Well, the second conviction in the case of the hate crime that killed Michael
Anthony Fortunato was found guilty today of manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime and attempted petty larceny for his part in luring a gay man to a meeting place last October, beating him and chasing him into traffic.
There’s a kind of irony in this conviction coming on National Coming Out Day, since Fortunato came out in an (apparently failed) attempt to dodge the hate crime charges.
Yesterday, dressed in a dark blazer and khaki slacks, Mr. Fortunato took the stand in his own defense. When Mr. Di Chiara asked him his sexual orientation, he responded, ”I don’t know.” Asked what he meant, he said: ”I could be homosexual. A homosexual. Bisexual.”
…Mr. Fortunato testified that since age 13, he had hidden homosexual impulses and eventually encounters from his friends. Luring Mr. Sandy, he said, was intended to gauge their opinions of homosexuality.
”I might someday be able to reveal to a heterosexual group of friends that I was gay,” Mr. Fortunato said, adding, ”I was living two complete double lives.”
To his friends that night, he said, he explained his knowledge of gay Web sites by saying he had used them to meet gay men and steal from them. But what, his lawyer asked, did he plan to do when Mr. Sandy arrived that night?
His attorney a failed in an attempt to introduce Fortunato’s chat logs and ISP account records to prove his client’s sexual orientation, but he did succeed introducing a couple of witnesses to bolster Fortunato’s claims.
Before his client’s testimony, Mr. Di Chiara yesterday called witnesses to try to bolster Mr. Fortunato’s defense. Like Michael Roberto.
His first witness was a brokerage firm worker wearing a bright blue tie and a golden hoop ring in his left ear.
”I’m a gay man,” said the witness, Michael Roberto, who had been ordered to testify by subpoena. Under questioning from Mr. Di Chiara, he recounted meeting Mr. Fortunato online, then inviting him to his apartment for sex. Mr. Fortunato arrived, he said, wearing panties and a bra. Two more witnesses gave similar accounts.
And Henry Rudolph.
Fortunato’s lawyer announced in his opening statement that his client was gay, and provided the proof yesterday by subpoenaing three older men who hooked up with Fortunato for sex after meeting him on the Internet.
“To my shock he was wearing ladies’ undergarments, he had a bra, if I remember correctly, and a G-string,” recalled Henry Rudolph of their tryst in his apartment.
The idea was if Fortunato is gay then he couldn’t have committed a hate crime. Right. Well, like I said before:
Could he laugh even then? Could he be gay or — more specifically, a latent homosexual who has sex with men — and still gay bash? Sure. If Larry Craig could legislate against gays, in between trips to the men’s room, and if Mark Foley could take his hands of his Blackberry long enough to do the same, and if Ted Haggard could preach against and advocate against gays in between massage appointments, and Roy Cohn crusade against homosexuals in between dates with P-Town hustlers, then Anthony Fortunato could be a self-loathing, latent homosexual, and a not-so-latent gay basher.
…Fortunato may not have been on the parkway when Michael Sandy was being beaten, but he made sure that Sandy was there for whatever took place. And he may be belatedly gay now, whereas before he was conveniently not gay while having sex with men, perhaps robbing them, and luring at least one to his death. For that he deserves neither pity nor sympathy. Many of us know all to well what’s it’s like to struggle with self-loathing and self-acceptance when it comes to our sexuality, but struggling with either isn’t an excuse for taking someone else down with you.
Belatedly gay, or not, Fortunato deserves to face justice for his part in Michael Sandy’s death, just as much as Sandy deserves some kind of justice, albeit posthumously. Thanks, in part, to Fortunato.
So, happy National Coming Out Day, Mr. Fortunato.