Plea Deal in Hate Attack Outrages Customers at Stonewall Inn
GREENWICH VILLAGE — Customers at the Stonewall Inn are outraged that two men who pleaded guilty to an attack at the Christopher Street gay rights landmark will receive only a fraction of the jail time they initially faced.
Matthew Francis, 22, and Christopher Orlando, 18, from Staten Island, admitted Thursday that they attacked a 34-year-old Washington, D.C. man in the bar's men's room on Oct. 3, 2010.
Both faced sentences of eight years in jail for third-degree assault as a hate crime and second-degree attempted robbery.
Francis was promised a sentence of two years in jail after pleading. Orlando, who prosecutors believed played a lesser role in the attack, was promised a six-month jail sentence.
A Stonewall patron for more than 25 years who gave his name only as Junior said he thought the plea deal let the attackers off easy.
"They should get the max. They should've never disrespected anybody, no matter who they were," Junior, 47, said.
The victim, writer and art director Benjamin Carver, was pushed to the ground and punched in the face by Francis while Orlando held him down, he said in an account posted online. His face was bloodied and he had to get stitches above his right eye.
Jason Andrews, a 32-year-old police officer visiting from Portland, Maine, said he thought the sentence was too short — though he said he thought jail time might not change the attackers' behavior.
"If these people were forced to understand that what they did affected a human being, it would probably elicit more remorse than spending a predetermined time in jail away from society," he said.
Marc Markowitz, a Stonewall patron who works as a bar back at nearby gay bar Duplex, said he thought both attackers should have gotten three to five years in jail and probation.
"The one kid who got six months is going to be like, 'Oh, I only got six months,' and maybe do it again. And, who knows, kill someone next time?" he said.
Ben Kampler, a Stonewall bartender who was working the night of the attack, was satisfied with the sentence.
"To me, two years sounds like a lot," he said.
Markowitz said he was not surprised to hear that the Village has one of the city's highest per capita crime rates, according to DNAinfo.com's Crime & Safety Report.
He said he frequently sees drug dealers and prostitutes working on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street, and has had to kick people out of Duplex for trying to smoke crack in the bar's bathroom.
Markowitz, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 230 pounds, says he is cautious when leaving Duplex or The Stonewall late at night.
"I don't go down the side streets. I take the main roads," he said.
Kampler, 28, said that while he hasn't seen other crimes committed in the Village, he is cautious.
"There are certain people in this neighborhood who make you check that your wallet is still there," he said.