuadoran immigrant José Sucuzhañay, is in a Brooklyn court again after a mistrial. Phoenix and his co-attacker, Hakim Scott, took offense at José and his brother, Romel, as they walked arm-in-arm on a freezing night in December 2008. Hurling epithets at the Ecuadorans for being Hispanic and “gay” (in fact, neither of the brothers are gay), Scott assaulted José with a beer bottle, and Phoenix allegedly delivered the coup de grace with an aluminum baseball bat. Scott received a sentence in the Spring for manslaughter, escaping hate crimes charges. When a juror in Phoenix’s first trial refused to continue, the judge in Brooklyn Supreme Court declared a mistrial. There seems little doubt that Phoenix is guilty. A toll booth camera caught the pair of assailants smiling and laughing as they fled the scene of the crime. Witnesses stand ready to testify again that the bat attack was so brutal and bloody the taxi driver witness had to avert his eyes from the scene. And Phoenix himself seems to be doing all he can to get himself convicted, too. In a confession taken by a detective at Phoenix’s arrest recorded the defendant as asking, “So I killed somebody. Does that make me a bad person?” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it does, in the opinion of the Unfinished Lives Project Team. Critics of how the courts in Brooklyn have been handling this case look to the Phoenix trial as a way of redressing what appears to be a severe disrespect for Latin American immigrants and LGBT people. The main defense Phoenix is mounting is that too much alcohol led him to do what he did. He has yet to show any remorse for his actions. Keith’s attorney has suggested that his client feared that the victim might have a weapon in his waistband, and that José was the one who started the fight. When José M. Arrufat Gracia, the lawyer for the Sucuzhañay family heard these allegations, he said, “We definitely believe those allegations are insulting to the victims, alleging that the perpetrators were acting in self-defense.” Perhaps a prison term of decades will assist him to develop the self-restraint he could not exercize two years ago when he bludgeoned an innocent man to death, and the remorse for a hate crime he seems incapable of understanding today.
Brooklyn, NY – Testimony in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court corroborated Romel Sucuzhañay’s contention, that two young men attacked him and his brother, José Sucuzhañay, wielding a broken beer bottle and an aluminum base ball bat, screaming anti-Latino and anti-gay slurs. The assault left José with a broken skull. The Ecuadoran immigrant, 31 years old, living in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, lingered in a coma for five days, dying just before his mother got to his bedside from Ecuador. Any reasonable person would call that a hate crime. Not the Brooklyn jury, however. They bought the defense line, that Hakim Scott, 26, was caught up in an unfortunate “escalating fight.” It did not seem to matter that a the prosecution established that Scott, who broke his beer bottle over José’s head before menacing Romel with the jagged glass, had dazed José to the point that his accomplice, Keith Phoenix, had an easy target as he lethally swung his bat. On May 6, the jury found Scott guilty, not of first or second degree murder and hate crime, but first degree manslaughter, allowing him to escape a life sentence for snuffing out an innocent man’s life. Scott and Phoenix didn’t like the Sucuzhañay brothers because they were Hispanic, and they appeared to be gay. While Scott will face a possible 40 years in prison for his manslaughter conviction when he is sentenced on June 9, it is hard not to say that there was a travesty of justice in this case. Now, because a juror refused to hear any more testimony in the Phoenix case, Judge Patricia Dimango has declared a mistrial, and the Sucuzhañay family and their supporters will have to wait further agonizing weeks to learn whether the 31-year-old ball bat perp will escape the full force of the law, too. Latinos, especially Ecuadorans, are outraged by the verdict. So are LGBT people. And justice has not been done for José Sucuzhañay. It seems that living at the intersection of two discriminations is very dangerous place to be in America.
Brooklyn, New York – After a year and a half, a murdered Ecuadoran immigrant mistaken as gay may get some justice. José Sucuzhañay, 31, a native of Ecuador with a real estate brokerage in New York, was savagely dispatched with a beer bottle, kicks and stomps, and an aluminum baseball bat, according to testimony reported by media throughout the Five Boroughs of New York. The trials of Hakim Scott, 26, and Keith Phoenix, 30, got underway in Brooklyn Supreme Court on April 10 for the 2008 murder of Sucuzhañay. Charges against the pair include second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault, and murder as a hate crime. If convicted, the alleged killers could face sentences of 78-years-to-life imprisonment. The defendants are being tried simultaneously before separate juries in a precisely choreographed judicial drama. At times, both juries are seated to hear the same testimony. At other times, dictated by the presentation of evidence, only one jury is present in the courtroom. As reported by the New York Times, José Sucuzhañay and his brother, Romel, visiting from Ecuador, were attacked at 3 a.m. on December 7, 2008 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn because Scott and Phoenix “didn’t like the way they looked.” Prosecutor Josh Hanshaft, referring to Phoenix who allegedly wielded the bat, told the juries, “He didn’t like that they were Hispanic. From his eyes, it appeared they were a gay couple, a way of life he didn’t like and wasn’t going to tolerate.” In reality, both men were heterosexual. The Latino brothers had been drinking at parties in the neighborhood and were tipsy enough that they uninhibitedly hugged each other for support and warmth on a bitterly old night as they walked along. The attackers, who had also been partying that night, set upon them, yelling “faggot ass niggers” and “fucking Spanish,” from Phoenix’s red SUV. The prosecution believe that both assailants acted in concert to effect their victim’s death. Scott, Hanshaft said, emerged from the auto and smashed a beer bottle over José’s head. He then charged Romel with the deadly shards of broken glass, slashing at his neck. Phoenix took the bat, swinging it “high above his head,” and struck Sucuzhañay “over and over and over again,” Hanshaft said. “He came back with the bat and hit him two to three times on the head, cracking his skull wide open.” A Brooklyn cabbie at the scene witnessed the attack well enough to capture the license plate of the red SUV, but then had to cover his eyes with his hands, unable to watch the coup de grâce delivered by Phoenix. As reported by Chelsea Now, taxi driver Davi Almonte, speaking through an interpreter, told the court, “I didn’t want to see the head explode when it was hit. I could hear the impact [of the bat crushing his skull].” According to NY1, in testimony on the trial’s second day, Demetrius Nathaniels, cousin of Keith Phoenix, heard the bones cracking as Phoenix bludgeoned Sucuzhañay with the bat on his head, back, side and ribs. A coroner’s report confirmed that José died of a fractured skull from blunt force trauma. Romel, only superficially injured by Scott’s assault, was left stunned, nearly catatonic by the body of his brother who lay in a massive pool of blood, and had to be led away by police responding to the alarm raised by witnesses. The alleged killers sped from the scene. A toll booth video capture of the red SUV on the Triborough Bridge clearly shows Phoenix laughing and smiling barely 19 minutes after the fatal attack. Sucuzhañay was left brain dead, and placed on a ventilator at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens where he finally succumbed on December 12. An outpouring of grief and rage followed news of the murder, both in New York and in Sucuzhañay’s native Ecuador where the slain immigrant was given a near-state funeral attended by hundreds. New York Gay and Latino advocacy groups organized protests and vigils, while city officials roundly condemned the brutal killing. Philip J. Smallman, attorney for Phoenix, summed up the consensus of all concerned with events of December 7: “Does anything good happen at 3 o’clock on a Sunday morning in 30-degree weather, with people with bellies full of booze?” he asked. The Brooklyn trial is expected to last for a number of weeks.