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Friday, May 7, 2010

Hakim Scott, defendant in hate crime murder trial, convicted of manslaughter and facing 40 years

A Brooklyn man charged in the fatal beating of an Ecuadoran immigrant was acquitted of a hate crime and murder Thursday but convicted of manslaughter.

Despite the split verdict, Hakim Scott faces up to 40 years in prison - and the jury is still deliberating the fate of his co-defendant, Keith Phoenix.

Scott and Phoenix were hit with hate-crime charges because victim Jose Sucuzhanay - walking down the street arm-in-arm with brother Romel - was pelted with racial and anti-gay epithets before being bludgeoned.

"There was testimony that these words of hate were used," said Diego Sucuzhanay, another brother. "We believe right now would have been a perfect time to send a message against hate, intolerism and racism."

Scott's lawyer claimed a partial vindication for his client.

"It's what I said from the start - for Hakim Scott this was never a hate crime," said defense lawyer Craig Newman. "He's obviously devastated because he feels he was in a car with someone who committed a crime and he was dragged along with him."

Prosecutors claimed Scott, 26, instigated the Dec. 7, 2008, incident by jumping out of an SUV to hit Jose Sucuzhanay with a beer bottle and chase Romel - but said Phoenix, 30, delivered punishing blows with a baseball bat.

The pair were tried together but had separate juries. Scott's deliberated just eight hours before convicting him of first-degree manslaughter, which carries 25 years, and attempted assault, which carries 15 years.

"I'm guessing that Phoenix will be convicted of a hate crime but we didn't see enough evidence that Scott heard any of that," juror Herbert Mann told the Daily News.

"Some thought it might have been a hate crime but most of the discussion was about manslaughter or assault.

"The conclusion was that he held the bottle up high before he brought it down and he intended to do terrible harm and the outcome was that [Jose] died."

As the verdict was read, Scott's family began crying and Romel Sucuzhanay and other relatives grimaced.

"Someday maybe we'll get justice," said Walter Sinche, director of the International Ecuadorian Alliance. "Hopefully, these types of attacks will stop."

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