Gavel to Gavel

Phoenix falling

Keith Phoenix’s luck has just run out.

After the first jury handling his murder trial ended up hopelessly deadlocked, it only took a second jury just seven hours to find Phoenix guilty on June 28, convicting him of murder as a hate crime.

Phoenix and friend Hakim Scott were accused of lobbing anti-gay statements at Ecuadorian immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay before bashing the man’s head in with a baseball bat during a clash in Bushwick on Dec. 7, 2008.

Prosecutors said the duo mistook Sucuzhanay and his brother, Romel for gay lovers as they were seen walking arm-in-arm down Bushwick Avenue near Kossuth Place.

Police later learned that the two men weren’t being affectionate — they were simply bracing against the cold.

But when Jose put his jacket on his brother’s shoulders, Phoenix and Scott began ridiculing the two men, reportedly crying out, “Look at the faggots!” and “F**k you Spanish people!”

During the ensuing argument, Sucuzhanay kicked the SUV that Phoenix and Scott were seated in.

Outraged, the suspects jumped the siblings, knocking Sucuzhanay unconscious with the bottle.

They then struck him repeatedly in the head with a baseball bat as he lay on the ground, officials said.

Both men were arrested after they were photographed taking their SUV over the Triborough Bridge into the Bronx. When the camera snapped their image, both men were smiling, prosecutors told the jury at Phoenix’s second trial.

During the DA’s first bite at the apple, they tried Phoenix and Scott at the same time, but with separate juries since each defendant blamed the other for the killing.

Attorneys for both men said the assault ended up getting out of hand, but neither man hurt Sucuzhanay because they thought he was gay.

They also referred the jury to the videotaped statements after their arrest, where they outlined — in gruesome detail — how he Ecuadorian immigrant was killed, but gave several reasons why they weren’t homophobic.

The statements, which at first appeared to be damning evidence, helped the two suspects.

Scott was ultimately acquitted of charges of murder as a hate crime, but convicted of manslaughter. He is currently facing up to 40 years in prison.

Before announcing that they couldn’t render a verdict, Phoenix’s jury asked to view the statements repeatedly.

Phoenix’s first jury deliberated for 30 hours over four days before one of the jurors refused to discuss the case any further.

Judge Patricia DiMango declared a mistrial.

After being found guilty Monday, Phoenix’s attorney Philip Smallman vowed to appeal.

“The jury has spoken and that’s the beauty of the system that we have,” he told reporters.

Sex trafficker transported to jail

Young women throughout the tri-state area were breathing a sigh of relief on June 24 when a federal judge ordered a notorious sex trafficker thrown into jail for the next 24 years.

Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. handed down the sentencing against Jamali Brockett, 26, who was arrested in 2008 for transporting and pimping out teenagers and young girls for prostitution in several states stretching from Brooklyn to South Carolina.

His victims ranged from 14 to 19 and included four minors, federal prosecutors said.

According to court papers, Brockett used violence, coercion, and intimidation to force his victims to work as prostitutes. In two separate instances, he actually grabbed girls off the street and forced them into the flesh trade.

Brockett evaded detection and moved his victims every few days between various hotels in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. Sometimes, he would take his victims to Washington D.C. and South Carolina, prosecutors said.

To promote his prostitution business, Brockett posted sexually explicit ads for each victim under the “erotic services” section on Craigslist, but only included his own phone number as the point of contact.

Customers were directed to local hotels where Brockett forced his victims to perform sex acts for money and then pocketed all of the proceeds, officials said.

He also ruled with an iron fist and would beat and threaten the families of any girl who attempted to escape his clutches.

His prostitution ring cracked apart when a 14-year-old girl escaped from a hotel room in Manhattan and reported him to police, federal prosecutors said.

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