A New York judge referred to this month’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando when he sentenced a man last week to 40-years to life in prison for a 2013 hate crime murder in Greenwich Village.
“I can’t help but perceive or observe the parallel tragedy in Orlando,” Judge A. Kirke Bartley Jr., said as he imposed the maximum sentence on Elliot Morales, 36, in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, The New York Times reported.
The parallel, the judge said, “is revealed in hatred, self-loathing, fear and death.”
Morales was convicted by a jury in March of murder as a hate crime for the shooting death of Mark Carson, a gay black man, after shouting homophobic insults at the victim and his companion.
Morales acted as his own attorney during the two-week trial, arguing to the jury that he wasn’t homophobic because he is bisexual and had prior intimate relationships with transgender women.
The hate-crime murder occurred on May 18, 2013, after Morales burst into the Annisa restaurant on Barrow Street, shouting antigay slurs, waving a weapon, after an employee confronted him for urinating on the sidewalk.
Appearing angry, Morales left the restaurant and quickly encountered Carson and Danny Robinson, a pair of friends from Brooklyn, dressed in shorts and tank tops, the Times reported.
Morales taunted the men, calling them “gay wrestlers” and “faggots.” As the pair challenged Morales, the confrontation moved to a nearby closed bookstore where Morales pulled out a revolver and shot Carson in the face at close range as Robinson called the police.
New York City Police Officer Henry Huot, who responded to the scene, took down Morales as he attempted to point the murder weapon at the officer, the New York Daily News reported.
“At that moment, I came to accept my fate, that possibly I won’t ever be able to go home to see my little ones, and … I might possibly would have taken your life,” Huot said in a statement to the court. “How incredibly lucky I am that I am still here, breathing, living and how I was able to go home to see my kids and family.”
At trial, Morales argued that he acted in self-defense, believing Robinson’s phone was a weapon. Prosecutor Shannon Lucey responded that Morales had acted out of “bigotry” and “unjustifiable rage,” not fear.
At sentencing, the prosecutor described Morales as having “a lot of self-loathing issues” and may have experienced “discomfort with his own sexuality” when he confronted the gay men three years ago, the Times reported. While he had sexual relationships with transgender people, the prosecutor said, he never appeared with them in public.
Addressing the court at sentencing on Tuesday, Morales initially said the shooting was “more so reckless than intentional,” before embarking on a tirade in which he insinuated that emergency medical technicians had mistreated the victim, leading to his death.
“What happened is a tragic accident,” Morales told the court. “In no part was it based on my bias toward anyone’s sexual relationship. It is beyond my comprehension how someone like myself, who happens to be bisexual and part of the L.G.B.T. community, can be falsely accused and then convicted of a hate crime.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. “lauded the stiff sentence,” telling the Times: “Any life lost to gun violence is a tragedy for our city. But homophobic, hate-fueled incidents like this one are particularly unconscionable. As we mourn the lives lost in Orlando, we remain committed to doing everything we can to combat and prevent crimes against L.G.B.T. New Yorkers.”