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Murder suspect convicted — but not for hate crime

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Hate crime conundrum

One of the two men accused of beating to death an Ecuadorian immigrant they thought was gay was acquitted of any hate crime charges on May 6.

Prosecutors said that Hakim Scott still faces up to 40 years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in the death of Jose Sucuzhanay.

As this paper went to press, the jury deciding the fate of his co-defendant, Keith Phoenix, was still deliberating.

Pheonix was charged with bashing Sucuzhanay with a baseball bat. Scott was accused of instigating the fight and then striking Sucuzhanay with a bottle.

The two allegedly mistook Sucuzhanay and his brother, Romel, 38, for gay lovers as they were seen walking arm-in-arm down Bushwick Avenue near Kossuth Place on Dec. 7, 2008. The two men weren’t being affectionate -- they were simply bracing against the cold.

Cops said that when Jose put his jacket on his brother’s shoulders, they were suddenly confronted by three men, one of whom reportedly cried out, “Look at the faggots!”

“F**k you Spanish people,” another allegedly said.

The trio jumped the siblings, knocking Sucuzhanay unconscious with the bottle, then striking him repeatedly in the head with a baseball bat as he lay on the ground, officials said.

The three were scared off when Romel pulled out a cell phone as if he were going to call 911. Scott and Phoenix were arrested after a city-wide manhunt.

Their attorneys admitted that the two tussled with Sucuzhanay and his brother, but only grabbed the baseball bat when they saw Romel pull a gun, which was never found.

In videotaped confessions, both men admitted to attacking Sucuzhanay, but not because they thought he was gay.

Scott’s attorney, Craig Newman, told reporters that the attack “was never a hate crime.”

“[Scott’s] obviously devastated because he feels he was in a car with someone who committed a crime and he was dragged along with him,” Newman said.

NYPD cop hang with posers

An eight-year veteran of the NYPD was pulled into Brooklyn Federal Court last week on charges that he provided a violent robbery crew with badges and NYPD gear used in their stick-ups.

Federal prosecutors said that Emmanuel Tavarez, 30, “used his status as a police officer to obtain NYPD raid jackets and other NYPD paraphernalia and equipment for the crew so that they would appear to be authentic police officers.”

Suited up in NYPD regalia, the thieves would pose as police officers and, armed with bogus search warrants, would “arrest” drug traffickers in both New York and Philadelphia.

Federal prosecutors said that the crew would restrain “traffickers or bystanders with handcuffs, rope, and duct tape.”

“In addition, crew members often brandished firearms or physically assaulted their victims,” according to court papers.

The robberies -- 100 in total -- began as early as 2001, said prosecutors. The crew of 15 was ultimately brought to justice in March 2009. The equipment Tavarez provided was reportedly in the suspects’ possession when they were taken into custody, officials said. At least five of the robbery suspects have already pleaded guilty.

Tavarez, a housing cop in Queens, allegedly participated in the some of the raids which prosecutors said netted thousands of dollars in cash and hundreds of kilograms of cocaine with a street value of more than $1 million, prosecutors said.

An in-law recruited Tavarez into the crew, officials alleged. He robbed drug dealers as a pretend cop before he became an actual cop, sources alleged.

“[Tavarez] is alleged to have committed serious crimes and compounded that by violating the very law he was sworn to uphold,” United States Attorney Loretta Lynch said, adding that this conduct “unfairly tarnishes the proud reputation of the thousands of law enforcement officers in New York who put their lives on the line every day to protect our residents and their communities.”

Tavarez was charged with robbery conspiracy and narcotics distribution. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison, officials said.

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