Three Dundalk men are behind bars after being sentenced yesterday for their roles in a street brawl that has been described as a "gay-bashing" incident.
The three men, who received prison time ranging from 60 days to two years. They continued to deny that they had gone to a gay bar in Southeast Baltimore intending to assault homosexuals.
Their denials did not persuade Baltimore Circuit Judge Kenneth Lavon Johnson. Before sentencing defendant Anthony M. Ambrosino Jr., the judge said: "There's no question in my mind that this is, for lack of a better word, a hate crime.
"These defendants went to the Numbers bar to beat up on victims solely because of their sexual orientation."
Ambrosino, 22, who was convicted of attempted murder, was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison, with all but two years suspended. Co-defendant Matthew T. Randolph, 22, named by Judge Johnson as the instigator of the fight, was sentenced to five years in prison with all but one year suspended for assaulting two bar patrons.
His 25-year-old brother, James A. Randolph, was sentenced to three years with all but 60 days suspended for assault.
The three men were convicted by a jury June 25 for their roles in a fight outside Numbers, a Canton bar with a predominantly gay clientele.
During the two-week trial, bar patrons testified that Ambrosino taunted them with slurs such as "fag," sparking a fight that escalated when he and his friends produced baseball bats and other weapons from the trunk of Ambrosino's car.
Three men said that they received injuries ranging from a broken leg to splintered teeth when struck by a car driven by Ambrosino.
The men have said they were trying to defend themselves after a bar patron touched off the brawl by touching one of them on the buttocks.
Defense lawyer Donald Daneman has also suggested that the real motive for the gay-bashing allegations was a $23.5 million lawsuit filed by the bar patrons against his clients.
Fighting back tears, Ambrosino pleaded with the judge yesterday to spare him a harsh sentence.
"I didn't intend to kill anybody that night. I'm guilty of fighting. I'm guilty of staying out late at the bars," he said.
"I'm begging you to please forgive me and give me a chance. . . . I don't harbor any prejudice."
Attempting to show he held no bias against homosexuals, James Randolph suggested that a member of his family is gay.
told the judge, "I know you perceive this to be a hate crime, and [the victims] do, too, but there's someone in my family . . ." His voice trailed off, then he added, "This wasn't supposed to come out."
The judge then gave him permission to finish his statement at the bench, out of earshot from the crowded courtroom."
After the hearing, Ambrosino's mother, Ginger Johnson, said, "I don't believe it was a hate crime. Those three boys have grown up with gays in the family. We have gays in the family."
Later, prosecutor Carolyn Starks Saxon met with the victims in the case, some of whom said they were disappointed in the sentences.
One victim, who asked that his name not be used in the newspaper, shouted, "I have had it. I can't believe it."
Henry J. Kirkpatrick, a 35-year-old gay man who was assaulted in the melee, said, "I believe it was a hate crime. Still do, always will."