NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — A man who smashed a beer bottle over the head of an Ecuadorean immigrant was convicted Thursday of manslaughter, but a jury decided he did not commit a hate crime.
Hakim Scott faces 25 years in prison on the manslaughter charge when he is sentenced June 9. The state Supreme Court jury in Brooklyn acquitted him of murder and hate crime counts. A second jury was deliberating charges for his co-defendant, Keith Phoenix.
Scott faced steeper prison time had he been convicted of hate crimes in the death of Jose Sucuzhanay in December 2008.
"For Hakim Scott, this was never about hate or prejudice and that's exactly what the jury came back with," said his attorney Craig Newman. He believed there would be an appeal.
Prosecutors and the Sucuzhanay family did not comment. Jorge Lopez Amaya, Consul General of Ecuador, said he would wait to speak until the second verdict, but praised the work of the prosecutors.
Scott was accused of breaking the bottle over the head of Sucuzhanay as he walked arm-and-arm with his brother, Romel, on a cold night in Brooklyn. The brothers were returning home from a bar; Jose was drunk, and Romel was helping him walk.
Prosecutors said Scott, 26, and Phoenix, 30, mistook the brothers for gay men, and yelled anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs at them. Scott smashed the bottle over Jose Sucuzhanay's head and chased after Romel with the broken bottle, while Phoenix beat Sucuzhanay with an aluminum baseball bat so badly he cracked open his skull, prosecutors said. Sucuzhanay died several days later at a hospital.
Phoenix has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, manslaughter and attempted assault, all as hate crimes. His jury will continue deliberations Friday.
Phoenix's defense attorney, Philip Smallman, said Thursday in closing arguments that the case was about a fight that escalated, not a premeditated attack.
"This entire event occurred in the changing of a New York City traffic light," he said. "This is as happenstance as human behavior becomes."
Newman said Scott was upset because he was dragged along in the crime by Phoenix.
"This was two separate acts," Newman said. "His act did not kill Jose Sucuzhanay."
Newman said there were no witnesses saying his client ever said any kind of slur.
"Every single witness said that any racial slur anything against homosexuals, anything against any race, did not come from him, but came from the driver of the car," said Newman, referring to Phoenix.
After the attack, hundreds of people demonstrated in Brooklyn. Officials in Ecuador monitored the investigation and discussed urging the U.S. Congress to back a campaign of anti-bias education.
The attack came about a month after another Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, was stabbed to death in Patchogue, N.Y. Jeffrey Conroy, 19, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime in that case last month.
Walter Sinche, executive director of the International Ecuadorean Alliance, said he hoped the sentence would set an example and would stop crimes against his community.