2007_09_fortunato.jpgThe claim that Anthony Foturnato, one of three men on trial for hate crime murder of a gay man, was gay himself was not only strange to most everyone - it was apparently mysterious to the judge as well! Fortunato, Ilya Shurov John Fox, and Michael Timmins had lured Michael Sandy to meet them at a secluded location in Sheepshead Bay, via a gay chatroom, in 2006. Once there, they robbed and beat Sandy, who ran into the Belt Parkway and was hit by a car. Fortunato, Shurov and Fox were charged with murder as a hate crime; Timmins agreed to a plea deal in return for testifying against the others.

According to the NY Times, the judge presiding over the trial, Judge Jill Konviser-Levine, said to Fortunato's lawyer, "I'm still curious as to the relevance of your client's sexuality."

In response, the defense lawyer, Gerald J. Di Chiara, elaborated on his theory that the attack was part of a confused effort to experiment with homosexuality. Mr. Di Chiara had revealed his client’s sexual orientation in his opening statement on Monday.

“If he happens to be gay,” Mr. Di Chiara told the judge yesterday, “I think it’s more likely that he’s not targeting gay people.”

DiChiara had wanted to submit evidence of a suicide attempt, which the judge did not allow, but Judge Konviser-Levine is allowing Fortunato's computer screen names to be introduced. Apparenlty, "Di Chiara said he was not seeking sympathy for his client, but planned to use evidence of his state of mind to prove that he was capable of strange behavior."

Image of Fortunato from Towleroad, who has been following the Michael Sandy murder