Entries from April 2007 ↓

Defendants Point Fingers in Death of Michael Sandy

From the New York Times
Published: April 25, 2007

They told the police that they thought it would be easy to rob the gay man. It was not easy.

The gay man ran away when they punched him, they said on videotaped statements played yesterday in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. He climbed over a guardrail along the Belt Parkway, stopped a lane of traffic, waved his cellphone as if to call for help, stumbled into the next lane and was hit by a car.

They said they dragged the gay man off the road and searched his pockets for money and drugs but his pockets were empty. They went home and drank beer and the gay man died in a hospital.

The three of them were charged with murder as a hate crime, a distinction that could affect their sentences if they are convicted. Prosecutors said they chose their victim because they thought gay men were weak and afraid.

They walked into the courtroom yesterday in handcuffs, John Fox, Ilya Shurov, also known as Alex, and Anthony Fortunato, none older than 20. Their trial date has not been set; first a judge must decide whether their confessions are admissible. They sat side by side and watched their own videotaped statements to the police. On the screen, they blamed one another for the killing. In the courtroom, they did not say anything and did not look at one another much.

They were watched from the spectators area by friends and relatives of the gay man, Michael Sandy, who died on Oct. 13, five days after the attack and a day after his 29th birthday. He had been contacted through a Web site for gay men and lured to a parking area in Sheepshead Bay, prosecutors said.

In the courtroom, a video screen was lowered and the image of Mr. Fox appeared. He was dressed in a white T-shirt and shorts and he fidgeted in a small chair before a backdrop of cinder-block walls.

At the defense table, the three young men moved their chairs so they could see the image of Mr. Fox.

On the recording, Mr. Fox used police words like proceeded and indicated. He answered some of his interrogators questions before the questions were fully formed. He said, Yes, maam.

Mr. Fox said that Mr. Fortunato had lured the victim to an area near Plumb Beach. There, Mr. Fox told the victim to drive to the beach while the others waited in ambush.

He asked what it was, and I told him it was a gay beach, Mr. Fox said. I told him the gay beach was a place where gay people have sex and stuff. At the beach, Mr. Fox said, Mr. Shurov punched Mr. Sandy and chased him into traffic.

He just was right down on the ground, Mr. Fox said, and he didnt move.

Then the image of Mr. Shurov appeared on the screen. He wore a T-shirt that said Triple 5 Soul.

At the defense table, the three men watched as Mr. Shurov gave his account. He said: John also came and hit him.

He said: I was drinking and my friends got me involved in this.

He said it was Mr. Fox and Mr. Fortunato who had used the computer to lure their victim. He admitted he had chased Mr. Sandy into the street and punched him. He demonstrated how he had pulled Mr. Sandy from the parkway and searched his pants pockets.

I apologize to his family; I know my words cant help, but Im just really sorry for what happened, he said on the recording. Later, when his interrogator had finished, Mr. Shurov asked: Is this going to be shown to his parents?

In the courtroom, the victims mother, Denise Sandy, was sitting with her sons friends. Later, she said she accepted the apology, a courthouse ritual usually reserved until after a trial. But first Ms. Sandy and her sons friends and the three men at the defense table all watched as a prosecutor on the videotape answered Mr. Shurovs question.

Right now, said the prosecutor, Timothy G. Gough, this is just for investigative purposes.

See also:

Suspect sought ‘gay guys to rob’ NY Daily News

Confessions In Gay Killing Played In Court 365gay.com

Rapper on a Hot Tin Roof

Broadway is to theater as Hollywood is to moviemaking. That is to say they are both commercial ventures interested more in making lots of money than producing anything of great artistic merit.

Thus it should come as no surprise to anyone (certainly not me) that rapper and sometime film and tv actor LL Cool J is being considered for an all-Black revival of the Tennessee Williams play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, hoping to make its way to Broadway in October.

This latest bit of stunt casting follows P Diddy’s star turn as Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun three years ago and is clearly designed to get young, non-theater-going butts in the seats. In fairness, introducing stage plays to a new audience is a noble endeavor and the use of celebrities with limited stage experience is nothing new (have you seen Chicago lately).

But as we said when Puff Daddy/Puffy/P Diddy/Sean Combs was cast, the number of serious Black actors who have legitimately paid their dues and who are otherwise unemployed is a long one. Hiring people with no stage experience is a slap in their face.

This play tells the story of Brick, an alcoholic ex-athlete who fends off the amorous advances of his wife Maggie, before engaging in confrontation with his father, Big Daddy. The original Broadway play in 1955 starred Ben Gazzarra, Barbara Bel Geddes and Burl Ives. Ives reprised his role for the 1958 movie version that also starred Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.

This revival is being directed by Debbie Allen who replaces Kenny Leon, director of Raisin. While none of the casting decisions have been made as of yet, Danny Glover and Louis Gossett Jr. have been talked about for Big Daddy. Thandie Newton and Tony winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline, or Change) are under discussion for Maggie. Blair Underwood and the very talented Anthony Mackie have also been mentioned as Brick.

Things I know to be true

If youre waiting for an elevator, someone else will always come and press the button, even if its already lit.

In New York City, if you are in your car waiting for the light to change, when it does, if you dont move within .001 seconds, the driver behind you will honk his horn.

Regardless of how empty the front of the bus is (and despite Rosas best efforts), Black people will still get on and head for the back.

Not all poetry is spoken word or meant to be performed aloud from a stage.

If a group of teenagers are just hanging out, not even doing anything wrong, adults will always assume they are up to no good.

The night you need your sleep because you have to get up early in the morning, either a friend will telephone just to chat or the neighbors will throw a loud party.

You will always meet the person of your dreams when youre not dressed for it.

Now matter how good your credit is, when you make a purchase at a store, you will have a moment of anxiety waiting for the card to be approved.

You cant get a taxi during a rainstorm, but a passing car will always find a big puddle and splash you.

People who set their watches five minutes fast usually arrive 10-15 minutes late.

That guy at the gym with the great big upper body who always wears sweat pants, never works on his legs.

People with the biggest dogs live in the smallest apartments.

What do you know to be true?

Failed Relationships

Have you ever had someone show an interest in you that made you take notice of them even when you had no prior interest? An old fashioned courtship of sorts, where they took time to get to know you and acted like they wanted you and only you. Who doesnt want to be wanted? All that attention can be flattering to the point where you forget your own needs and just get drawn in.

So you commit and start a relationship with the hope that it will go somewhere. But then, reality creeps in and right off the bat you sense something is wrong. This is not quite the pretty picture you were expecting. The gut never lies and theres an uneasy feeling settling there that tells you this may all be a big mistake.

What do you do? Do you stick it out and hope things will change, or do you follow your instincts and cut your losses before things become worse. I chose the latter.

That new job I announced in this space just a week ago is no more. I lasted five days, Monday through Friday. Shortest stint in my entire working life. Barely a ripple on the rsum.

They wanted me and made that clear early on. I was flattered and sorely in need of a job when they first started talking to me. Perhaps I was too vulnerable, never a good thing when trying to start a relationship. I was also a bit conflicted, because I had also interviewed for another job in an entirely different field for which I wont know the outcome for another few weeks. Did I want to wait and have no offers on the table or take this one and see how it works out? I gave in.

The position was in a field related to the one I was in for the past five years, so I kind of knew the landscape already. But this particular place had an entirely different operating style from the last one, where Id grown very comfortable and always felt supported. For one there were fewer resources. Far fewer resources. Like a private office space. A desk by the office door in a common area with two other people, and where those in the three inside offices are also doubled up, means there is no privacy for anyone. Forget about personal matters, even work-related phone calls become everyones business or conversations in hushed tones.

Then as I got about the tasks I was assigned it became clear to me I had done this all before. Talking with clients about matters I had dealt with in the previous job gave me a sense of dj vu. Nonprofit social service work is all about trying to save the world and I hadnt accomplished that on my last job. Without the equipment to even put up a good fight, what made me think Id get any closer on this one? Beyond a paycheckdoled out once a month, mind youwhat was the upside? Suddenly that part-time work I do in the evenings seemed infinitely more pleasurable.

My schedule will now fill up with additional hours on the part-time gig while I await word on the other position that I really want. It has the potential to put me in a position to live in the style to which Ive grown accustomed, in my mind anyway, offering me work more in keeping with my skills and abilities and affording me a retirement plan that wont leave me a broken down senior citizen. Such are the priorities of a middle aged man.

Freedom of Speech

I am not a lawyer but I played one on television.

Nevertheless, many Don Imus fans and apologists are up in arms that he has now lost both his television and radio jobs in the wake of his now infamous, racist and sexist comments directed at the Rutgers University womens basketball team.

Some people apparently think they should always have the right to use public airwaves to say anything that comes into their head, no matter how offensive. They seem to think that people of color and women and gays and immigrants and fat people and the disabled and whoever else they target are just too sensitive and ought to lighten up.

Countless times this week I have seen television news reports or newspaper stories where someone (usually a young white male) is interviewed, and after making the statements above, he tacks on, What ever happened to freedom of speech in this country? As if!

The right to freedom of speech was written into the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1791. It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Following the Revolutionary war, having just broken free from British rule, the framers of the constitution were especially interested in preventing any head of state or governmental body from silencing the peoples right to voice their opposition to laws they deemed unfair. Historically, the first amendment has been applied to protect the news media from government censorship, protecting their right to investigate and report on such things as the Watergate break-in.

Freedom of speech has nothing to do with individual citizens having the right to talk out of their ass without subjecting themselves to repercussions from other groups of citizens. Freedom of speech does not mean that those who hear and are offended by certain forms of speech have to simply put up with it. They too get the right to express their opinion. In other words if you call someone a nappy-headed hoe you may have every legal right to say that, but others also have the right to say, We dont like what you said, and we dont think you belong on public airwaves. Dissenters have free speech rights too.

It is from government censorship that we are protected and thus private companies, such as MSNBC and CBS, are well within their legal right to establish terms and conditions for appropriate behavior in their workplace, including prohibition against the use of forms of speech corporate management deems offensive.

So the next time those who are as insensitive to the feelings of others as they are ignorant of the law want to cry about how their rights are being infringed, tell them to shut the fuck up.

Thats me exercising my right to free speech.