Defense attorneys for the four Miami area men accused of an anti-gay hate crime threw a curveball in court Nov. 18 when they told the judge they wanted a continuance in order to file a stand your ground motion.
The judge was not happy. At one point she told the courtroom she was “bored to tears” because the case was taking so long to resolve. The alleged hate crime took place April 8, 2018.
“Are you aware of how many continuances have been granted? Get your act in order. COVID is not an excuse anymore,” she said.
The trial was supposed to start Nov. 30.
The judge granted the defense’s request while also saying “no more continuances.”
Under the Stand Your Ground law in Florida a person who is attacked has no duty to retreat and allows them to “stand their ground” and “meet force with force.” When a defendant files a stand your ground motion it allows the judge to dismiss the charges without going to trial if they find the actions were justified.
In this case the attack was caught on video and according to the arrest report, the video footage is consistent with what the victims told police.
In March prosecutors seemed hopeful a plea deal might be reached to avoid a trial.
“We are in the midst of plea negotiations [...] there are some discussions going back and forth with some various options,” prosecutor Justin Funck said at the time.
But at the hearing in August Funck sounded less confident about eventually reaching a deal.
“I know that at some point, there was, you know, hopes of resolving the case short of a trial,” Judge Andrea Wolfson said.
“I am going to have more discussions with the defense attorneys,” Funck said.
The four defendants — Adonis Diaz, Juan Carlos Lopez, Luis Alonso-Piovet, and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa — all in their early 20s, have pleaded not guilty.
Here’s a recap of what allegedly happened: the attack took place when Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov were leaving a public bathroom in Lummus Park in Miami Beach after the local pride festival had wrapped up.
“We were walking and holding hands and needed to use the bathroom,” Logunov told SFGN in 2018. So the two of them stopped at a public restroom as they headed home for the evening.
As Logunov walked out of the restroom he was allegedly called a “faggot” in Spanish, punched, and then beaten unconscious. His boyfriend at the time, Chalarca, quickly intervened, but three more men jumped in and began to attack them both.
The attack was caught on camera and the four defendants were charged with three counts of aggravated battery. A hate crime enhancement was later added to the charges.
A third person, Helmut Estrada, attempted to assist Chalarca and Logunov. He was also attacked during the altercation and injured.
Jose Cassola of Miami Gay News contributed to this report.