This past May, a quiet injustice occurred without much notice in the LGBT Community. This might be because the crime that it was attached to happened four years ago. Two of the four men who were arrested and charged with beating Craig Cohen to death in 2009 were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
On 6 April 2009, Victor Gonzalez and Pargu Leandro along with Chad Olah and Brandon Edwards were accused of attacking Cohen as he walked home from the Peter Pan Diner in Oakland Park. Cohen was left in a coma for six months before finally dying on 7 October 2009.
The two men apologized to Cohen’s family. They pled guilty to the crime and their family and friends pleaded for mercy from Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes. They also asked for forgiveness from Cohen’s relatives. Leandro said “I am disgusted and ashamed of myself because of all this. I’m sorry for my cowardly acts. I could have stopped this. Any punishment I receive will not be fair to the Cohen family.”
Gonzalez said “I will never forgive myself. What happened here, what I did here, is not who I am. I beg you to find solace in my contrition.” Gonzalez is a native from Nicaragua and struggles with English. He will be deported when his prison term is up.
Olah and Edwards pled guilty back in 2011.
Gary Cohen, Craig’s brother, said “They certainly weren’t sorry when they beat Craig. You showed that night what hateful people you are. You deserve no mercy.” Cohen’s family wanted the men to get the maximum prison term for what they did.
Cohen was openly gay, but authorities refused to charge the attackers with a hate crime claiming that the four men were looking to beat someone at random and rob them. According to police, two of the men were hanging around earlier in the day chatting about how fun it would be to beat and rob someone.
The four men also attacked and beat David Villanova. While Villanova suffered head injuries, he survived. Villanova has also been reported to be gay.
Initially, Broward County’s top police officer had suggested that the crimes were being investigated as hate crimes, but the department’s detectives said otherwise. Defense lawyer Sebastian Balliro said at the time that “It just doesn’t jive with their own investigation.”
Ultimately, hate crimes charges were never filed, and the four men were given relatively light sentances.