By Andy Newman for The New York Times
April 25, 2006
A Brooklyn man was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison for beating and stomping a gay man so viciously that he suffered serious brain damage and is partly paralyzed. The defendant, Steven Pomie, 25, had told investigators that the victim, Dwan Prince, made a pass at him on the street.
Justice Deborah A. Dowling of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn seemed aghast at the intensity of the attack as she sentenced Mr. Pomie for assault committed as a hate crime. ”Words alone should never be enough to provoke such a rage,” she told him. ”That’s never an excuse for anything.”
Mr. Prince, now 28, was a construction worker and a porter in his apartment building in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and was taking out the garbage last June 8 when Mr. Pomie walked by. Mr. Pomie told investigators that he was wearing his girlfriend’s pink tank top and that Mr. Prince made some flirtatious remarks to him.
A prosecution witness testified that he saw Mr. Pomie and another man beating and kicking someone and then leaving, and that as Mr. Prince lay against a wall dazed and bleeding a few minutes later, Mr. Pomie returned and kicked him squarely in the head.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Pomie shouted anti-gay slurs as he delivered the beating, which an assistant district attorney, Thomas C. Ridges, called ”akin to a lynching” yesterday.
Mr. Prince sustained a blood clot the size of a soda can on his brain and was in and out of a coma for several weeks, a doctor testified at the trial. His speech is now severely impaired, he has memory loss and other cognitive problems and he spends most of his time in a wheelchair.
”He used to swing a sledgehammer,” Mr. Ridges said before Justice Dowling passed sentence. ”Now he can’t even take care of himself.” Mr. Ridges added that Mr. Prince, who also suffers from AIDS, tried to kill himself two weeks ago.
Mr. Prince tried to read a statement at the sentencing yesterday but found it so hard to speak intelligibly he gave it to his mother to read. ” ‘I’ve changed so much I can’t even cry,’ ” his mother, Valerie Prinez, read.
Then Ms. Prinez spoke some of her own words. ”He took my son’s memory,” she said of Mr. Pomie. ”He took my son’s brain. He took my son’s limbs. But he could not ever take my son’s soul.”
Mr. Pomie, who has previous convictions for weapons possession, attempted assault and petty larceny, continued to deny yesterday that he assaulted Mr. Prince. He apologized nevertheless.
”I’m sorry for the heartache,” he said tearfully. ”I think about it 24 hours a day. I’m sorry, Dwan.” Mr. Pomie has told investigators that the beating was administered by a man named Mark Taylor; Mr. Ridges said that the police were still trying to talk to him.
Justice Dowling did not appear impressed. ”Not only did you participate,” she told Mr. Pomie, ”you delivered one of the ultimate blows to Mr. Prince.” Under hate-crime law, Mr. Pomie must serve at least half of his 25-year sentence.
Mr. Pomie’s lawyer, Kleon C. Andreadis, said he would appeal the verdict on the ground that prosecutors had failed to tell him about a statement supporting Mr. Pomie that a girlfriend had given them. She ultimately testified at the trial.
Mr. Prince and his mother wept after the sentencing. ”Hallelujah” Mr. Prince said through sobs. He said he was in ”tremendous pain 24 hours a day.” But he added, ”I will do the best I can to live my life.”