Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott were sentenced to 37 years in prison for the December 2008 killing of Jose Sucuzhañay in Brooklyn. Both men were accused of launching a tirade of anti-gay and Latino slurs while Sucuzhañay was walking with his brother Diego before repeatedly hitting him with an aluminum baseball bat.
“I think the system has sent a clear message and whoever acts irresponsibly has to be held accountable," said Diego to the press after the verdict that found Phoenix guilty of murder and hate crimes charges. (Scott was convicted of manslaughter and attempted assault, instead).
Both men apologized to Sucuzhanay's family before being sentenced with Phoenix claiming that he was “not a monster like the prosecutors and the media make me out to be.” Yet Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Patricia DiMango found it “beyond…comprehension” that both men took “another human being's life in such a cruel and wanton manner."
Today’s sentencing comes amidst a rash of bias attacks targeting Latinos in the New York borough of Staten Island. According to BBC News there has been at least ten reported cases of attacks against Latinos since April with the latest assault taking place over the weekend. Despite increased community involvement and a greater police presence some Staten Island youth expressed their misgivings to the New York Times:
“It used to be nice,” said Farad Montalvo, 17, a Staten Island native of part-Puerto Rican heritage who will be a senior at Port Richmond High School in the fall. “Now kids are getting scared. They can’t walk down the street now”…Image- New York Daily News (“A business card belonging to Jose Oswald Sucuzhanay.”)
“It’s a war between Mexicans and blacks,” said Dream Rogers, 11, who was walking with her sister, Kim, 10, on Tuesday. “When the cops leave, it’s going to start again.”
Online Sources- Gothamist, NY1, New York Daily News, New York Times, BBC News