Four men who beat a gay couple during the Miami Beach Pride celebrations last month are now also facing additional hate crime charges.
Juan C. Lopez, 21; Luis M. Alonso, 20; Adonis Diaz, 22; and Parblo Reinaldo Romo, 21, were caught on camera attacking Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov as they walked out of public restrooms after the parade.
At least one of the men yelled “maricones”, a Spanish anti-gay slur, at the couple as the group viciously punched and kicked them.
A passerby tried to intervene and he too was knocked to the ground. The victims suffered multiple cuts and bruises on their faces and heads, and Logunov was temporarily knocked out.
“We probably provoked them because we were walking together, holding hands. It was gay Pride, South Beach was full of gay people,” Logunov told NBC Miami at the time.
The men were initially each charged with two counts of aggravated battery. On Thursday, prosecutors also charged them under Florida’s hate-crime law, accusing the attackers of targeting their victims because of their sexual orientation.
By adding prejudice to the battery charges, the men face harsher penalties. If found guilty, they could be jailed for a much longer period, doubling the maximum imprisonment from 15 to 30 years.
The men, who surrendered to police after the authorities distributed the video footage of the attack on social media, have pleaded not guilty.
Victim, Rene Chalarca
Kathy Rundle, the State Attorney, welcomed the decision to charge the individuals with a hate crime.
“The four defendants arrested for assaulting two gay individuals during the Gay Pride Parade on South Beach last month were charged today with hate-crime related felony offenses,” she tweeted.
“I commend the investigative work of the Miami Beach Police Department and my Hate Crimes Unit prosecutors in this case,” Rundle added.
Hate crime legislation is seen as an effective tool to combat attacks against vulnerable groups. A hate crimes bill is currently in the process of being made law in South Africa. In March, Cabinet approved the Prevention and combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill ahead of its introduction in Parliament.