Updated 08/05/2010 05:23 PM
Men Convicted Of Fatally Beating Ecuadorian Immigrant Receive Sentences
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The two men convicted in the beating death of Ecuadorian immigrant Jose Sucuzhañay were sentenced Thursday to 37 years in prison.
Sucuzhañay was walking arm-in-arm with his brother, Romel, in Bushwick in December 2008 when they were approached by Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott. Prosecutors say the men beat the brothers while yelling anti-gay and anti-Hispanic remarks.
Phoenix, who was found guilty of murder in the second degree as a hate crime, received the maximum sentence in Brooklyn Supreme Court of 25 years to life in prison on those charges. He was also sentenced to an additional 12 years in prison on the charges of attempted assault as a hate crime.
He will serve the penalty consecutively, for a total of 37 years to life in prison.
Hakim Scott was convicted of manslaughter, but acquitted of murder and hate crimes charges.
He, too, received the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for the manslaughter charge. Additionally, he was sentenced to 12 years for attempted assault.
Scott will serve the penalty consecutively, for a total of 37 years in prison.
"I think the system has sent a clear message and whoever acts irresponsibly has to be held accountable," said Diego Sucuzhañay, the victim's brother. "So that these kind of behaviors do not happen again."
"We certainly express our condolences from the district attorney to the Sucuzhañay family and to Romel and his mom, who is here today," said Assistant District Attorney Josh Hanshaft. "We believe the judge sent a message that hatred will not be tolerated. We thank the family for working with us to help bring this case to the end today."
Prior to the sentencing, both Phoenix and Scott spoke before the judge, along with relatives and family members of the victims.
Phoenix and Scott both asked the judge for leniency, blaming the situation on alcohol. They claimed there was no bias or hatred involved.
Sucuzhañay's brother, who watched as his brother bled to death on the sidewalk, and Sucuzhañay's mother both made tearful statements.
Addressing Phoenix and Scott, the judge said that violence and hate will not be tolerated and she hopes the sentences send that message.
Family members vowed that Sucuzhañay's death would not be in vain.
"We are announcing the formation of the Sucuzhañay Foundation, to create and fundraise and help the [New York City Police Department] with compensation, rewards for information that can help capture those responsible for those attacks motivated by hatred,” said Diego Sucuzhañay.
The foundation also hopes to provide economic assistance to victims and their families, seeking donations from businesses citywide.