Two Bronx residents have been indicted in the murder of José Sucuzhanay, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was beaten to death on a cold night last December, as he walked arm-in-arm with his brother, Rommel. Witnesses reported that the defendants, Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix, yelled racial and homophobic slurs while attacking the brothers. Phoenix and Scott are being charged with murder in the second degree as a hate crime, manslaughter, assault and attempted assault.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says if the two men are convicted of all counts, his office will seek the maximum sentence--78 years to life in prison.
HYNES: “The case is a clear message that society simply cannot permit cretins to target anyone because of sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, religion or gender.”
On Saturday, Keith Phoenix said José Sucuzhanay kicked his SUV and appeared to go for a weapon, and that he acted in self defense. But José Arrufat, an attorney for the Sucuzhanay family, dismissed that version of events:
ARRUFAT: "There was no way you could interpret smashing the head of someone with a baseball bat as self defense while you're slurring anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs."
José Sucuzhanay was an active member of the Ecuadorian community in Bushwick, and a father of two children.