When former executive director of SAVE, Tony Lima, said on stage at one of their annual galas that four men accused of a hate crime in Miami Beach were wrongfully accused and volunteered at the LGBT rights organization it shocked the community.
“More details have come to light to show that this was not a hate driven crime. Basically they were defending themselves. We’re supportive of their case moving forward. We support the truth coming to light,” Lima said at the time. “It’s very easy to jump on a bandwagon when you feel your community is being attacked. It’s important to look deeper into things when there is a shadow of a doubt.”
Less than a week after Lima made those comments the board of SAVE unanimously terminated him.
Now the young men’s volunteerism is being called into question.
According to a source close to the board of SAVE, who did not have the authority to speak on the record, the organization conducted an internal investigation and found no evidence the four men ever volunteered for SAVE.
Lima initially told SFGN they volunteered for 6 months.
Later though in a video apology to the community he said 6 weeks.
Here’s an edited version of the transcript.
When the four men showed up to the gala he said he wanted to acknowledge their efforts.
“I wanted them to really be able to have the opportunity to engage with our community at a deeper level,” Lima said. “That was my mistake. I should never have done that.”
But SFGN’s source insists the volunteering never happened.
SAVE declined to comment.
When SFGN reached out to Lima again he said of the four men: “you can talk to them directly and they can confirm having volunteered.”
SFGN reached out to the four men’s lawyer, Dennis Gonzalez Jr., who did not respond to an email. He has responded to SFGN in the past.
One of the alleged attackers was raised by two gay men. Last year the gay father spoke out in defense of his son.
Juan Lopez, the father of Juan Carlos Lopez, told NBC6 that his son, along with the others, have never attacked “any gay people.”
“I’m sure 100 percent of that,” Juan Lopez told NBC6, also saying that his son respects “everybody in this community” and that he “loves LGBT.”
SFGN reached out to Lopez, but did not receive a reply back.
SFGN also reached out to the State Attorney’s Office to see if they were ever made aware of this community service.
“The State Attorney’s Office has had no interactions with these defendants and their activities at SAVE. This is still an active criminal prosecution and we are getting ready for our criminal court trial,” a spokesmen for the State Attorney’s Office said. “By the way, your use of the term ‘community service’ is somewhat incorrect as community service is usually used as a part of a criminal court sentence and this case has not been resolved or gone to trial. Simply put, this entire matter would have nothing to do with the State Attorney’s Office.”
The four defendants — Adonis Diaz, Juan Carlos Lopez, Luis Alonso Piovet, and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa — all in their early 20s, have pled not guilty and are awaiting trial.
In the last three months their trial has been postponed twice. The new trial date is set for Nov. 18.
The four men are accused of attacking a gay couple as they were leaving a public bathroom in Lummus Park in Miami Beach on April 8, 2018. The alleged crime was caught on video.
“We were walking and holding hands and needed to use the bathroom,” Dmitry Logunov told SFGN last year. So the two of them stopped at 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, Rene Chalarca, quickly intervened, but three more men jumped in and began to attack them both.
Physically they’ve both recovered.
The attack was caught on camera and the four suspects have been charged with three counts of aggravated battery and a hate crime enhancement was added to the charges.
Last year Gonzalez publicly defended his clients.
“All four of my clients condemn acts of violence toward anyone whether it’s motivated by hate toward the gay community, toward nationality or anything of that nature,”“They come out and condemn that. We don’t believe there was any type of animus toward the gay community.”
Russell Cormican, a well known criminal defense attorney in Broward County, gave some insight into why the men would want to volunteer for an LGBT rights organization.
“When people are charged with a crime, they sometimes react by getting involved in charitable work. Sometimes they are motivated to do that by a true desire to help others,” Cormican said. “Other times, they may simply be trying to put their best face forward because they know it may help them with their pending cases.”
Cormican also noted though that if the men only attended a gala that would not hold much weight with a judge.