Will this alleged gay-bashing finally go to trial?
A status hearing in the case against Juan Carlos Lopez, Luis M. Alonso Piovet, Adonis Diaz, and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa was held two weeks ago over Zoom, according to the South Florida Gay News. The prosecution has finished all the depositions of the law enforcement officers involved and now they are moving onto the civilians. Another hearing for the case is set for the end of March. That will then mark nearly three years since the case began.
On April 8 of 2018, a gay couple was attacked at Miami Pride. Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov say they were called homophobic slurs while in a bathroom. The couple alleges that they were then attacked outside the bathroom by the before-mentioned four men. A random passerby, Helmut Muller Estrada, later intervened by attempting to defend the gay couple.
“Everything happened so quick,” said Estrada said at the time. “I was so angry and I just wanted to defend these guys regardless of their sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter.”
The initial fight led to a chase and a second fight. That second fight resulted in Estrada getting a gash at the back of his head that required stitches. Thankfully the gay couple was safe, Estrada was awarded a city medallion for his heroics, and the four attackers turned themselves into custody two days after the incident. They were then charged with three counts of aggravated battery and a hate crime charge.
But if the four men turned themselves in and were charged, why has the case taken almost three years to get its first trial? Initially, the four defendants, who all pleaded not guilty, were represented by the same lawyer. Each defendant then later decided to get their own legal counsel. That led to the case getting drawn out. Then, the coronavirus pandemic further complicated things with all criminal jury trials being placed on pause.
“Honestly, this is such a priority for us. I know it’s very frustrating because it has taken a long time,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherin Fernandez Rundle during a state attorney candidate virtual town hall hosted by SAVE. “If those defense attorneys don’t set it down, and don’t move, and the judges don’t prod them to do it, it does languish a bit.”
In addition, there is some mystery over the case. For instance, Juan Lopez has been confirmed as an openly gay man. He and the other three men were honored by the before-mentioned organization SAVE in 2019. It seems they are volunteers for the LGBTQ rights organization. As such, there is some question over whether the fight started because of homophobic slurs or if there’s more going on here.
Source: South Florida Gay News,