2 suspects indicted on hate crime murder, hate crime assault charges
NEW YORK — Two men accused of killing an Ecuadorean immigrant while shouting anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs are now charged with additional crimes that could send them to prison for 78 years if convicted, prosecutors said Tuesday, March 3.
Hakim Scott, 25, and Keith Phoenix, 28, were indicted on charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime in the death of Jose Sucuzhanay and first-degree assault as a hate crime in the attack on his brother, Romel. They also face weapons and attempted assault charges.
The defendants were arrested last week and pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder as a hate crime. They are being held without bail.
District Attorney Charles Hynes said it was not certain when they would be arraigned on the new charges.
Scott and Phoenix are accused of attacking the brothers as they walked arm in arm in Brooklyn to keep warm on Dec. 7.
The suspects pulled up in a sport utility vehicle and two groups exchanged words. The fight escalated, with Scott hitting Romel Sucuzhanay with a beer bottle and Phoenix beating Jose Sucuzhanay with an aluminum baseball bat, prosecutors said. Jose Sucuzhanay died several days later.
Phoenix has said he had acted in self-defense because it appeared Jose Sucuzhanay was reaching for a gun. Hynes refuted those claims at a press conference Tuesday.
Jose Arrufat, an attorney for the Sucuzhanay family, said it was thankful for the exhaustive investigative efforts by police.
"The family has suffered tremendously," Arrufat said in Spanish.