A status hearing was held Friday morning via Zoom in the case of the four men accused of attacking a gay couple in 2018 after the closing festivities of Miami Beach Pride.
Justin Funck, the attorney representing the state, told the judge his office had conducted most of the officer depositions and were ready to start interviewing the other witnesses including the victims.
The judge scheduled the next status hearing for Dec. 15.
“I really do trust all of you are working toward figuring out which way we’re going to go when we reach that fork in the road,” Judge Andrea Wolfson said during the hearing on Zoom.
The case is now over two years old.
Several trial dates have been set in the past, but they’ve all been postponed. The last trial date was May 5. The last status hearing took place in mid-September.
One of the defendants — Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa — attended the status hearing but did not speak.
In June Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle apologized to the LGBT community for the continued delays, blaming much of it on COVID-19.
“Honestly, this is such a priority for us. I know it’s very frustrating because it has taken a long time,” she said during a state attorney candidate virtual town hall hosted by SAVE. “If those defense attorneys don’t set it down, and don’t move, and the judges don’t prod them to do it, it does languish a bit.”
Rundle noted that originally the four defendants were represented by the same lawyer. Each defendant then sought their own legal counsel which drew out the case and further complicated it with more moving parts.
One of those lawyers, Michael Swinton, told the judge during the Friday hearing he wanted to be able to depose the victims in person versus Zoom.
“I would rather do in-person depositions,” he said. “We've done it for officers obviously on the video depos, but for me personally [...] on behalf of the best interests of my client I may want to do in-person depos.”
Wolfson is leaving it up to the lawyers to work out those details.
“That's something that you all can discuss and see if you can come up with a workable plan,” the judge said.
The next status hearing will take place in mid-December.
The four defendants — Adonis Diaz, Juan Carlos Lopez, Luis Alonso-Piovet, and 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 on April 8, 2018.
“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 have been charged with three counts of aggravated battery and a hate crime enhancement was added to the charges.
A third person, Helmut Estrada, attempted to assist Chalarca and Logunov. He was also attacked during the altercation and injured.
Criminal jury trials have yet to resume in Florida.
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