A man in upstate New York pleaded guilty to violently attacking a gay couple as they were leaving the New York state fair last August.
Nicholas Ferlenda, 28, pleaded guilty to two hate crimes on Tuesday – fourth-degree criminal mischief and third-degree assault.
According to the police reports, Ferlenda apparently became enraged at seeing one of the men put his arm around his boyfriend as they were leaving a concert event on August 24.
Ferlenda began screaming obscenities and anti-LGBTQ slurs at the couple as they walked to their vehicle.
He then punched one of the men in the face. The report states the men attempted to ignore him but the harassment continued for nearly half an hour.
As they tried to leave the fairgrounds, they stopped to report the incident to a fair worker. But Ferlenda caught up to the car and punched the driver’s side window causing it to shatter.
He was eventually taken into custody at 10:55 p.m. Police believe he may have been intoxicated.
If Ferlenda hadn’t used specific anti-LGBTQ slurs he would have only faced two misdemeanors. But the hate speech bumped the charges up to felonies.
Prosecutor Anthony Mangovski told the court on Tuesday Ferlenda’s actions demonstrated an “unbelievable” hatred, especially towards strangers. Mangovski urged the court to sentence Ferlenda to 1 to 3 years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to one of the crimes.
But state Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy instead offered 6 months in jail and five years probation if Ferlenda copped to both hate crime felonies.
He will also be required to pay for any damages he caused to the couple’s car as well as take part in diversity training.
Additionally, he will face up to 8 years in prison if he is re-arrested before formal sentencing in April.