Mark Carson was shot point-blank in Greenwich Village on May 17 by an unidentified gunman. (Facebook Photo)
NEW YORK (AP) — A man accused of shooting a Black gay man in New York City’s Greenwich Village after taunting him with slurs has pleaded not guilty.
Elliot Morales entered the plea Tuesday as prosecutors alleged that shortly after his arrest he admitted shooting the victim.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance says the 33-year-old Morales had been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in the May 17 shooting of Mark Carson. He also is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, menacing, and menacing a police officer.
Vance says Carson’s death serves as a reminder of the discrimination that many New Yorkers still face.
Morales is being held without bail in Carson’s death. His lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The city and especially the Village have long been beacons for gay people. The gay rights movement crystallized in the Village in June 1969, when a police raid at the Stonewall Inn touched off a riot and demonstrations that came to symbolize gays’ resistance to being relegated to society’s shadows.
Yet gay-bashing has continued to flare up in New York at times in recent years. In one particularly sinister case, three men connected with a 28-year-old man online in 2006, lured him to a rest stop off a Brooklyn highway with a promise of a date and mugged him, chasing him into traffic; he was hit and killed.
In 2010, authorities said Bronx gang members beat and tortured four people in an anti-gay rage, two men were accused of a gay-bashing beating at the Stonewall Inn itself and a man spewed homophobic insults while throwing a punch at another Village bar — all assaults that happened within little more than a week.
Police say there has been a rise in bias-related crimes overall so far this year, to 22 from 13 during the same period last year. The New York City Anti-Violence Project, a nonprofit group that tracks police and other reports of hate attacks against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, says its numbers rose 13 percent in 2011 and 11 percent the previous year.
But officials and advocates can’t pinpoint a reason for the recent rash of attacks or even whether it reflects more violence or more aggressive reporting of incidents.
Advocates see such attacks in the context of a culture that has grown more accepting of gays in some ways — 12 states have now legalized gay marriage — but doesn’t universally ban discrimination