2 men face trial in NYC beating death of Ecuadorean immigrant; unrelated case ended Monday

By Colleen Long, AP
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2 NYC men face trial in Ecuadorean immigrant death

NEW YORK — Two men charged with murder in an attack on two Ecuadorean brothers go on trial Tuesday, one day after a teenager was convicted of manslaughter in a similar, unrelated case.

Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder as a hate crime and assault in the death of Jose Sucuzhanay and the beating of his brother, Romel. Phoenix said he acted in self-defense because it appeared Jose Sucuzhanay was reaching for a gun.

The brothers were walking home from a bar after a party in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn on Dec. 7, 2008. Romel Sucuzhanay had put his coat around his brother to keep him warm, and they were huddled together as they walked.

Phoenix and Scott, also leaving a party, pulled up in an SUV. The two groups exchanged words and the fight escalated. Scott hit Romel Sucuzhanay with a beer bottle, and Phoenix beat Jose Sucuzhanay with an aluminum baseball bat, prosecutors said. Phoenix and Scott also hurled anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs, authorities said.

Jose Sucuzhanay went into a coma and died several days later as his mother was en route from Ecuador to see him. He was buried in Ecuador.

After the attack, hundreds of people demonstrated in Brooklyn. Officials in Ecuador monitored the investigation and discussed urging the U.S. Congress to back a campaign of anti-bias education.

The attack came about a month after another Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, was stabbed to death in Patchogue, N.Y. On Monday, Jeffrey Conroy, 19, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime in that case.

Conroy was one of seven teenagers implicated in the November 2008 stabbing, a death that prosecutors said was the culmination of a campaign of violence targeting Hispanics on Long Island. The teens described the activity as “beaner-hopping” or “Mexican hopping.”

Four other defendants have pleaded guilty to hate crime-related charges in the Lucero case, and two others are awaiting trial.

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