Beach Hate Crime Condemned
Called one of worst in years
[MIAMI, FL] - Gay and civil rights groups denounced the New Year's shooting of a gay man in South Beach as one of the worst hate-crime attacks in the county in years.
Two men are facing attempted murder-hate crime charges. Police say one of them shouted an anti-gay slur before shooting the victim in the shoulder -- right after discovering the object of his attention wasn't a woman.
"I just don't recall hearing about anything this vicious in the five years I've worked here," said Howard L. Simon, executive director of the Florida branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I hear about gay-bashing incidents, but I don't hear about somebody pulling out a gun and shooting somebody."
Earnest Robinson, 23, of Hollywood was released from Jackson Memorial Hospital Friday afternoon, shaken by the attack.
Robinson, who says he has feminine features and is often mistaken for a woman, was heading home after spending New Year's Eve partying at Twist nightclub at 1057 Washington Ave. when the attack occurred.
While walking to his car, he said, he was approached at the corner of Collins Avenue and 11th Street by two men, one of whom tried to pick him up.
'They thought I was something I wasn't. I said, `Leave me alone. I'm a man.' His friend was laughing at him and he got offended, and he shot me. I fell to the ground and that's all I remember,'' Robinson said in a phone interview.
Police arrested Adrian Miller, 19, of Long Branch, N.J., and Billy Ledan, 19, of Miami as they drove across the MacArthur causeway about 7 a.m., shortly after the shooting.
Both were charged with attempted murder-hate crime, and Ledan was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Officials say Miller was the shooter. Both are jailed without bond.
State Attorney's Office spokesman Ed Griffith said those charges could result in 15 years to life in prison. Classifying the shooting as a hate crime wouldn't increase the prison term significantly because the potential sentence is already so severe, Griffith said.
Robinson said that while he sometimes cross-dresses, he was not in drag on New Year's Eve. Miami Beach police reports identified him as a transvestite.
''Some people are just ignorant, stupid and hateful,'' Robinson said of his attackers.
Officials said the shooting was an aberration in a city that prides itself on being extremely tolerant of gays. In 1992, it became the first city in the county to give equal protection to gays and lesbians in housing, employment and accommodations.
''I've been at the city 10 years and there has been nothing like this. This is an extreme occurrence,'' said Michael Aller, the city's tourism director and liaison to gay community groups.
Still, the Beach, famous for its gay population and nightlife industry, has had its share of gay-bashing. In the last two weeks, three other incidents occurred at Twist nightclub, according to manager Scott Szabo. Those included one in which men threw bottles at the club entrance and two others in which patrons were picked into fights.
In 2001, the last year for which figures are available, 42 sexual-orientation hate crimes were reported in Florida, according to the state Attorney General's Office, with 11 in Broward and five in Miami-Dade. Miami Beach and Wilton Manors, a small Broward town with a notable gay population, led the state with five each. Most were assaults.
And 1,393 occurred across the country, according to statistics cited by Washington-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
''The unfortunate reality is these crimes happen almost every day,'' said Beth George, spokeswoman for of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.