Elliot Morales Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Hate Crime Murder
Days after a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida, the judge in a hate-crime murder case in New York invoked the massacre as he sentenced a man to 40 years to life in prison on Tuesday.
The man, Elliot Morales, was convicted in March of murder as a hate crime for killing Mark Carson, 32, a gay black man, in the West Village in Manhattan three years ago, after spewing homophobic invectives at Mr. Carson and his companion.
“I can’t help but perceive or observe the parallel tragedy in Orlando,” the judge, A. Kirke Bartley Jr., said as he imposed the sentence in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. “That parallel is revealed in hatred, self-loathing, fear and death.”
Mr. Morales, 36, was convicted after a two-week trial during which he represented himself, assuming the dual roles of defendant and defense lawyer. Addressing Mr. Morales, Justice Bartley said that the defendant’s ability to appear in the courtroom “calm, intelligent, well-prepared, well-behaved” could not deter from the fact that he was “something worthy of a character in a Stephen King novel, in short, a monster.”
“Mr. Morales, yours is a legacy of death and fear, nothing more, nothing less,” the judge said.
Mr. Morales, looking at an audience of Mr. Carson’s friends and family in the courtroom, insisted that the killing was neither bias-motivated nor purposeful.
“I’m really, really, really, truly sorry for what happened,” he said. “What happened is a tragic accident. In no part was it based on my bias toward anyone’s sexual relationship.”
Then, turning toward the judge, he added, “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.”
Jurors deliberated for two days before rejecting Mr. Morales’s contention that his intimate relationships with transgender women proved he was not homophobic and that he did not kill Mr. Carson out of hatred toward gay people.
Instead, the jurors saw the pattern of Mr. Morales’s behavior that evening as underscoring such prejudice.
Before his fatal encounter with Mr. Carson, Mr. Morales stormed the Annisa restaurant on Barrow Street shouting antigay slurs and brandishing a weapon, after an employee there upbraided him for urinating on the sidewalk.
Mr. Morales left enraged and soon spotted Mr. Carson and Danny Robinson, two friends from Brooklyn, strolling amiably on a warm summer night dressed in shorts and tank tops. Mr. Morales taunted the men, calling them “gay wrestlers” and “faggots.” The friends challenged Mr. Morales’s mocking tone, and the confrontation continued as they moved into the shadow of a closed bookstore. There, Mr. Morales pulled out a silver revolver and shot Mr. Carson in the face while Mr. Robinson tried to call the police.
Mr. Morales said he acted in self-defense, afraid that the phone Mr. Robinson had retrieved was a weapon. But the prosecution thwarted that notion, insisting that Mr. Morales had acted out of “bigotry” and “unjustifiable rage,” not fear for his safety.
After Mr. Morales fled the scene of the murder and was apprehended by the police, he told the officers that he shot Mr. Carson “because he tried to act tough.”
The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., lauded the stiff sentence. “Any life lost to gun violence is a tragedy for our city,” Mr. Vance said in a statement. “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.”
Shannon Lucey, the lead prosecutor, described Mr. Morales in court as having “a lot of self-loathing issues.” She noted that while he had sexual relationships with transgender people, he never appeared with them in public. Seeing Mr. Robinson and Mr. Carter together, Ms. Lucey argued, may have triggered Mr. Morales’s discomfort with his own sexuality.
After the verdict was rendered in March, one juror said that Mr. Morales’s actions that night showed that “he was kind of categorizing people,” in a manner that exposed his bias toward gay people and that culminated in the shooting of Mr. Carson.
Outside the courtroom on Tuesday, Florine Bumpars, an aunt of Mr. Carson, spoke through tears as she castigated Mr. Morales.
“He got what he deserves,” Ms. Bumpars, 47, said. “If he was sorry he would’ve never did it.”