PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The trial of four men accused of attacking two gay American tourists has been postponed so that a victim can return to testify in a St. Maarten court.
In requesting the postponement, prosecutors said Tuesday that finances kept Ryan Smith, 26, from traveling to the Caribbean country in time for the trial. Chief prosecutor Taco Stein told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his office would help pay for Smith's return for the trial, which is scheduled to resume Oct. 31.
"The government of St. Maarten has also stated its willingness to assist," Stein said. "After all, this case was not good promotion for the island."
Smith and Richard Jefferson — both employees of CBS News in New York — were severely beaten as they left a bar with friends April 6 in St. Maarten, the island's Dutch side. Smith suffered brain damage and was unable to speak properly for months.
Smith said he was frustrated local authorities had not expressed more interest in the case, and he was eager to testify.
"This is setting out to kill people based on who they are, and it's a very scary thing," he said by telephone from New York. "We care about this case but we also are very much concerned about what's happening in that area of the world for gays and lesbians."
Jefferson, 51, whose skull was cracked by a blow from a tire iron, recovered and returned to the island to give authorities his account of the attack. He is not expected to testify in the trial.
The four suspects have been charged with attempted murder and manslaughter. Michel Javois, nicknamed "Duracell," is accused of wielding the tire iron and leading the other alleged attackers — Glen Roy Cockly, Micheline Delaney and Allan Daniel.
At the start of the trial Tuesday, Judge Rick Smid dismissed defense lawyers' request to release their clients from detention.
"We're talking here about a case of public violence that had very serious consequences," Smid said.
The island, a popular Caribbean tourist destination, is shared by France and the Netherlands.