Michael Sandy was an American gay man from Brooklyn, New York, who died after being hit by a car while trying to escape four attackers. Michael was a native of Bellport, New York, and lived in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He worked as a display designer at the Ikea store in Hicksville, New York.
Michael liked dancing, good conversation, Thai and Indian cuisine, photography, Kung Fu and Mui Thai boxing. He was intrigued by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And he liked a wide variety of movies from The Color Purple to Kill Bill. And of course he liked Oliver Stone's film JFK.
His musical tastes were also eclectic, ranging from Bjork to Everything But The Girl to Brandy, Patti Labelle, Amel Larrieux, James Brown and Prince. On television, he liked watching In Living Color, American Idol, The Real World, Mad TV, and The Snake Master. That's all part of the picture of Michael Sandy that has emerged since he passed away on Friday.
On his Friendster page, which was still up on Sunday afternoon, he lists his height and weight as 5' 7, 145 pounds. He had brown eyes and black hair and described his ancestry as Irish & West Indian. He described himself as athletic, sweet and fun.
He said he wanted to meet "someone who appreciates music" and "loves to dance." He was looking for someone with a "great personality" who was funny and true in heart. He wanted "more then the average guy," and it didn't hurt if the person was also artistic.
A testimonial posted in 2003 from a friend said "Mike has the most infectious laugh I've ever been around...come to think of it most of the time I hang with Mike we spend it giggling away no matter what country we're in! This boy gots more style in his little finger than half of NYC...and he knows how to work it!!"
His profile on AOL provides a little more insight into his life. He posted his real name (Mike) and his real location (Williamsburg, Brooklyn). He described his hobbies and interests as photography, installation art, design, color and animation." And he listed his occupation as "creative." Perhaps most tellingly, Michael Sandy selected a personal quote for his AOL profile. Ironically, he had used AOL instant messenger to communicate to his attackers before he was killed, and police were able to track down the killers by following the AOL trail. The final quote on his AOL profile said it best: "A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
On the night of October 8, 2006, Sandy met Anthony Fortunato, 20, in an online gay chatroom and engaged in a chat with him. With Fortunato was John Fox, 19. After exchanging emails about having sex, Fortunato arranged to meet Sandy at Plumb Beach, a rest stop and popular cruising location on Belt Parkway in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The meeting took about an hour to arrange. Fox and Fortunato then departed for Plumb Beach with friends Ilya Shurov, 20, Gary Timmins, 16.
Officials say they believe the four gathered at Mr. Fortunato's house on Sunday and began exchanging instant messages with Mr. Sandy, whom they may have found through the gay-themed Web site Adam4Adam.com. They apparently accessed the Web by tapping into a neighbor's wireless Internet connection and used Mr. Fox's America Online account and screen name, "fireyefox," to exchange instant messages with Mr. Sandy, the officials said.
Posing as a single individual, they proposed a tryst. "Fireyefox" told Mr. Sandy to go to the corner of Emmons and Coyle Streets, about a block from Mr. Fortunato's home in Sheepshead Bay, around 7:30 p.m. But when Mr. Sandy arrived, both Mr. Fox and Mr. Fortunato were waiting for him, officials said.
He decided to drive away. The officials are not sure why Mr. Sandy decided to leave, but said that during questioning, the suspects said that Mr. Sandy indicated he did not want to have group sex.
After arriving home, however, he continued exchanging messages with "fireyefox" and was eventually persuaded to return. They encouraged Mr. Sandy to bring marijuana and $100 for a hotel room. Mr. Sandy balked at the idea of a hotel room. He agreed to have sex on the beach and said he would bring a blanket. The last message was sent about 8:50 p.m.
He arrived back in Sheepshead Bay sometime after 9 p.m. This time, only Mr. Fox awaited him. They drove together in Mr. Sandy's blue Mazda to the narrow, dark parking lot by Plumb Beach, a few blocks away.
The other three men, the officials say, were waiting out of sight. When they arrived, Mr. Fox said he had to go to the bathroom, and walked toward the beach.
Once Mr. Sandy was out of the car, the officials said, all four men confronted him. According to the criminal complaint against Mr. Shurov, he punched Mr. Sandy. It is not known if the other three men did as well.
As the attack went on, the men drifted toward the highway. Then Mr. Sandy walked onto it, waving his arms both to ward off the blows and to stop traffic. According to witnesses, he made it to the middle of the road. Mr. Fortunato and Mr. Timmins ran away, the officials said.
Sandy drove his 2004 Mazda to the location, and met Fox first, near Emmons Avenue. They then drove to Plumb Beach, where Fortunato, Shurov, and Timmins were waiting. At about 9:45 p.m., at least four witnesses saw four white men assaulting a black man.
Shortly after Sandy arrived, witnesses saw two young white men approaching his car. At that time, Sandy was confronted by two of the young men, who began looking through his vehicle. Shurov pulled Sandy from the car and began punching him.
Attempting to escape, Sandy runs towards the highway, back-pedaling away from the attackers, towards the highway. He appeared to be calling for help on his cell phone. Two of his attackers caught up with him in the right lane of the highway. Shurov pursued Sandy across the guard rail, caught up with him in the right lane, and punched him. Sandy backpedaled into the middle lane, and was struck. One of the attackers dragged Sandy back to the side of the road. Shurov was seen rifling through Sandy's pockets after he was struck.
Following the attack, police got their first lead in the case from Sandy's computer, which was still running the day after. Investigators examined the hard drive. The found exchanges with the AOL screen name "fisheyefox," traced the IP address, and learned that the screen name belonged to Fox.
Investigators visited Fox's home at 11:00 p.m., and Fox's father directed them to SUNY Maritime College, where Fox was a sophomore. Investigators arrived at the college at 2:00 a.m. and asked Fox to come to the 61st Precinct, where they began interviewing him at 2:52 a.m. During his interview, Fox made statements implicating himself, Shurov, Fortunato, and Timmins in the attack on Sandy.
Fox also gave two videotaped statements. He identified Shurov as "that Russian kid," but identified him when police took a picture of Shurov from Fox's MySpace page. A detective compared Shurov's picture to mug shots of young men arrested in the 61st precinct, and found a match. Detectives went to Shurov's home and asked him to come to the 60th Precinct police station for an interview.
Shurov arrived at the 60th Precinct station at about 8:00 p.m. on October 10. He was read his Miranda rights and later gave statements implicating himself in the crime. Shown a news report about the attack, Shurov disputed the details of the report. At 1:00 a.m. on October 11, Shurov dictated a written statement, and made a videotaped statement at 10:20 p.m. on the same day.
Witnesses picked Fox and Shurov out of line-ups and identified them as having been at the scene, attempting to grab Sandy.
Fortunato was implicated by statements from Shurov and Fox, and surrendered to police on October 25. Timmins was arrested on October 11.
Fortunato's family raised $1.3 million in hopes he would be granted bail. Bail, however was denied. The suspects were held at Rikers Island without bail.
Unconscious and suffering possible brain injuries, Sandy was taken to Brookdale Hospital, where he was placed on a respirator and remained in a vegetative state. Sandy remained on life support for five days, without regaining consciousness. He died on October 13, 2006, one day after his 29th birthday, when his family made the decision to remove life support.
Following Sandy's death, Fox, Fortunato, and Shurov were indicted on October 25, 2006 on charges of second degree murder as a hate crime and attempted robbery as a hate crime. The three also faced possible charges of manslaughter as a hate crime, and faced potential sentences of 25 years to life in prison.
On October 25, 2006 Timmins pleaded guilty to one count of attempted robbery in the second degree as a hate crime.
During questioning after arrest, the suspects made statements indicating that they had used the internet to lure gay men in the past. According news reports, the attackers told police that they thought gay men would be easier to rob.
On April 24, 2007, the taped statements by Fox and guy were played in court, in order to determine their admissibility at trial. In his statement. he said that he had been drinking beer at Fortunato's house, while Fortunato looked online for gay men to rob, and that Fortunato had said "It was the easiest way to make money."
On August 3, 2007, Judge Konviser ruled that Fox, Fortunato, and Shurov could be charged with hate crimes in Sandy's death, without evidence that they were motivated by hatred. In her written statement, Judge Konsiver said that prosecutors only need to show that Sandy was chosen because of his sexual orientation, under the state's Hate Crimes Act of 2000.
Sandy's death also brought back to public attention the death of Michael Griffith, an African American man who was killed after being hit by a car in Howard Beach, Queens, New York, while trying to escape a group of attackers.
In a New York State trial courtroom, the Brooklyn Supreme Court (located in Brooklyn, NY), jury selection started on September 10, 2007 for the trial of Anthony Fortunato and John Fox, two of the four men accused of chasing Michael Sandy to his death in October 2006. They are charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one as a hate crime, four counts of attempted robbery with two as hate crimes, two manslaughter counts, one as a hate crime, and two assault counts, one as a hate crime. The third man, Ilya Shurov, will be tried separately at a future date on the same charges. The fourth, Gary Timmins, had already pleaded guilty in 2006 to the reduced crime of attempted robbery as a hate crime in return for testifying as a prosecution witness.
In the opening arguments on Monday, September 17, 2007, Gerald Di Chiara, the lawyer for one of the defendants, Anthony Fortunato, announced that his client was also gay. Chiara also said that Fortunato had planned on telling his friends that he was gay the night the attack occurred, and that luring Michael Sandy to Sheepshead Bay for sex was part of that plan. Di Chiara also claimed that the prosecution's witness, Gary Timmins, one of the four men who were accused of attacking Sandy, was also gay. The lawyers for both defendants argued that no robbery had taken place.
On Friday, October 5, 2007, a jury came back with a verdict of guilty against John Fox, Jr on the charges of Manslaughter, Attempted Robbery in the Second Degree, and Attempted Robbery in the First Degree. All counts were as hate crimes. The prison times Fox faces could range from 5 to 50 years.
On October 11, 2007, Anthony Fortunato, the third defendant, was found guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime for his role in the death of Michael Sandy. He was also convicted of attempted petty larceny, but acquitted of attempted robbery. After the verdict, juriors criticized the application of the hate crime law as inappropriate in this case. In the trial, Fortunato had claimed he was gay and based on that, his lawyer asked that the hate crime charges be dismissed, but the judge ruled that the charges would stand. Three older gay men testified that they had sex with Fortunato on separate occasions before the attack against Sandy occurred in October 2006.
On November 5, 2007, Ilya Shurov, 21, the fourth and last defendant in the Michael Sandy case, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes on the day his trial was to have started. As part of the plea bargain, the charge of felony murder as a hate crime was dropped. Shurov agreed to serve 17.5 years for his guilty plea. If he had been found guilty of felony murder as a hate crime, it could have resulted in a life sentence. Shurov was the only defendant accused of physical violence against Michael Sandy.
Fox read a short statement before he was sentenced. "I want to apologize to the [Sandy] family once again," he said. "I made a huge mistake by being involved in this." When Fortunato spoke he turned and faced Michael's parents, Denise and Ezekiel. "I wish I had had the resolve to stop what happened that night, but I acted like a coward," he said. "I'm sorry."
Three of the four men were sentenced on November 20, 2007 for their role in causing the death of Michael Sandy in 2006. They received the following sentences from Justice Jill Konviser-Levine of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, NY: Anthony Fortunato (21), 7 to 21 years. For the lure, John Fox (20), 13 to 21 years. And for the aggressor, Ilya Shurov (21), 17 1/2 years. Each of those received slightly less than the maximum sentence. Gary Timmins (17), who in a plea bargain made last year, testified as a prosecution witnesses during the trial against John Fox and Anthony Fortunato, and he will be sentenced to four years at a later date.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://www.keithboykin.com/arch/2006/10/15/in_memory_of_mi et alii